Green with envy over your neighbor’s beautiful lawn? Good news; you too can have a gorgeously green lawn! With a little work and know-how, you’ll know just what to do to treat your lawn, cultivate healthy grass and plants as well as feed and maintain it. Before you know it, your lawn will be the masterpiece of the neighborhood.
Set Your Lawn Up For Success
Much like an architect uses a blueprint to build a beautiful home, you need a blueprint to landscape a beautiful lawn. Everything begins in the planning stage. First of all, you want to figure out what space you have to work with.
You can sketch your lawn out by hand or you can use interactive gardening software that will help you get your lawn set up. Once you have the layout of your lawn, you want to identify any trouble spots. Identifying trouble spots can help you be proactive and fix them prior to planting.
For the best possible outcome, begin with the end in mind, so that you end up with a lawn that you don’t have to work on continually. One of the best ways to create a great-looking lawn without a lot of extra effort is to make sure that you have the right kind of grass for your area. Certain grass types are better for certain areas of the United States than other grasses are. Grass basically falls into two categories; warm or cool season grass. You can tell which type is warm or cool season grass by how well the grass grows during the warm or cool months of the year.
If you notice that your grass is thicker and taller in the fall, then you probably have cool season grass. Some types of cool season grass are Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and grass from the fescue family.
It’s important to know your growing season. If you live in a warm climate, then you want warm season grass. Get something like Bermuda grass. This type of grass is easy to grow, tough to destroy and can survive – even in soil that’s out of balance. Like many grasses, Bermuda grass will die out when the weather turns colder. What some people choose to do with their lawns is to use a mixture of different grass types to get a full, healthy appearing lawn.
The climate that you live in will have a big impact on how well your grass grows, so you want to make sure that you choose the grass that’s right for your climate. If you’re close to the coast, then you would choose a warm season grass.
As you travel up toward the northern states, you’ll find that some states can handle either warm or cool season grasses. But the further north that you live, it’s better to choose cool season grasses.
Prepare Your Yard for Grass
The better prepared your soil is, the better it is for your grass. Acidic soil can make it tougher for any plant to grow. You can test your soil’s pH level. The closer the soil is to neutral, the better it is for your plants’ survival. The best time of year to get started renovating your lawn is when the summer season starts to head into fall. It’s a better time of year for growing grass.
But, before you put anything in, you’ll want to get rid of the weeds first. It’s easier to do that beforehand so that you don’t risk damaging the grass. If you weed by hand, make sure that you get the root of the weed. If you choose to use a weed killer, you’ll want to use an organic one.
When you’re preparing your area, you need to make sure that there aren’t any areas where water can pool. If your lawn is slanted, you might notice that water tends to puddle in some areas of the lawn. Standing water will actually damage your lawn. Grass can tolerate standing water only so long before it dies. You might start to notice patchy areas or portions of grass that looks like straw. This is what water damage will do.
You need to plan how you’ll water your grass. You’ll have to know the moisture requirements for the type of grass you have or the type you plan to put in. Some people water their lawn on a regular schedule, but what’s best for the grass is to water it when it needs it – and that schedule might vary depending on the temperature and the condition of the soil.
How often your lawn needs to be watered will also depend on whether your lawn is in the shade or in the sun – or if it’s a mixture of both. It’ll also depend on the kind of grass that you have or plan to put in. For example, Kentucky bluegrass needs a lot more water than other grasses do. To help with irrigation, people with established lawns and those putting in new lawns will sometimes put in irrigation systems. If you decide to do that, you want to make sure that your lawn is level first. Once you have your area prepared, it’s time put in the grass.
Grow Grass Grow
You have a few different choices to make if you’re going to plant grass. You can choose to plant plugs, use seed or put down sod. You can also go with stolons or sprigs, too. Stolons are a creeping grass. You can tell if grass is a creeping grass if you pull some up and it looks like the grass is all tied together in a long row. You buy creeping grass by the bushel. Not all varieties of grasses are available in all formats.
Since you need to choose a grass based on your climate, let’s divide the grass up according to whether they’re cool or warm season grasses.
Cool Weather Grass– grow best when temperatures are between 60-80 degrees
- Bent grass– Bent grass varieties that are popular are velvet, colonial and creeping.
- Fescue family grasses– The fescue family of grass is turf-grass with a wide range of advantages and disadvantages. It’s tough enough to handle cold weather, higher elevations, little sunshine and soil that’s not good for growth. Though this grass is a survivor, it does break easily from foot traffic and is prone to develop yellow or dead grass spots. So if you’re going to have kids running around on your lawn, don’t choose a grass from the fescue family.
- Kentucky bluegrass– Kentucky bluegrass is a cool season grass that likes a lot of water. It’s tough enough so that it’s often used in athletic fields. You can choose from low or high maintenance varieties.
- Ryegrass– Ryegrass falls into the categories of annual or perennial and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. These grasses are often used with a mixture of other grasses because of their durability. Common perennial ryegrass germinates quickly and can be used as a temporary ground cover while the slower growing bluegrass plants take hold.
Warm Weather Grass
- Bahia– Bahia grass has deep roots and is good for use in soil that leans toward a sandier texture. It’s low maintenance, durable and doesn’t use a lot of water. It’s not good in shady areas or for use in lawns where there will be a lot of foot traffic.
