Let’s be honest, no one wants a brown, patchy lawn riddled with pests and weeds. We all want that idyllic, thick, lush lawn you see in the magazines and real estate photos. Having a healthy lawn is a great way to improve the curb appeal of your home, but it’s also a great way to prevent weeds and pests from ravaging your property so you can spend more time enjoying it than working on it. Learn how to maintain a healthy lawn by following the easy steps below.
HOW TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LAWN
Remove Weeds Regularly
A good, healthy lawn is the best deterrent against weeds. It chokes them out, gives them very little real estate to grow, and the shade from your grass blades keeps their seeds from sprouting. However, if you’re on the road to having a healthy lawn, you have to kill and remove weeds as soon as you see them. Don’t wait a month. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Do it ASAP. Every day you wait to pull those weeds is another day they have to get a stronger root system and spread their seeds.
A great way to be proactive about weeds in your lawn is to spread a pre-emergent weed killer in early Spring. This type of weed killer targets weeds in the earliest stage of growth to prevent them from becoming a problem later on. (This is especially useful for keeping your lawn crabgrass free.) Simply pick up a pack from your landscaping supply shop, spread it evenly with a walking spreader, and you’re lawn will be protected from weeds. It’s that simple and you’ll save yourself the trouble of back pains and sunburns in the middle of July.
Water Heavily in the Morning
Some people swear by watering their lawn often, but for short periods of time. This is wrong. When you water this way, you’re creating a strong root system, but one that’s very shallow. This will also force you to water even more regularly because that water is used up very quickly, especially during the summer.
A healthy lawn has a deep root system and that can only be achieved by watering deeply. This encourages your grass’ roots to grow deeper and drink up the moisture down there. When you water, you want to make sure that the water penetrates 4 – 6 inches beneath the surface of your lawn. To find out how long you have to water to hit that depth, simply (and carefully) dig a small hole to check the coverage. Once it hits the target depth, you now know how long to water your lawn.
The best time to water is also in the morning. It gives your lawn plenty of time to absorb the water, which prevents loss to evaporation, and gives it a reservoir to make full use of the day’s sunlight. Watering at night allows the moisture to set in the dark and cause mods and other fungi that love water to grow and fester, which ultimately damages your lawn and makes way for weeds and pests.
Keep Your Lawn at the Correct Height
Different grasses need to be mowed at different heights. Not paying attention to how tall you’re cutting your grass can cause it to get brown and patchy, let weeds take root, and possibly cause it to die out. The first thing you want to do is figure out what type of grass you have. Once you know that, you’ll be able to start mowing it at the right height.
If your lawn is composed of a cool season grass (bluegrass, ryegrass, etc.), you don’t want to cut it short. The fine grass blades need to be longer so that there’s enough surface area to catch the sun and aid in photosynthesis. The ideal length for cool season grasses is between 2.5” – 4” tall. If you have a warm season lawn (St. Augustine, Bermuda, etc.), you’re able to cut it fairly short since the glass blade are wide and flat. They’re able to get the sunlight they need at a shorter height than their cool season counterparts. Shoot for keeping your warm season grass between 1” – 3” tall.
Aerate to Improve Air Flow
Roots need three things to grow and they are soil (naturally), water, and air. The third one is the toughest to manage since there’s nothing you can really do to improve that except to aerate your lawn roughly once a year. Outside of that, it’s out of your control.
Aerating your lawn can be done by one of two methods, spike and core aeration. The former is what you’ve probably already see before and that’s basically where a spike is pushing into your soil to create a hole. This allows air to easily travel beyond the surface of your soil and down to your lawn’s root system. Core aeration is the opposite of spike aeration. Instead of a spike, there’s a metal cylinder that, when pressed into your soil, removes a
Fertilize During the Correct Season
If you remember from earlier in the article, there are cool season grasses and warm season grasses. As the names imply, one type grows during cool seasons and the other in warm. You want to match the growing season for your grass with fertilizing your lawn. This will give it the nutrients that your lawn may lack and that it needs to grow.
If you have a warm season lawn, you’ll want to fertilize somewhere between early Spring to early Summer to make full use of the growing season. The correct time may vary depending on where you are in the country, but a good benchmark is when the weather is consistently 80°F or higher so that your soil temperature is above 60°F. For cool season grasses, you can fertilize either in early Spring or early Fall though we recommend the latter. This is so your lawn can get the nutrients it needs to last through Winter and into Spring where some grass types struggle.
Be Proactive with Pest Control
Just like weeds, pests need to be dealt with immediately. Grubs, aphids, fire ants, and even mosquitoes can turn a healthy lawn into a quarantine zone if they’re left unchecked. Be on the lookout for telltale signs of pest infestations so you can get to work before they’re out of control. If you see an ant bed, drown it in ant killer. If you see slug trails, spread coffee grounds, salt, or crushed egg shells in your flower beds. To learn how to deal with common lawn pests, check out our lawn pest control article.