homeowners strive for the perfect, emerald green lawn, but it
takes more than regular mowing.
care requires a dedicated effort consisting of fertilization,
regular maintenance and the ability to troubleshoot problems
as they arise.
should you mow?
the first decision homeowners need to make is how short they
should keep their grass so that it will look both manicured
it might seem natural to cut the lawn as short as possible,
experts recommend letting it grow longer and mowing it more
Michaels, founder of A Yard and a Half
Landscaping in Waltham, Mass., recommends setting the
mower blades to at least 3 inches tall as "taller grass
will shade out weed seeds."
a lawn short also puts stress on the grass and reduces its
ability to resist weeds and pest infestation. Cutting a blade
of grass too short reduces the amount of chlorophyll, which
the grass can use for energy.
grass blades tend to put considerable strain on the roots, and
that makes your lawn more susceptible to drying out and
turning brown in warmer weather.
decided on lawn height, itís time to make the grass as green
as possible without pesky weeds popping up.
promote healthy lawn
and synthetic lawn fertilizers are good tools for maintaining
a healthy lawn. Fertilizer promotes a lush growth, strengthens
roots, and helps to prevent invasive weeds and pests.
are many varieties of lawn fertilizer available, but most
consist of three key nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and
potassium. Nitrogen is the most important for growth, but too
much can lead to excessive growth, yard burn and
popular types of lawn fertilizer are granule and liquid, which
come in synthetic and organic forms. You can also choose
between fast and slow-release fertilizer, or blends that
contain pre-emergent controls for fighting crabgrass, weeds
and other invasive plants.
fertilizer should be applied with a broadcast spreader, a
device that can be pushed or pulled around the yard to evenly
distribute the fertilizer. A spreader is necessary because
large concentrations of fertilizer in a small area can kill
balanced fertilization with a pre-emergent for control of
annual grasses, (e.g. crabgrass), should be applied during the
month of April, since crabgrass begins to emerge in May,"
says Michael Van de Bossche, owner of Earth-Wood
Arts in Indianapolis. "Nitrogen should be a 50/50
split of fast and slow-release forms."
advice applies to lawns in the Midwestern region of the United
States. For additional fertilizer information, check your
local university extension.
Bossche says too much quick-release fertilizer combined with
spring rains can create too lush of a growth, which increases
turf and fungus problems.
a green option for lawn care?
lawn fertilizer is a popular option for homeowners with a
green thumb. Itís made up of living organisms, such as plant
and animal matter. It releases nutrients at a slower pace and
over a longer period of time than synthetic fertilizers.
says the organic approach doesnít provide immediate results
like a synthetic fertilizer, but over time, it improves the
overall quality of the lawn, reducing the amount of future
fertilizers throw quick-release nutrients at the grass, but
whatever they canít use up quickly runs off and can
potentially pollute water sources," she says.
"Slow-release nutrients found in organic sources like
corn gluten, alfalfa meal, fish emulsion and compost become
available gradually as the plants need them."
maintenance and repair
the most common lawn problems include bare spots, dead patches
and areas that have been infested by dandelions and weeds.
spots are the most noticeable lawn problem, but they can be
repaired with a little patience and persistence.
says sod is an option for large patches, but it can be hard to
blend with the rest of the lawn.
you have full sun for six or more hours in the area, sod can
be an instant-gratification fix," she says.
"Depending on the overall quality of the lawn, however,
it can give a patchwork appearance."
smaller patches or areas that receive less sun, Michaels
recommends grass seed.
up the soil, premix seed with a little compost, and throw down
the mixture," she says. "Run the back of a rake over
it to get seed in contact with the soil, and keep it evenly
spots around flower beds or in areas that receive little sun,
she says one option is to expand an existing bed or create a
new one altogether. It fixes the problem and adds new
landscaping to the yard.
spots form from too much sunlight, a lack of water,
concentrations of pet urine or the overuse of fertilizer. To
repair these unsightly brown spots, remove the dead grass down
to the bare soil and apply grass seed.
granule fertilizer was the culprit, you will be able to see
collections of the small pellets and remove it.
battle stubborn weeds
weeds and dandelions are problems you may have to combat.
are a perennial weed, which means they have deep roots that
survive the winter and come back the following
spring. The best way to keep them out of your yard is to
attack them as soon as they appear.
most effective, though time-consuming, thing is to dig out the
whole root," Michaels says.
also use a lawn and garden sprayer with an organic or
synthetic herbicide to spray dandelions and weeds as they
appear. Itís important to limit the use of these products
because they can cause harm to the body and runoff can enter
waterways and streams.