A beautiful lawn is a source of pride for homeowners. Turning into your driveway to be greeted by manicured grass and beautiful plantings put a smile on almost everyone’s face. Color psychology tells us that green is associated with tranquility, harmony, stability and endurance. What better way to create a first impression than through lush grass? The agents of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty are expert advisors when it comes to curb appeal — so here are eight lawn care tips from the field for a healthy and appealing lawn.
1. Determine the right grass variety
Knowing what grass variety will thrive in your region is key to a healthy lawn. Climate is the determining factor to make the correct decision. Educate yourself about the average rainfall, temperature and sunlight in your area. For example, Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, bahiagrass, buffalo grass and centipede grass are ideal for warmer regions. Further north, fescues, rye grasses and bluegrasses can tolerate extreme conditions, from cold winters to hot summers.
2. Test your soil’s pH before fertilizing
Knowing the pH and nutrients of your soil is invaluable to making a host of decisions for lawn care. That’s where a soil test comes in. If you’re a green thumb, then it’s easy to purchase a testing kit. Otherwise, your lawn service can perform the test for you. The results will determine if your soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline.
3. Create a healthy menu to feed your lawn
Your soil’s nutrient composition will be a guide for the correct fertilizers. Fertilizers have various ratios of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). For example, a 100-pound bag labeled 24-4-12 contains 24 pounds of nitrogen (N), four pounds of phosphorus (P) and 12 pounds of potassium (K). The balance consists of fillers such as sand, granular limestone, sphagnum and sawdust that ease spreading and prevent the fertilizer from solidifying. Nitrogen promotes lush lawn growth. Phosphorus stimulates root growth and helps seeds sprout. Potassium helps lawns withstand drought and disease.
4. Implement aeration
Aeration is the process of removing tiny clumps of soil to enable better absorption of water and nutrients into the root system. It loosens compacted soil, facilitating deeper root growth and thereby making the lawn better able to sustain heavy rainfall, drought and people-and-pets activity.
5. Monitor water levels and drainage
Keep an eye out for spots where water accumulates, especially in the winter and spring and avoid cutting wet grass that will clog a mower or cause damage to your yard. Take steps to ensure proper drainage — since perpetually wet roots lead to disease or fungus — such as:
- Placing rain barrels next to downspouts, to collect rainwater that would otherwise flow into the yard.
- Building up low areas with soil can alleviate pooling.
- Creating a rain garden, a low-maintenance, self-sustaining landscaping feature that captures stormwater that can then be slowly absorbed into the underlying soil.
If the problem is severe, you can install a French drain around the periphery of your lawn. A French drain is a ditch filled with gravel and a perforated pipe that creates a sponge effect for proper drainage.
6. Prevent annoying weeds
Weeds can be the scourge of a healthy lawn. Be sure that long-rooted varieties are removed, along with their roots. Herbicides are effective for crabgrass and other invasive types of weeds that will sap nutrients and growth. Many fertilizers contain weed-killing ingredients, so if weeds are a worry you may want to consider these options.
7. Use the correct mower height
The variety of grass determines the mower height. Warmer-climate grasses such as zoysia and Bermuda grass are best kept in the range of one to one and a half inches. Bluegrass and fescue, however, should be kept at two to two and a half inches. Cutting more than a third of the plant’s height is damaging. The cutting pattern should be alternated to reduce the risk of injuring your grass with your mower tracks. Ensure that the mower blade is sharp, since a clean-cut allows the grass to heal, while a dull blade will tear it, resulting in brown grass vulnerable to disease and pests.
8. Seasonal care
Each season calls for different lawn-maintenance practices, so be aware of the seasonal adjustments needed to ensure optimal care of your grass.
Remove any debris from the winter so that water and fertilizer can easily reach the roots and fungus can’t take hold. A dethatching machine solves this problem; it should be used when the soil is wet and before spring growth begins.
As summer progresses, an increase in activity and heat — and a decrease in rainfall — can stress your lawn. A proper watering program is essential to a healthy lawn, as well. As a rule of thumb, lawns require an inch of water each week to flourish. To reduce evaporation and prevent mold and fungus growth, water should be applied in the morning.
Grass growth will slow down in the autumn and it’s that’s the perfect time to repair any dead areas so they can regenerate in the spring. Loosen the soil and supplement it with an inch of compost. Spread seed and keep the patch moist until the grass germinates to a height of one inch. The annual ritual of fall leaf removal and fertilizer application is essential, also, to prepare the lawn for winter.
In colder climates, winter means your grass is on its own to weather the season. However, in warmer zones, grass will remain green, albeit with a slower rate of growth, so mowing will be less frequent. Depending on the grass variety, certain herbicides and pesticides may be required to prepare it for the winter.