I get asked a lot how my grass is so green and looks so good. I always tells them it’s because we mow once a week. (OK, by ‘we’ I really mean my husband!)
Not something most people want to hear because who has time to mow every week?! But, honestly, it makes a difference. I was lucky in that while renovating my house (back in 2012), we also tore out A BUNCH of overgrown bushes and started fresh with the landscaping, including brand new sod. And ever since then it’s been mowed once a week.
The reason it works is you’re only cutting 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. When you cut much more than that it makes the grass susceptible to disease. And unhealthy grass is a playground for weeds!
So where do you start if you have more weeds than grass and can’t hit the restart button with brand new sod? That’s what this month’s webisode is all about! (Video should be playing at the top of this page.) I call it giving your yard a “jumpstart” at growing this summer season.
The first thing you want to do is have your soil tested. This is especially true if you’re a new owner of the home and you don’t know what’s been added to the soil previously. That was the case at my friend Allison’s house where I did all of the work in this video.
There are several ways to go about this. Two store-bought ways are found in the garden section of your local home center. There are kits with vials that you collect dirt in and then add chemicals to and then the coloring of your dirt tells you what needs to be added to your soil. The second option is an electronic soil test meter for about $18. It will tell you your soil’s pH value and its fertility.
What I did was scoop up some dirt in a plastic bag and mail it to a soil testing lab at Auburn University. Here’s the link if you’re interested in doing the same!–>Alabama Cooperative Extension System Soil Testing Laboratory. Though if you live outside the state of Alabama you may want to call before sending your sample. If they can’t do it, I’m sure there’s a similar service in your state!
The results I received said the pH was ideal and it gave a recommendation for what type of fertilizer to use. (All fertilizers have numbers on the packaging that represent the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Depending on your results, you may need to add more of one ingredient than the others.)
Before adding the fertilizer, though, I rented an aerator. An aerator is a gas-powered machine that creates holes in the soil as it moves along. This does a lot of things. One it helps break up really compacted dirt. If the dirt is too hard, then grass can’t grow on it. It also allows any nutrients you add to your yard to reach the roots of the grass quicker and easier. So hopefully they’ll work faster!
I rented this one at our local Home Depot Tool Rental Center. But we also have several local tool rental companies that carry them as well (SunBelt, Blue Rents, etc). It operates similar to a lawn mower (you crank it and walk behind it), but it’s much larger. You’d need an SUV, pick-up truck or trailer to haul it to and from the store.
A quick tip is to share the rental of the aerator with a neighbor (especially one that has a pick-up truck! ha!). My rental was $60 for 4 hours. But that’s plenty of time to do 2 average-sized yards. So find a neighbor who needs to aerate too and it’ll only cost you $30 instead!
It’s recommended to aerate once a year. But if your yard doesn’t get much foot traffic (like kids running around compacting the soil all summer long), I’d say you could go several years before needing to do it again.
Once you’re done aerating (and you’ve returned the aerator), you’re ready to spread fertilizer or whatever other nutrients your soil test recommended. I’ve always heard about people adding lime to their yards. The results for my friend’s yard said it did not need any lime. And I’ve never added any to my yard in the 5 years since we laid the sod. So you should definitely check to see if it’s necessary before adding it to yours!
I just used a basic rotary spreader. The fertilizer bag, or someone at your local garden center, tells you what to set your spreader to. For instance, the all-purpose fertilizer I used said to set the dial to 3 1/2. That controls how much of the fertilizer or soil amendment comes out when you squeeze the handle on the spreader. Watch where the fertilizer goes because you don’t want to overlap too much. Most likely you want your 2nd lap across the yard to be about 5 feet away from your first lap.
Ok, so far you’ve 1-tested your soil, 2-aerated, and 3-fertilized. Those are all things you want to do once a year or less. The next 2 steps are the maintenance steps to help maintain your grass once it starts growing and thriving.
Watering and mowing regularly are the surefire ways to have a healthy lawn. And healthy grass means there’s nowhere for weeds to grow. Huzzah!
So how much water does your grass need? The average is about 1 inch per week throughout the year, though you may need closer to 1-1/2 inches during the hottest months of the year and less than 1 inch during the winter. (Yes your yard may need to be watered during the winter!) But this can vary greatly by region and grass type, so check with your local nursery or garden center. To figure out how much water your yard is getting when you use a sprinkler, put a water gauge at 2 different distances from your sprinkler for 15 minutes.
Average the amount of water collected to determine how long you’d need to run your sprinkler to get 1 inch of water. For example, if your average in 15 minutes is 1/4 inch of water, then it’ll take your sprinkler an hour to water your grass enough. This works for manual and automatic sprinklers. Of course if it’s rained enough in the past week, you don’t need to run your sprinkler at all!
Lastly, but probably most importantly, is mowing! I mentioned earlier that mowing regularly means you’re not cutting as much of the grass blade at time. But it also means you’re using your lawn mower more which means more maintenance to the mower itself. Fortunately that doesn’t have to be the case with my Lawn-Boy mower. In addition to being self-propelled (so it’s less physical work to push it around your around every week), it also doesn’t require an oil change. That’s right, you fill up the oil once and check the level every time you use it, but you don’t have to change it. Ever.
And if you’ve ever changed the oil in a lawn mower, you know how awkward and downright messy that can be! Any time you can take away from the maintenance of tools and equipment, I’m totally game! Maintaining a happy, healthy lawn is enough for me!
There you have it. 5 steps to jumpstart your grass this growing season! May your lawn be the envy of the neighborhood this summer and beyond! As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below! Thanks for Checking In! ~Chelsea