As the days lengthen and the temperature rises, homeowners’ thoughts inevitably turn to the condition of their lawns. Almost everyone longs for a rich, verdant expanse of luxurious grass; unfortunately, bringing a lawn up to country club standards can involve a considerable outlay of cash.
Fortunately, there are inexpensive ways to develop and maintain an attractive yard. This spring, follow some lawn-care tips that will help you grow a healthy, attractive lawn without breaking the bank.
Take Matters Into Your Own Hands
If you pay someone else to maintain your lawn, it is time to start thinking about getting your own hands dirty. Add up the cost of hiring other people to fertilize, mow and weed your lawn from spring to fall. The total may surprise you. Save that money, get some exercise and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with keeping up your own property.
Aerate your lawn in the spring and the fall to promote healthy root growth and reduce the need for water. Aeration facilitates absorption of food, air and water, encouraging deep root growth. Share the cost of an aerator machine with neighbors. It typically takes an hour to aerate an average-size yard, so several yards can be treated in an afternoon.
Overseed in the early spring to encourage thick grass growth that will choke out weeds. Begin by cutting your grass short to give the new grass seeds access to plenty of sunlight.
Remove thatch by running a dethatcher behind your riding mower or by raking your lawn by hand. Use a broadcast lawn spreader to distribute grass seed that performs well in your growing area and that blends well with your existing grass.
Cut Down on Fertilizer
Many homeowners fertilize their lawns on a regular basis without knowing which nutrients their lawns are lacking. You may have been wasting money on fertilizer that contributes nothing to the health of your lawn.
Buy an inexpensive soil-testing kit to help you determine which fertilizer to buy, and keep in mind that most lawns require fertilizing only once or twice a year. Save more money and protect the environment by making your own organic fertilizer from compost.
Maintain Your Mower Blades
Sharpen your mower blades early in the spring to cut grass cleanly and avoid stressful pulling of grass from the turf. Instead of buying new blades when they become dull, take them in for professional sharpening, or save money by learning how to sharpen them yourself with a file.
Cut Grass Shorter in Spring
Mowing your grass shorter the first couple of cuts in the spring will help remove thatch, allowing for better aeration as it grows. A shorter cut will also help eliminate fungus that has accumulated over winter. Keep the initial cuts between 1 ¾ and 2 inches in height. Make later cuts at a height between 2 ¾ and 3 inches to reduce the stress of summer heat.
Use Your Grass Clippings
Many homeowners bag their grass clippings in the mistaken belief that they will cause thatch. Short grass clippings do not contribute to thatch development because microorganisms in the soil work to quickly break down the clippings, providing valuable nutrients to your lawn. Remove the mower collection bag, and let clippings scatter over the grass.
Make sure your mower has a safety flap that covers the chute opening before operating the mower without a bag.
Water Less Frequently in Larger Quantities
Root development is important during the spring. Consider watering your grass approximately ¼ to ½ inch twice a week to encourage deep root growth that can withstand hot summer sunlight. Shallow watering will only discourage roots from searching out the water it needs to grow.
Water requirements vary by region; however, no established lawn requires daily watering. During the summer, apply an inch of water, and let the lawn dry out completely before watering again.
Underground sprinkler systems can be great money-savers, but you must manage them properly. Do not think that you can set and forget. Consult the weather forecast, and water accordingly. Operating irrigation in the rain is wasteful, as is running the system so long that water pours into the street.