- Bermuda– Bermuda grasses grow well in all sorts of soil conditions and can handle dry or moist warm season climates. The disadvantage is that this type of grass is more prone to growing over its boundaries. If not maintained regularly, it will encroach quickly over sidewalks and driveways. Very durable, but more expensive.
- Buffalo– Buffalograss is the only native turfgrass to North America. Tolerance to prolonged droughts and to extreme temperatures together with its seed producing characteristics enables Buffalograss to survive extreme environmental conditions.
- Carpet– Carpetgrass grows better on low, wet soils than other grasses.
- Centipede– Centipede grass is a slow growing grass and does not tolerate wear very well.
- Grama– Blue grama is a warm-season, native grass found throughout the American Great Plains. Blue grama lacks the creeping stolons of buffalograss.
- St. Augustine– St. Augustine is one of the most popular turfgrass choices for lawns throughout southern United States. Deep roots and fairly easy to maintain.
- Zoysia– Zoysia grass is extremely drought tolerant with deep roots, although it does turn straw colored under severe drought conditions. Easy to maintain.
Using Seed– For every 1,000 square feet of lawn, you’ll need about 6 pounds of seed and it will take about a week for the seed to germinate. Make sure that you spread the seed evenly. Use a spreader horizontally across your lawn and then vertically to make sure the lawn is completely covered. Next, apply a covering of peat moss over the seed bed. Use a grass roller over the area. You can do this by using a hand roller that you walk behind or you can use a roller that attaches to a tractor. Water the seeded area and then put up a protective boundary to keep people from walking on the seeded lawn.
Using Plugs– Using plugs takes longer, but many people prefer this over seeding. For the same 1,000 square feet of yard, you’ll have to get between 8-9 bushels of plugs. If you use plugs, you dig a hole, put the plug in, reset the soil and water the soil.
Using Sod– Sod looks like square pieces of grass carpet or rolls of grass carpet depending on what form you buy it in. People choose to use sod because you basically have a “ready-made” lawn. Before the sod goes down, till, grade and make sure the soil is moist. Then lay the sod as if you were laying carpet. Don’t leave spaces between the pieces as you put them down. Make sure that you don’t have ending edges even with the next piece. Roll the sod, water, and you’re done.
Watering Your Grass
Most people water their lawn too much. Lawns should not be watered on schedule, but the rule of thumb that you want to go by is to water the grass at least once a week – only if it hasn’t received at least an inch of water. Grass that’s watered too often loses oxygen. You can tell if the grass needs water by looking at the blades of grass. If they appear wilted, then it’s time to water. If the water pools or absorbs slowly, then it’s being watered too often.
You’ll also want to pay attention to extreme temperatures. When it’s really hot outside, your grass needs to be watered to keep the extreme temperatures from causing the heat to burn it.
Fertilizing Your Grass
Fertilizer is food for your lawn. Feeding your lawn helps it stay healthy and gives it the strength it needs to fight whatever would attempt to destroy it. You want to fertilize the lawn every three months. Start in the spring, feed it again right before summer hits, again in the summer months and finally, fertilize it again in the fall.
By fertilizing in the fall, you give your grass nutrients and help it make it through the winter. The fertilizer that you buy will have instructions as well as numbers on the bag. The numbers let you know what the percentage of nutrients are in the bag. You want to watch the nitrogen count. Too much nitrogen is bad for grass and will kill it.
When you’re ready to fertilize, use a spreader and go across your lawn in a criss-cross direction. First, cover the lawn vertically and then go over it horizontally. The bag will let you know if you’re supposed to water the lawn before you fertilize or after you’ve put the granules down.
Continuous Lawn Care
Besides watering and fertilizing, essential lawn care also consists of mowing and weeding your lawn.
Mowing– There is an art to mowing the grass. The best way to get a great looking lawn when you mow is knowing the length your grass needs to be in order to stay healthy. Letting your grass stay longer is actually healthier for the lawn. Mowing can damage your grass if you’re not careful. If you mow some grasses too short, you end up with burned patches on your lawn. Don’t ever cut the blades of your grass in half. You only want to cut off the top third of the blade.
Weeding– Weeds can spring up anywhere and they’re pretty determined to survive. You can get your soil balance right to help discourage weed growth. You can also pull weeds by hand. That’s a pretty easy job to do unless you have a very large lawn. In this case, a weed extractor might be helpful. This is a tool that you can push down into the soil that will clamp the root of the weed and lift it up and out of the ground.
Weed killers or herbicides are also good for controlling weeds. You can find some weed killers that will prevent the weed from reaching maturity by stopping it before it grows. For weeds that are already present in your lawn, you can use herbicides designed to kill existing weeds.
Growing a lawn that’s healthy and vibrant isn’t something that happens overnight. In many cases, it’s not even something that happens in one growing season. But little by little, you’ll start to see significant improvements in your lawn until the day you open the front door and realized it can be classified as “lush!”
Start with a formidable action plan and then map out a calendar that helps you stay on top of the maintenance steps you’ll need to adhere to. Buy the best products that you can afford and make sure that you’re not putting anything on your lawn that harms your environment. For guaranteed success, be sure to incorporate native plants and flowers into your lawn and garden blueprint.
We hope you find our gardening guide helpful. There’s only one thing left to do; get busy and go for the green!
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