The Perfect Lawn
Who doesn’t love those picture-perfect lawns advertised in gardening equipment commercials? But the reality could be quite different when you look out the window into your own yard. How to achieve the perfect lawn? How to transform your property into the envy of the neighborhood?
There is no secret formula. The key to achieving the perfect lawn is hard work, dedication, and above all knowledge on why, when, and how to perform the basic lawn care activities.
I’m no landscaping expert but have learned from the pros some of the best lawn and garden maintenance tips. Check them out below.
1. Scarify and Aerate Your Lawn
Achieving the perfect lawn starts with preparation work conducted in early spring. Most grasses thrive in loose, aerated soil. Most properties lack this type of terrain. Luckily, there are ways to aerate your soil.
But before thinking of getting oxygen to the roots of the plants, you’ll have to remove all debris built up on the lawn. This procedure is called scarifying. The name gives a pretty clear indication on what you have to do. That’s right; you’ll have to make scars on your lawn.
Okay, this could sound creepy, but the procedure is less harsh than it seems. All you have to do is get a good rake and remove all thatch, moss, and other debris that could prevent your grass from growing.
As good practice suggests, throw all organic debris into a compost pile that will serve an ulterior purpose.
Once scarified, aerate the soil. Dig holes into the ground with a pitchfork and fill them with sand. This will expose grassroots to light and oxygen, promoting a healthier growth of your green blanket.
2. Fight the Weeds Before They Show Up
An easy way to mess up the beauty of your lawn is to ignore weeds. You know they exist, so it makes sense fighting them before they start bothering you.
How? With a pre-emergent herbicide, of course. There are loads of products out there, and they are all formulated to control dreaded crabgrass and other nasty weeds by preventing their germination. However, remember to use the product with caution and only as instructed on the package.
Don’t forget this is a herbicide, which means it could potentially kill your lovely grass too if applied wrongly.
While we are here, you must also know those attractive bright-yellow dandelions and white-flowering clover also count as weeds when growing on your lawn. Yes, dandelion wine is delicious and easy to make at home, but grow the plant in your vegetable garden and deter it from any other spot unless you want your perfect lawn to look more like a meadow.
3. Know Your Grass
We’re getting closer and closer to the heart of the matter. The grass is an essential part of your lawn, but not all grasses were created equal. There are thin grasses, thick grasses, stubborn grasses, and this list could go on and on.
Thing is you’ll never achieve the perfect lawn unless you learn all you can about your grass.
That is because some grasses thrive in cooler climates, others love the bright southern sun. Various species also have different soil preferences, and even the mowing height matters if you want to keep your green carpet healthy.
The most common grass varieties that thrive in most soils and love both the chill weather and the sun are:
- Fine Fescue
- Tall Fescue
- Perennial Ryegrass
Then, there are the common cool climate Bluegrass and the warm climate Bermuda or St. Augustine, but these types have clear preferences on the type of soil and temperature supported.
4. Mow the Lawn… But Not Too Much
When mowing your lawn, remember that less is more. Don’t act like an angry fifteenth-century native American ready to take off the scalp of an enemy. That lawn is your friend, and experts suggest keeping the grass taller rather than shorter.
Most grasses should be mowed at the height of 2-3 inches. Bermuda and Bluegrass tolerate shorter cuts of around 1.5-2 inches, but it’s always wise to double check the right cutting height before mowing.
5. Keep Your Blades Sharp
Beyond cutting height, it is absolutely essential to keep the mower blades razor-sharp. The latest models of lawn mowers come with auto-sharpening blades which will save you the hassle, but if you own a standard type, I can’t insist enough on maintaining the blades in good conditions and as sharp as possible.
Blunt blades won’t be able to actually cut the grass but will rip it. In the long run, your lawn will suffer and develop unflattering yellow patches. Not to mention a blunt blade could also damage the power equipment.
6. Feed Your Grass
Meal time’s here! Your grass is hungry. If you want to achieve the perfect lawn, feed your grass properly.
And this is where we get back to that compost pile mentioned above. While you could use lawn fertilizers available in most gardening centers, compost is 100% organic and free. It is also fairly easy to make, and you can use it to fertilize both the lawn and your vegetable garden or flower beds.
Another great nutrient for your lawn is the manure tea; while this one is a little nastier to make, it’s still a great alternative to the chemical fertilizers on the market.
7. Learn How and When to Water
Like any living thing on this planet, your lawn needs water. Most turf grasses need an inch of water per week, which means the water must soak one inch of the terrain below the surface level.
There are two ways to water the lawn. The first is the rain. The second is a reliable sprinkler irrigation system.
Keeping in mind the variables above, you must decide when and how much to water. If it’s a rainy season, use gardening instruments to check the moisture level of the terrain before watering. When there isn’t sufficient rain, just use your sprinkler system to provide the vital liquid.
