No matter how big your lawn is, you want your grass to look gorgeous and green. Achieving the perfect lawn starts with knowing what kind of grass you have and tailoring your lawn care to it. Different types of grass require different types of treatments -- for example, fertilizers and weed prevention formulas.
If you don't know what variety of grass you have, cut a 6-inch square block of your lawn, making sure to go at least 4 inches deep, and bring it to your local gardening center for their experts to assess it for not only the type of grass but also your soil's pH level and to see whether your lawn has any diseases brewing. A professional assessment is always a smart idea; you'll get personalized advice and product selection. Your sample will then be returned to you to place back in the lawn, tamp down and grow.
Here are some easy steps for quality lawn care:
--Test your soil. Your soil's pH levels are important to your lawn's performance. The optimal pH range for most soils is between 6 and 7.5; however, many grass types have adapted to thrive at pH values outside this range. Your garden center can test your sample, or you can use an inexpensive soil pH-testing tool to measure your soil. If needed, apply the manufacturer-prescribed level of pH-correcting lime for too acidic soil, or acid-raising sulfur to your dry lawn to achieve the right measure, and then water well. Don't apply fertilizer for two weeks.
--Watering. A healthy lawn needs plenty of moisture. According to David Brill of The Farm at Green Village, "watering your lawn for longer periods of time -- rather than in short bursts, and not every day -- is best." When your lawn gets enough water, grass roots can grow deeper, making them less susceptible to drought and sunburn. Water in the early morning -- and never during peak sun or in the evening. A wet lawn in nighttime darkness could develop rot and disease. An over-watered lawn also suffers because you're essentially drowning the seeds.
--Seeding. Early spring is ideal for seeding your lawn. "Apply seed using a hand-pushed seed-spreader, never by hand," says Brill. A uniform spreading of seed will create the most even lawn. "One of my neighbors has a seed spreader, and we just borrow his," says homeowner Andy Gorham. Seed spreaders are quite inexpensive at home improvement stores if you'd like to buy your own. Water your lawn well and often after seeding, but not to the point of puddling. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can water less often.
--Fertilizing. Brill advises fertilizing your lawn in early fall for optimal performance. Choose organic, non-phosphorus fertilizers in granular or liquid form, in the formula that's recommended for your type of grass. Again, your garden center expert can advise you. Two popular brands of fertilizer are Dr. Earth and Concern, which contain multi-minerals to build healthy microorganisms in your lawn, plus organic root builders to improve your lawn's ability to absorb water and nutrients.
--Weed prevention. Apply organic weed-prevention products in the spring and again in late summer, choosing from liquid, spray or granular forms. Weedkillers are available in people- and pet-friendly forms, with fatty acid weedkillers that dissolve weeds' cell membranes, dehydrating the weed. With careful and even application, you'll eliminate dandelions, foxtail, ragweed, clover, milkweed, mosses and other types of weeds. Organic formulas are most advised, says Brill, for the safest use of your lawn, and grass clippings that have been treated with organic weedkillers can be used in composting. Grass clippings treated with nonorganic, chemical weed treatments cannot.
--Pest control. Grubs are the most common form of lawn pest. Grubs are Japanese beetles in their larval form, says Brill, so treating them now will eliminate a population of plant-damaging beetles in your gardens later on. Apply organic pest-control sprays or granular treatments according to brand manufacturer's directions, and always wear gloves when applying this treatment, even in organic form.
--Mowing. Regular mowing, to a proper height, is essential for your lawn. "Keep your lawn at least 3 inches high," says Brill, who warns against cutting more than one-third of grass length in any one mowing session. Leave short grass clippings on the lawn to aid in fertilizing and to retain moisture in the lawn. Always mow only when your lawn is dry -- and with a sharp mower blade -- to prevent tearing your grass or clogging your mower.