Like it or not, as homeowners, our yards say a great deal about us. They’re our outward expression to the world, the thing neighbors, visitors and passersby see on a regular basis and begin to unconsciously associate with us. You know Bruce the DIYer, Karen with the unkempt grass, John with the amazing front yard...That’s just how our minds work, especially in the burbs.
And let’s face it, we take pride in our yards. The admiration for our efforts feels great. Our weekly walk with the mower, our hours spent pruning and perfecting the garden, these are not only hobbies and passions but our ways of expressing ourselves. And everyone’s got their own ticks, their own areas of expertise that HAVE to be just right. That’s what makes gardening and landscaping so great, we all see things different and have 100% control over the beauty and results.
But with lawns and achieving a fantastic front yard, there are some strategies to succeed with a beautiful lawn, even where you’ve failed before. So what do you say, want a more luscious, vibrantly green garden and yard? If so, here’s what you need to know (just choose the section which best applies to you).
Starting a Stunning Lawn
No grass, no problem. Some homeowners find themselves without much a lawn to start with. Whether you moved in, had some construction or lost the grass to some other catastrophe, no biggie. Let’s focus on getting green and blanketing your yard with a bed of thick, inviting grass.
1. Choosing Grass for Your Lawn
The species of grass you grow will largely dictate the beauty and behavior of your yard throughout the year. Some species thrive in winter, others in summer. Some offer incredible vibrance, others luscious thickness. A big part of the decision here should be based upon the qualities you want.
But, of course grass like any other plant is largely regional and seasonal so choose a variety best suited to your climate. A chat with your local plant nursery could easily help and even Google will likely be able to recommend exactly what you need.
If however you’ve opted to avoid seeding and go for sod for faster, beautiful results, it would make sense to consult with your supplier. Typically sod dealers will know the best types of grass and be able to explain the pros and cons of each (just be sure to weigh price in the advice you receive :)
2. Get Your Yard Ready
Whether you’re preparing to lay sod, seed or reseed your yard, you’ll need to get the area ready to grow and thrive. The healthy, organic way to do this will involve pulling up weeds and removing any existing grass which may remain. Of course removing existing grass is only necessary for sodding or new types of grass but empty is almost better than splotchy so why no.
Once the excess is removed you’ll want to fertilize the area to feed the soon to start grass growth. We’d recommend organic fertilizers or compost as synthetic chemicals are not exactly our thing. Once this is done you should water the soil a week prior to planting for best results.
3. Laying the Lawn
Both seeds and sod take time, not only to grow but to install as well. For inexperienced homeowners, it’s easiest to break the yard into little areas to get started. This makes the task seem less insurmountable and gives you an ideal excuse to run inside for snacks after finishing a section!
Seed spreaders are the common way to sow your lawn. Pour your newly bought grass seed in and tow your spreader back and forth (much like mowing) to systematically seed row after row. Doing this makes it easier to stay on course and spread seed evenly across the entire lawn. For every 1000 square feet, look to lay about 7 pounds worth of seed. Plan and buy accordingly.
4. Watering, Walking, Mowing and More
Congratulations, if you started from scratch your yard is officially starting to grow...now we wait. But waiting and watering are both equally important. Your newly planted grass needs precious water to pop out of the ground so give it a nice light watering once you finished. Be careful though, too much water will wash away your seeds and spell doom for your grass. And the same goes with feet. Kids, puppies and everything else should be kept off the area as much as possible for at least a few weeks to avoid accidents and ruining all your hard work. Even after that be gentle until you can feel the grass firmly beginning to set and grow (the same goes for sod).
And now it gets a little easier. With the seeds starting to grow and sprout new leaves of grass (typically 2 weeks before you’ll be able to see them) you should be watering every other day. This will work best to avoid overwatering and drowning the seeds so if it rains be sure to skip a day of watering.
The biggest advantage of seed growing a lawn - not needing to mow. As the grass is growing and roots are settling it’s important not to mow or overly stress the grass. Garden guys typically recommend waiting until it’s at least 3-3.5” tall before even considering a cut and even then trimming less than a ⅓ the grass’s height to prevent shock or damage.
Pro tip: The longer your grass grows, the deeper the root goes...that means for the health and happiness of your yard it’s ideal to overgrow your grass, at least initially so the roots and support structures can become firmly rooted and set.
Pro tip two: The Planted Perfect sprinkler's engineered to be awesome for watering EXACTLY where you need it most. No more wasted water, no more over-watering!
Fixing a Fiendishly Problematic or Patchy Lawn
If you’ve owned a home or maintained grass before, odds are you been here. Your yard’s anything but ideal and has some serious problem areas ruining it’s beauty. Well let’s get you and your yard on your way to better, brighter days.
1. Killing Weeds Quickly
Weeds can wreak havoc on even the healthiest of yards. They’re ugly, harm your grass and need to be gone for good!
