Keep your lawn healthy with these three top tips for maintaining your outdoor spaces year-round.
To keep a lawn looking healthy and green all year round, it will need regular care and attention. Watering, feeding, and top-dressing are the three essential tasks required to create a lawn that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
During periods of drought grass stops growing, the blades turn yellow and then brown before dying back, exposing patches of soil. However, due to environmental concerns, lawns really only need water in extremely dry conditions. Lawns can recover quickly after drought and often make a full and rapid recovery when rain returns. If lawns must be watered, it should be done in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation loss.
If you want very lush green grass, your soil type will determine how often to water. Water well once a week for clay and loamy soils and twice a week for sandy soils; water needs to penetrate down to the root systems — about 4 inches (10 cm) down. A small inspection hole can be dug to check the moistness of the soil. Avoid spraying paths, patios, and hard surfaces to avoid water wastage.
In order to save time, large lawns are best irrigated with sprinklers, which can be timer-controlled to prevent water waste. There are various types available including oscillating sprinklers, which spray from side to side, and rotary arm sprinklers that spray the full 360 degrees. If you have a small lawn, you may want to use a handheld garden hose with a spray attachment.
If you only have a small area of lawn, you may choose to water your grass using a watering can. Although filling and lifting a watering can requires greater effort than using a hose, you are likely to waste less water by doing this. If you have recently sown grass seed, use a rose on the end of the watering can's spout to make sure that seed is not washed away.
There are three essential ingredients to look for when selecting a mineral fertilizer for your lawn: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which are usually expressed as a ratio of N:P:K. Nitrogen promotes rapid green growth and so is often found in high quantities in spring feeds. Phosphorus is used to promote root growth and so is often present in high amounts in fall feeds and pre-seeder fertilizer. Potassium toughens up the grass, making it resistant to disease, drought, and low temperatures and so is often high in fall feeds. One other key ingredient to look out for is iron (Fe), which keeps the grass looking green without promoting excess growth. Blends of fertilizers and weed killers can also be used, such as lawn sand (containing sulfate of ammonia, iron sulfate, and fine sand), which kills moss and weeds while at the same time acting as a feed for the grass.
Fertilizers can be spread by hand (wearing gloves), or by using a drop spreader or cyclone spreader for larger areas.
In addition to man-made fertilizers, there are natural, organic materials that can be used to feed your lawn. A mulch mower chops up grass clippings and distributes them back onto the lawn, thereby returning nitrogen to the soil. Bonemeal makes a useful phosphorus feed, and liquid kelp is high in iron. Liquid feeds enter the plant through the leaves, giving quicker results than dry fertilizers, which dissolve in the soil and are then absorbed by the roots. Be sure to feed young plants using a can with a fine rose.
Applying top-dressing to your lawn improves the quality of the soil, levels out surface bumps and hollows, and fills the holes created by aeration. Ready-made mixes are available, but you can make your own using sand, loam, and organic matter at a ratio of 3:3:1. Top-dressing should be spread evenly across the lawn and then brushed into aeration holes using a broom. Ideally, you should top-dress your lawn annually in the fall.