Your lawn is the canvas of your yard, and with a little preparation, yours can become a masterpiece this summer. Whether you prefer to get your hands dirty or enlist a little help, here’s what you can expect.
Step 1: Tune up
If you cut your own grass, have your mower serviced, making sure to check the spark plug, oil, fittings, any filters, clean the underside of the mowing deck, and have your blade sharpened. You should also ensure any trimmers have fresh string and any batteries are still good.
Step 2: Clean Up
Once the ground is dry, yard debris is the thing to focus on, including twigs, acorns, stones, branches, and dead leaves. An air blower is the easiest method, but you can also rake the debris into piles, then onto a large tarp and easily bag and carry the debris away.
Step 3: Cut
After cleaning, your grass should be cut on the highest setting, leaving 3 to 4 inches of length. Grass that is initially cut too short can weaken the roots, causing stunted growth and dull color.
Step 4: Aerate and Scarify
Next, your lawn needs to be aerated and/or scarifed. Outside of cutting, removing the thatch (those woven whitish-brown dead patches) is vital. Thatch limits movement of water, air, fertilizer, and other nutrients. Forks or a spike roller should be used to create holes of at least 20 centimeters deep into the soil. Scarifying (which should be done once a year) is the more invasive, mechanical raking of the lawn.
Step 5: Weed and Feed
Use a combination of fertilizer, which feeds your grass, and pre-emergent, an herbicide that prevents weeds and crabgrass. Six to eight weeks later, apply again, along with a broadleaf weed killer. Many lawn brands offer a combination pre-emergent and weed killer in one, lowering the cost and the application time.
Step 6: Fill in Bare Spots
Loosen the bare soil with a garden rake, then distribute an even layer of seed. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil, water well, and loosely cover with hay to discourage birds and prevent washout. Spouts should appear in about three weeks. Most seed manufacturers make mixes designed for quickly growing grass on bald spots.
Step 7: Irrigate
Water slowly, deeply, and infrequently. Watering every day creates “wet feet,” making the grass more susceptible to diseases. Fair amounts of water dispensed less frequently (once or twice a week) makes for strong roots. Getting your lawn summer ready requires some time and effort (or a lawn professional who can take care of this for you), but once you have a lush green lawn, you’ll wonder how you ever did without.
What about organic lawn care?
If your kids and pets play on your lawn, organic lawn care may be an option to consider. There are a few hallmarks of this type of work.
- Grass is trimmed to be a little higher. Studies show that taller grass works as well as herbicides for suppressing weeds.
- Clippings are left in place to create nitrogen, a natural fertilizer. There is a myth that clippings create thatch, but actually too much fertilizer can bring about this issue. Earthworms will clear thatch in a chemical free lawn.
- The lawn is watered deeply and infrequently in the morning, allowing warm sunlight to dry excess moisture and prevent fungus.
- Organic products are used. These may initially cost more, but in the long run, they save money and time. Safe alternatives that contain ingredients like acetic acid and yucca extract, among other things, serve similar purposes as more intense herbicides and keep your yard looking great year round.