Lush, neatly trimmed lawns are traditional favourites but they require regular maintenance to look their best. Here are some top tips to help you keep yours in tip-top shape.
Avoid bagging grass clippings and mulch them instead to decompose in the lawn, adding nutrients. Clover is a nitrogen-fixer and dandelions’ long taproots aerate the soil, while their flowers are food for pollinators.
The way you mow has a huge impact on how your lawn looks. Whether you use a mower, a scythe or a push or wheelbarrow, it’s important to follow the correct techniques for mowing. This includes using the right blade length, mowing in straight lines and keeping the mower clean. It’s also important to blow or sweep stray clippings away from paths and driveways. This is not only kind to the environment, but it’s also helpful for preventing clogging of storm drains and phosphorus pollution in lakes and rivers.
Grass that’s cut too short will not photosynthesize properly, resulting in a poor-quality lawn that’s vulnerable to weeds and drought-like conditions. This type of lawn needs to be fertilised frequently, as it can’t generate its own food. However, scalping the lawn every now and then isn’t going to help it.
Aim to mow your grass around three inches tall – this gives the grass the best chance of surviving hot summer weather, while also looking neat and tidy. You should also aim to mow your lawn at the same time each week, and avoid cutting it more than once a week.
It’s a good idea to dethatch your lawn on a regular basis, particularly after winter. This removes the thick layer of organic matter that’s often found between the grass and soil, allowing water and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the ground. Crisp lawn edges look neat and prevent grass from creeping into other garden areas, and are easy to achieve with long-handled edging shears. They are also ideal for defining the space between your garden and other hard surfaces, such as driveways and patios.
While the lush green lawn is a traditional favorite for setting off colorful borders and providing a pleasant spot to relax with the family, it requires regular maintenance to keep it looking its best. Fortunately, there are several simple steps that will keep your yard in pristine shape all year long.
One of the most important steps is mowing regularly to get rid of overhanging grass that your mower can’t cut. After mowing, use long-handled edging shears to trim back the excess grass. This helps to keep the yard looking neat and tidy, and it prevents weeds from growing in those hard-to-reach spots.
Another essential step is watering properly. Watering deeply and infrequently promotes strong root development and drought-resistance, while watering often and briefly can cause grass to become weak and prone to disease. Watering in the morning is also ideal, as the cool temperatures and sun help to reduce evaporation. Avoid watering at night, as the moisture could sit in the yard overnight and encourage fungus to grow.
It’s also wise to remove thatch, a layer of organic material that builds up between the ground and the roots of the grass. Like moss and weeds, thatch can actually block moisture from reaching the soil, so removing it through stratification (raking or using a scarifying machine) is vital for keeping your lawn healthy.
If your lawn needs additional help, consider investing in a sprinkler system that will deliver the right amount of water to your yard at the best time of day. This will make the job much easier, and you’ll also be able to monitor your yard’s health. The easiest way to tell if your lawn is getting enough water is by doing the “step test.” Simply walk across the yard, and if the grass springs back up quickly where you’ve stepped, it’s hydrated, while if it stays flat, it’s thirsty.
Lush, thick lawns depend on properly timed and balanced fertilization to look their best. Fertilizers with high amounts of nitrogen promote healthy color and rapid growth, while fertilizers with higher levels of phosphorus help the plants develop roots. Generally, it’s best to apply a general lawn fertilizer every 6-8 weeks. However, the frequency of fertilization depends on a variety of factors, such as how long your growing season is and what kind of grass you have.
To know what type of fertilizer you need, do a soil test to see what the nutrient level is. You can find pH soil testing kits at most garden stores or online, and follow the instructions to determine your lawn’s current nutrient balance. This helps you choose a fertilizer that will be effective.
The best time to fertilize a lawn is around Labor Day, when the grass is hungriest and needs to replenish its nutrients before winter. Be careful not to over fertilize — too much of it leaches through the soil and can cause environmental problems, such as excessive weeds and algal blooms in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and other water features.
Use a granular lawn fertilizer that’s labeled for your specific turfgrass, and be sure to follow the application instructions carefully. If you’re using a sprayer, start in a corner of the yard and work out in straight lines as you cover the lawn. Make sure the spray isn’t hitting trees, shrubs or other garden plants, and remember to wear a mask to protect your lungs.
You should also remove thatch, which is a layer of organic material that sits between the soil and the leaf blades of the grass. This impedes water and other essential nutrients from getting down to the roots, so thatch removal is critical for a lush, healthy lawn. A dethatcher is a handy tool for this job.
Weeds steal water and nutrients from your garden and lawn, competing with your plants for their share of the sun. Rampant weeds detract from your landscape design, too, making gardens and lawns look less neat. While an entirely weed-free garden is impossible, you can greatly reduce their number and size by preventing them from growing, using the proper tools, and taking other steps to keep them under control.
Weeding is a chore that must become a regular part of your gardening routine. Aim to weed before they go to seed, and do it often enough that the weeds don’t get too far ahead of you. The best time to do it is right after a rain or when the soil has been recently watered. This loosens the dirt, and it makes pulling the weeds easier.
Be sure to pull the entire weed, including the roots, so that it doesn’t come back. You can also add the weeds to your compost pile, but only after they have died. Tossing live weeds in your compost pile will only give them new life in the form of new weeds!
Another way to prevent weeds is to mulch the areas around your flowers and vegetables. This will keep the soil soft and help keep them weed free. Some products even keep weeds from germinating for up to six months, but this works best when it is used over an area that will eventually be planted.
Many gardeners also choose to retain some of the weeds that they consider undesirable. Clover, dandelions, coarse-leafed grasses and buttercups can all be part of a healthy lawn that provides food for birds, bees and other wildlife.
A crisp, smooth defining line between grass and garden beds, sidewalks, walkways, driveways, and backyard pavers is the best way to show off plantings and highlight your landscape design. But this isn’t just a cosmetic service: properly done lawn edging protects turf from weeds and helps your yard maintain its shape.
Whether you have simple plastic edging, low-lying concrete, or wooden spokes or timbers anchored in place with stones, the right edging will enhance your landscaping. And don’t be intimidated: if you know the right techniques, you can edge like a pro.
Start by putting on sturdy gloves and a pair of safety glasses to shield your eyes from grass, pollen, dirt, and debris. If using a power edger, check to see if there are any buried electrical wires or plumbing pipes before you begin. Once you’re in a comfortable stance, slowly move the edger along hard surfaces, aiming for a vertical trench just below the desired height of your grass. It’s easiest to start in a back corner of your yard and work toward the front, rather than attempting to do the whole lawn in one shot.
Once you’ve established a good edging, trim the grass to keep it looking neat and well-maintained. You may want to use a pair of long-handled edging shears, which have a blade that is closer in size to a standard lawn mower’s and allow you to get on level with the pavement or dirt for a clean cut. You’ll probably need to do this fairly regularly, particularly in spring or fall when grass grows fastest. Edging can be a time-consuming chore, but it’s one that will make your yard look a lot more professional.