For the sake your yard and your neighbors it’s best to wage your war on weeds chem-free. Rather than RoundUp and tons of synthetics spoiling your grass, try pulling weeds, dandelions (also weeds) and problem areas out by hand. Just make sure the roots come too or they’ll be back before long.
Another easy way to fight weeds is to change up your watering and mowing. Weeds thrive at certain pH levels and if you’re constantly fighting weeds it might have to do with when and how much you’re watering. Also raise the height on your mower. Taller grass will limit the growth and spread of most weeds.
2. Reseeding and Growing Areas of Grass
Lawns take a beating and often times between kids, dogs and less than optimal watering, some areas of our yards just start to die. And dying lawns are the opposite of what your home needs for better, more welcoming beauty.
The good news is that a patchy lawn can be saved. Green grass and thick blanketing goodness are only a bit of landscaping and effort away (hopefully). Here’s how it works:
- Cut your grass to just 1.5” tall. If your mower has a collecting bag you should use this here to avoid any mess afterwards.
- De-thatch your lawn to break up the dead grass, twigs, leaves and other oddiities cluttering your yard. Then rake this all up and get rid of it.
- Next aerate your lawn using a core aerator (What’s a core aerator? Never done this? Here’s an article explaining why it’s important for your yard.)
- Broadly, evenly apply nutrient rich topsoil or compost (about half an inch) to the areas you plan to reseed (this will help enhance the growth of your grass as it develops).
- Follow the seeding guide from above in laying your lawn while using a trusty seed spreader.
3. Adjusting the pH
Soil chemistry plays a huge role in the vibrance and health of your yard (all plants really). That’s why it’s important, especially when trying to save a troubled lawn, to check and adjust pH levels as necessary.
The easiest way to do this is with a little soil kit available at most major home improvement stores. These will more than supply you and let you test pH levels whenever things appear off. And off, when it comes to pH is anything outside of 6-7, with 7 being neutral (like water). It is here plant life prospers and even helps fight weeds.
But if your soil’s a little too acidic or basic it can be easily fixed. For pH levels above 7, just add a bit of gardening sulfur to the soil and retest later. And for overly acidic levels (below 6), just add lime. These simple fixes adjust the nutrient and pH levels in your soil and spell success for our lawn.
Maintaining an Awe Inspiring Lawn
Whether you’ve just started seeding and growing, had a halfway decent lawn for years or had to fix up a patchy problem or two, it’s important to understand proper lawn maintenance to keep your yard in incredible condition. Here’s a few tips to a thick, rich lawn you can be proud of:
1. Keep Your Grass Tall
Setting your mower at 3.5-4” is one of the best things you can do for yard beauty. By allowing your grass to grow and thrive, it not only deepens and strengthens the roots and support but shades the ground and prevents the grass from drying and dying due to summer heat. As if all that wasn’t enough, tall grass crowds out weeds and helps you in the constant gardener struggle of weeding.
2. Properly Mowing Your Yard
People often forget grass is a living plant. When we mow, we are violently cutting into it and its ability to thrive. As a rule of thumb never mow more than ⅓ of the height of the grass at once. Setting your mower height too low can have devastating consequences.
And cutting the lawn when it’s wet is a bad idea too. Wet grass doesn’t stand as it should and will mess up the look and feel of the lawn. Plus, it’s even a little unsafe with the slippery surface, not to mention miserable, so just wait for sunshine.
3. Watering Right Works Wonders
Many homeowners assume daily, light watering is exactly what their lawn needs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Heavy, less frequent watering penetrates deeper, reaching the deepest of roots and is ideal for grass growth. Look to water every two to three days and lay down an inch of water during peak growth, perhaps double during hot seasons for optimum results.
Pro tip: Water early in the morning or late at night so the sun’s rays and heat don’t evaporate the water or fry the plant. This will saves water and helps your water bill lower too.
4. Fertilize to Fuel Growth
Your yard needs nutrients to thrive. Fertilizing at the right time of the year (ask a local plant expert) is the best way to help. Fertilizers feed the grass and allow your lawn to reach peak beauty and health and when coupled with proper care can spell the seriously beautiful back (and front) yards we all wish for - rich, green, cloudlike softness.
It’s Garden Action Time!
And that’s going to wrap up our brief but hopefully helpful look into beautifying your lawn and landscape. If you’ve ever looked longingly upon a neighbor’s yard or want that rich, inviting greenness only an outstanding front yard (or NFL stadium) can offer, you now have the tools and insight to make it happen. And while we unfortunately don’t offer any lawn care tools (yet), we’ve got some great gardening and yard tools in case you’re in need of rugged, reliable durability and performance.
So, let this be year your yard shines. Who knows, maybe that Yard of the Month sign’s got your name on it.