More and more homeowners are opting to remove or reduce green lawn areas and transition to water-saving Xeriscape instead. Climate change makes that a smart move. But if you’re trying to keep some or all of your lawn, here’s tips for keeping it green.
Possessing an immaculate expanse of green manicured lawn was once the American suburban ideal. Landscaping design trends change with the times, and especially with climate. Many homeowners are looking to the future and reducing or completely eliminating their green lawns. But for those holdouts who seek to maintain the old ideal lawn, here’s some tips to help you keep it green.
Lawn grass requires special nutrients if it’s going to look lush, green and luxurious. Feed it quarterly according to the season. In spring, that means a good covering of weed and feed to curb dandelions and other weeds during their growing season. Apply a winterizer to your lawn in late autumn. In between, it needs a dose of regular lawn fertilizer. Consider how much grass you need to feed, and apply granules with a simple walk-behind spreader.
The three numbers on the fertilizer bag tell you the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in that order. Nitrogen is the most important for your lawn, and should be higher than the other two (a 3:1:2 ratio is ideal). Avoid numbers higher than 10, since these can easily burn your lawn.
- Ideally, choose a mixture of 30–50% slow-release fertilizer and 70–50% fast release fertilizer. This gives the lawn an instant boost, but still slowly adds more nutrients over the next few weeks.
- Organic fertilizers are better than synthetic fertilizers, since they improve soil health as well.
Mow at the highest setting on your mower
Cutting grass to a tall height (around 3 1⁄2 to 4 inches (8.9 to 10.2 cm)) is important for lawn health, especially during summer heat. Taller grass shades the ground, which blocks weed sprouts and promotes beneficial microbes. Leaving the grass tall also allows your lawn to focus on root growth, which adds disease resistance. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn after mowing to return the nutrients to your lawn.
- Do not mow within a week of planting new grass. The grass will not have time to grow deep enough roots and can be pulled up by the mower.
- Never mow a wet lawn. The slippery grass could cause an accident, and some mowers will not work as efficiently.
- Sharpen your mower blade after about 10 hours of mowing, or if fresh-mowed grass looks ragged with brown tips.
- If you hate the look of a tall lawn, you may reduce the height as low as 2 inches (5cm). Some grass species handle this better than others, but all prefer 3 inches (7.5cm) or above.
- Never remove more than ⅓ of the grass height at a time. You may need to cut some lawns every two or three days in spring to keep it at the right height.
- Mow in a different direction or pattern than your last mow to help the grass grow more evenly.
Water occasionally but deeply
Deep roots keep your lawn healthy and lush. Promote root growth by watering heavily, then letting the top 2 inches (5cm) of soil dry out before watering again. The exact amount of water per week depends on the grass variety and weather. A good rule of thumb for the growing season is 1–1.5 inches (2.5–3.25 cm) of water per week, rising to 2 inches (5cm) during hot, dry weather.
- Water in late evening or early morning to reduce water loss from evaporation.
- To find out how many inches of water your sprinkler uses, set up open containers around your yard. Run the sprinklers for 20 minutes, then measure the depth of water in each can. Multiply the average depth by three to find the inches per hour.
Aerate your yard in fall or spring
Annual de-thatching and aeration is very important for the health of your lawn. Once a year, remove plugs of soil using a lawn aerator with ½ in (1.25 cm) diameter tines. Remove them to a depth of 3 inches (7.5cm), passing over the lawn until you have about 8 plugs per square foot (88 per square meter). This fights soil compaction, disease, and thatch buildup.
- Aerate while the soil is on the dry side, but just wet enough to allow the tines to penetrate.