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Monday, June 13, 2011

Nine Easy Steps to a Better Lawn

Warm-season or cool, all lawns need proper care. Here's how to give your grass a great start.

1. Fertilize. Use a complete lawn fertilizer and apply it, following the recommendations printed on the label. Your lawn will be denser, greener, have fewer weeds and will resist insects and diseases.

2. Adjust your soil pH. If your soil is very acidic (likely, if you have abundant summer rainfall), apply powdered limestone to adjust the pH. Talk to the folks at your local nursery or someone at your local cooperative extension office for local advice. These people can help you test your soil pH and tell you the recommended amounts of lime to apply.

3. Control weeds. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide, a weed killer that also prevents weeds from reappearing later in the growing season. These herbicides are generally sold in granular form. Do this before weed seeds germinate. To kill broadleaf weeds that appear later, apply a "weed-and-feed" product. Again, timing varies with local conditions, so consult your local nursery for advice. Follow all label instructions carefully.

4. Know when to mow. Mow your lawn only when the grass has grown 30 to 50 percent higher than the recommended mowing height. For most cool-season grasses, the recommended height is 3 to 4 inches, so you'd cut when it's 4 to 6 inches high. For most warm-season grasses, the recommended height is 2 to 3 inches, so you'll mow when it's 3 to 4?/2 inches high. Mow all season, whenever the grass is 30 to 50 percent taller than the recommended height. If you don't let the grass grow too long between mowings, you can leave the clippings on the lawn rather than rake them up. The cut grasses will break down quickly and contribute organic matter and nitrogen to the soil.

5. Aerate. Aerators remove small plugs of grass and soil from the lawn, admitting air to the soil, breaking up mats of dead grass and debris that can accumulate at root level, and invigorating root growth. Aerating also helps water and nutrients penetrate the lawn. You can rent a power aerator at local rental company or hire a lawn-care company to power-aerate for you. The best power aerators work by driving little hollow pistons into the ground that remove tiny cores of soil. For small areas, aerate manually with a sod-coring tool, a special tool that resembles a garden fork.
6. Reseed. If your cool-season lawn is thin or spotty in places, reseed it. First, roughly rake the area with a steel rake with short, hard tines. Then spread fresh grass seed, following the recommended coverage rates on the seed package. Lightly cover the new seeds with mulch or other >organic matter, and then keep the area moist until the seeds germinate.
7. De-thatch. Thatch is a thick, spongy layer of organic matter and debris that builds up between the grass blades and roots. By keeping water and nutrients from reaching the roots, thatch causes your lawn to grow poorly. Aerating will help to reduce thatch, and you can de-thatch small areas by raking vigorously with a steel rake. But to de-thatch large areas, it's best to rent a power rake or hire a lawn company to do the work for you.

8. Check your irrigation system. Each spring, check your irrigation system to make sure it's running properly. Repair clogged and broken sprinkler heads, then adjust your sprinklers so that water falls on the lawn instead of on sidewalks, driveways or patios.

9. Rolling right along...... Lawn Roller – What, When, How. There are several uses for lawn rollers. Knowing how and where to purchase or rent them is also essential when it comes time to use one. There are different types and uses for lawn rollers so we’ll look at a couple here. So why exactly would you use a lawn roller?

There are several main, or popular, reasons for using lawn rollers. One is if you’re getting ready to seed or overseed your lawn and the other is if you’re laying sod. Another purpose, which really goes along with what we’ve suggested in all our lawn sweeper articles, is for smoothing out a lawn and making it more level for easier and more precise mowing. As we’ve stated many times before, lawn sweepers work the best on ground or yards that are level and void of any big mounds, bumps, roots, or ruts. So utilizing a lawn roller is a good way of improving the efficiency of your lawn sweepers. If you have a big mound in your yard, you can remove dirt from around the edges of the mound and then roll it with the lawn roller. Think of it sort of as a huge divot left by a golf ball and the process that goes into refilling your divot. And if you golf anything like I do, you have a lot of them!