A manicured lawn is critical to your home’s curb appeal – and potentially your finicky homeowner’s association. And while it may seem that all you need to do is mow it, there’s so much more that goes into maintaining a beautiful lawn. Just like your garden, your lawn could be susceptible to disease, root rot, and a lack of soil nutrition. This how-to will serve as a foundational guide to keeping your lawn healthy.
1. Planning the Landscape
Just like flowers, there are multiple varieties of grasses. While landscape design plays a part in the look of your lawn, it ultimately comes down to the proper selection of plant species and its care. Depending on your region, some grasses may be more prevalent and prone to growing, but each has a different appearance – and required maintenance.
Common varieties of grass include:
- Bermudagrass: A dark green, densely growing grass species with an extensive and deep root system. It works best in hot, dry, and tropical climates and needs full sun for optimal appearance. It prefers an acidic soil and should be fertilized one to two times a year.
- Kentucky Bluegrass: Considered one of the most “beautiful” grasses, it had a dark green color, dense appearance, and excellent uniformity of blades. This grass works well in cooler temperatures but cannot stand an arid environment. It needs a complete fertilizer and non-acidic soil with good drainage.
- St. Augustine Grass: With coarse leaves and a light-to-medium green color, this grass is ideal for hotter environments and coastal regions. It thrives in wet sites but grows and establishes roots quickly, especially in neutral and alkaline soils.
- Tall Fescue: This grass is ideal in transitional climates as it adapts fairly well in both cooler and warmer weather environments. Its deep root system provides suitable tolerance to drought, and it can adapt well to shadier areas. Because it’s a transitional variety, it can also work in different soil types.
Once you’ve determined which type of grass is best for your region and lifestyle, determine the layout of garden beds, pathways, etc. to get a clear picture of how much sod or seed you’ll need.
2. Preparing Your Yard
To prepare your yard, you’ll first need to remove any weeds or rocks from the surface. Tilling your yard can help break up compacted soil, though you’ll only need to till the top inch. Rake the surface until it’s smooth, because your grass will grow over the top of any bumps or blemishes in the yard. Unless you’re working with solid rock, adding soil should not be necessary.
Depending on your selected grass species, you may need soil amendments to create an optimal environment for growth.
3. Planting the Seeds
When planting your lawn, you can use sod or seeds. Sod should be installed by professionals to ensure proper unrolling techniques and positioning, so it can develop roots more quickly.
If using seeds, it is highly recommended to use a landscape fabric under pathways and garden beds to prevent any stray seeds from sprouting where unintended. A seed spreader is an easier option, though sectioning the yard into smaller parts and spreading by hand is completely doable. It’s important to feed the grass the same day you lay the seed down for an instant boost in nutrients. A granular fertilizer like the fast-start and slow-release options can pack a one-two punch for budding grasses.
4. Lawn Maintenance
While lawns don’t need quite as much TLC as a flower or vegetable garden, they can’t be forgotten. Your lawn needs food, too; ultimately, you’ll have to restock the nutrients in the soil every once in a while. For a thick, green lawn, apply a high-quality lawn fertilizer as directed on the package. For most grasses, this should be done twice a year in the spring and fall. When watering, it’s been shown that one thorough weekly douse is more beneficial than frequent, short bursts; this amounts to about 45 minutes to an hour of watering at a time in most cases.
In addition to fertilizing and watering, lawns should be consistently mowed. This not only prevents a jungle-like aesthetic in front of your home but reduces the likelihood of pests and wildlife hanging around. When mowing, set the height of your mower to trim the top third of the blades, leaving the rest to preserve the health of the root system. Consider leaving the clippings on your lawn, as they will quickly break down and return nutrients to the soil.