It's nice to have a beautiful lawn. A mainstay of the American landscape, lawns provide esthetic and recreational value to any home.
Many of us assume that by adding fertilizer and watering regularly, our lawns will take care of themselves, but some extra care is needed for the long term health of your lawn.
Fall is an optimal time to do this work, as the temperatures cool off and summer growth starts to slow down, and the milder conditions provide the best time for your lawn to re-establish itself before cold weather creeps in. There are three basic steps to renovating and rejuvenating your lawn.
The first step is to dethatch, if necessary. Thatch is the layer of organic matter sitting between the soil line and the grass. While this helps with moisture control, too much of it can choke your lawn and provides a breeding ground for insects and disease.
If your lawn has less than 1/4" of thatch, you can skip this step. Between 1/4" and 1/2", you may want to consider dethatching, but it can possibly wait until the spring. If it has more than 1/2" of thatch, dethatching is highly advised.
Before you dethatch, we suggest that you mow your lawn very short beforehand. Dethatching can be done manually by raking hard over the lawn, which breaks up areas of grass that are intertwined and removes debris. This can be done with a steel rake, but a specially designed dethatching rake will get you better results with much less work.
For large areas, you may want to rent a power rake to make the job a lot easier. Rake the debris away, and remove it from your lawn.
The next step is to aerate. Aeration is adding holes to the lawn, which will allow room for water to soak in more deeply, as well as breaking up the soil a bit to make it easier for the grass to grow. The cheapest method is to take a pitch fork or some other instrument, and to poke holes in the soil.
This can be very hard, time consuming work. A much easier method is to rent an aerating machine for the morning, and to run that over your lawn. An aerating machine pushes hollow spikes into the ground, pulling out plugs of dirt, and leaving a little hole.
Whichever method you choose, the next step is to add some sand to the soil and rake it into the holes. This will help keep them open, allowing water to penetrate deeper into the soil. The third step is to overseed. Overseeding will provide your lawn with "new troops". Many lawns are of older varieties of grasses that tend to be vulnerable to pests and disease.
Adding a new species of grass, or adding more of what you already have, will help thicken your lawn and make it more resistant to change, whether it's due to drought, frost, or pests and disease.
Most lawns in this area are mostly Kentucky bluegrass. However, because of lawn disease problems and increasing water restrictions, we suggest using a mixture of both Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial ryegrass.
It gives a nice lawn that is more drought tolerant, and is resistant to some of the major lawn diseases found in Kentucky Bluegrass. If you choose to use this mixture, be sure to overseed your entire lawn, rather than just in spots, to prevent a "patchwork quilt effect".
Adding a good starter fertilizer will help give the seeds a good head start. A layer of peat moss or compost will help keep the birds at bay, provide additional nutrients, and help to keep the seeds moist until they can germinate.
A light watering a few times a day will ensure this. It is especially important to water in the afternoon, when the sun (and evaporation) are at their strongest. Once the seeds start germinating, you should continue to mow the existing turf until the new grass catches up.
I know, it's sounding like a lot of work, but it's well worth doing now. Keeping ahead of the game will save you lots of work, time, and money, in the long run, as well as set a foundation to provide you with a beautiful lawn for the next year.
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