There is a broad spectrum of approaches to the care and maintenance of lawns. Some people are content to mow every couple of weeks and leave it at that. Others view lawn care as an ongoing challenge and responsibility, spending hours every weekend to try and produce perfect, weed-free, evenly grown turf. For the average homeowner, it is possible to get a nice looking, well-maintained lawn without too much effort. Here is what you need to know.
The health of an overall lawn depends mostly upon what is hidden from view, the soil. A good quality, well drained topsoil is needed to produce healthy turf. Much of lawn maintenance involves maintaining the soil, so that it can continue to nourish and support the grass.
Compacted soil makes it tough for turf to survive. With reduced open space, neither water nor air flow freely in the soil, yet both are essential. Frequent use for casual sports, riding lawn mowers, and other typical uses all contribute to soil compaction.
Aerating your lawn every two or three years is an effective way to counter compaction. Rent an aerator or have a landscaping maintenance company do the work for you. The aerator will take out tiny plugs of soil, creating voids to encourage root growth. It’s a good idea to dethatch your lawn at the same time, raking out the dead grass and debris that accumulates just above soil level.
Topdressing a lawn can be done immediately after aerating. Spread a very thin layer of good quality topsoil or compost evenly over the lawn surface. Some of this material will find its way into the holes left from aerating. If there are low spots in your lawn, topdressing will help to level them.
Topdressing and aerating can be done either in spring or fall. Doing them in the spring will give your lawn a boost before the start of summer.
A balanced fertilizer will encourage growth both above and below ground. If you want more green growth in the summer, spring is the time to fertilize. Balance this out with an early fall fertilization to promote root growth while the rest of the turf is dormant. If you fertilize just once per year, many turf experts say fall is the best time.
Weeds, insects and diseases can potentially wreak havoc on your healthy, green lawn. The occasional weed can be hand-pulled, but if you have a problem that is spreading, talk to a lawn care professional. There are a variety of herbicides and insecticides on the market, but it is generally better not to use them unless needed. A lawn care expert can identify your pest and tell you the best solution to get rid of it.
Overseeding and slit seeding are both effective ways to revitalize a lawn that has been suffering from neglect. Lightly scattering seed by hand or machine is done in conjunction with aerating. A slit seeding machine cuts narrow vertical slices in the soil and drop seeds into those spaces. Topdressing and fertilizing at the same time is recommended.
As a living organism, your lawn is not going to look 100 percent perfect all of the time, but these basic lawn maintenance chores will keep it in good overall condition. If you are unsure about what your lawn needs, talk to the professionals at your local garden maintenance company. They will know the best times and the proper steps and can take the worry out of the work for you.