Guest post from home improvement professional, Emma Metson
Not all front lawns are created equal. While many homeowners try to keep their front-yards looking pristine, there is always a neighbour with a better-looking lawn. Making up a huge part of a home’s first impression, this is an area that is essential to get right.
The secret to vibrant, green grass is quite simple. Follow these steps to a brighter, fuller, greener lawn and become the envy of the entire neighbourhood.
Test the soil
When the grass and plants on the lawn do not look healthy, more often than not the problem lies in the soil. Testing the quality and nature of the soil is essential. There are many different kinds, so finding out what type lies below the lawn is vital.
Compact soil, for instance, will hinder grassroots from growing correctly to absorb enough water. The land also needs to be rich in nutrients to promote good growth. Analysis of the soil will provide homeowners with exact information about the nutrients in the land.
The quickest way to test soil is to go to local garden centres, nurseries or home improvement stores. These will often sell DIY kits where the PH levels of the soil can be determined. For more accurate testing, search for the nearest government agricultural department and have the soil sample tested there. The soil can be analysed by a private professional laboratory as well.
The information gleamed will then allow homeowners to apply the appropriate soil amendments.
Applying soil amendments
While there are many different soil amendments or soil conditioners used in the garden, lawns often don’t require too much special attention. Typically, top dressing the lawn with mulch or more nutrient-rich soil is enough.
The most common soil amendments for lawns are lime, fertilisers or organic matter, gypsum and elemental sulfur, adding essential nutrients to soil. Materials like shredded bark or vermiculite help with water retention as well.
Aerate your lawn
It is good practice to aerate the lawn at least once a year. The best time to do this will depend on the weather in the local area. It is best to aerate the lawn during early spring or fall for cool-season grass. For warm-season grass, it is best to aerate in late spring.
Aeration is necessary to loosen compacted soil, which will give roots trouble getting enough oxygen and water. If the lawn becomes too squishy due to thatch, then aeration would also fix that problem. There are several different methods with which to aerate your lawn.
The best would be to use a mechanical lawn aerator. It works like a lawnmower, but instead of trimming the grass, it punches holes in the ground, loosening the soil and enabling grass roots to absorb water and air infinitely better.
A newly aerated lawn is the perfect jumping point for any repairs that need to be made on the lawn. If there are any patches of missing grass, now would be the best time for reseeding.
Simply take some grass seeds and scatter them in the holes left by the aerator. Add some slow release fertiliser in the holes for best results.
Fertilising and watering
The best way to condition soil to achieve the best results is to use slow-release nitrogen fertiliser. Use this kind of fertiliser moderately, as too much fertiliser may negatively affect the lawn. Read the instructions on the label and follow the directions on the package.
The rule of thumb is to use one pound of slow release nitrogen fertiliser for every one thousand square feet. The beauty with slow-release fertilisers is that the lawn will continue to extract nutrients from the fertiliser over an extended period of time. Apply it once, then water the garden to encourage the fertiliser to reach the roots.
A regular lawn needs at least an inch of water every week. If the weather is scorching outside, then be sure to water the grass every three to five days. Use a small tin can to measure how much water goes into your lawn.
Search online for the optimum amount of water for the specific type of grass on your lawn. Water the grass early in the day so the lawn dries well before sundown.
Trimming the lawn
Resist the urge to cut the grass too short. It will take longer for it to grow but will have the look of a golf course, as well as putting undue stress on the grass. Short grass will also become a breeding ground for weeds and expose the roots to too much sun.
For an ideal cut, set the mower’s blades to a height of three inches or so. The grass will be long enough to retain moisture, shade the roots and prevent weeds from growing.
Make it a point to cut the grass in a different direction. Doing so will enable the grass to stand up straight instead of it leaning towards the direction it is always mowed. Don’t bother to rake up grass trimmings, leave them on the lawn to add nutrients to the soil.
Sharpen lawn mower blades
Finally, just like any cutting tool, it is crucial to maintain the edges of lawn mower blades. Sharp lawn mower blades are more fuel efficient and easier to work with. Dull lawn mower blades will cause the grass to look ragged because of their jagged edges.
Worse, grass cut with dull lawn mower blades will turn brown due to stress. If there are patches of brown in the lawn, then that is a sure sign it is time to sharpen the lawn mower blades.
The perfect lawn can be an elusive goal to achieve. Many think that merely watering the garden and cutting the grass the same way every weekend is enough to make it look fabulous. Just add a few more tasks as indicated above, and the lawn will look better than it has ever been.