How long to leave the sprinkler on depends on your system’s output. To measure it, there are fancy irrigation gauges, or you could use an old-fashioned leftover plastic food container to achieve the same purpose.
Place the container on the lawn, turn the sprinkler on, and use a ruler to measure the water level plus a chronometer to record the time. Stop both the sprinkler and the chronometer when the water in the container reached the one-inch threshold and the next time you need to water your lawn, you’ll know for how long to leave the system on.
If you have to irrigate, water your grass early in the morning.
8. Don’t Forget the Edges
It is surprising how many homeowners focus on having perfect grass but forget about trimming the lawn edges.
A well-manicured lawn requires 360° care. How would you feel if your barber would only give you half haircut? Not too happy, I guess. So, give the same attention to your lawn.
An easy way to achieve a perfectly manicured lawn edge is with the help of gardening edging. This will prevent the grass from spreading outside the edges of the lawn, and it will make it easier for you to follow a neat trim line.
Use a performing string trimmer to cut the grass in this area and around flowerbeds for cleaner results.
9. Corn Gluten Meal Is Your Friend
Corn gluten meal is a natural byproduct resulting from the wet-milling process of corn and acts as both lawn fertilizer and herbicide.
Many gardeners use corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent herbicide for organic gardening, but this product can also enrich the soil and provide your lawn with important nutrients. Not only it will help you fight weeds, but it will make your grass stronger and healthier.
And you should know by now that a healthy lawn is key for a perfect lawn.
10. Train Your Dog
No matter how much you love your pooch and besides all the good reasons every man should have a dog, rest assured your lawn hates it. More precisely, it hates your pooch’s dejections.
Your lovely dog will cause large dead spots in your lawn unless you spot-train him for wee-wees. This happens because the nitrogen in the dog’s urine burns the roots of the grass, causing it to die.
Spot-training your dog is easy as long as you use lots of treats to reward good behavior. Set a gravel or mulch area for your pooch to use and give him a delicious treat whenever he uses the designated area to do his business.
11. Deter Pests Naturally
Wildlife living in your area could be attracted to your yard by the plants you grow. Deer and rabbits are perhaps the most renowned for trespassing properties to get to the delicious veggies in your garden.
But these pests will not only leave you without crops, but they can also spoil your lawn.
Luckily, there are many plants you can use to deter wildlife naturally. From edibles such as catmint, basil, and dill to shrubs like barberry, and groundcovers like lily of the valley, there are many plants you can choose to create natural lawn edges or to beautify your flowerbeds while keeping deer and rabbits out of your property.
12. Alternate Mowing Directions
Mowing the lawn is one of the main ways to keep it perfect, but following the same mowing pattern over and over again could actually spoil all your hard work.
To achieve a perfect lawn, experts suggest alternating the mowing directions each time you cut the grass. This practice is beneficial for the grass blades, improving their health. Furthermore, you can even alternate vertical and horizontal cuts to achieve a fuller lawn effect.
Not only will this improve the overall aspect of your lawn, but it will give it that stylish golf ground look.
13. Fix a Sparse Lawn
Nothing can reduce the curb appeal of your property as an ugly, sparse lawn. Just imagine patches of dry land among patches of sparse grass. If your mind already rejects this image, don’t force yourself to see it every day in your own yard.
Fixing a sparse lawn happens in late fall or early spring when it’s the right time to seed more grass. Cool season grasses are best reseeded in late fall, while warm-season grasses will benefit from reseeding in early spring.
Many homeowners also wonder what to do during drought periods if the beauty of their lawns starts to fade.
The solution is simpler than it seems – avoid overwatering and wait for the drought to pass. Healthy grass will get yellower and could seem sparse when there is too little rain, but as soon as drought passes, it will regain its lost beauty.
If it doesn’t, the question you should ask yourself is what you did wrong up to this point.
14. Nay to Worm Casts
Worm casts come with pros and cons but in short, get rid of them as quickly as possible if you want to achieve the perfect lawn.
The main benefit of worms is their digging action. They will save you the hassle of using a pitchfork to aerate the soil, and many could see this as a huge advantage.
However, the worms also provide the perfect seedbeds for weeds and trust me, it will take a lot more work to eradicate weeds than to aerate the soil.
15. Grow Greener Grass
Achieving the perfect lawn and being a true gardener takes a lot of hard work. Besides all the above, there are a few additional steps that will help you grow the greenest grass on the block. So, don’t forget to:
- Fertilize your soil before winter.
- Test the pH level of the soil – and adjust it as needed.
- Use grass clippings to mulch the lawn.
You now know how to achieve the perfect lawn, so what are you waiting for? Put your gardening boots on, grab some work gloves and get down on business. The curb appeal of your property will soon rocket to the sky.