When you look at your neighbor’s garden, you might say to yourself, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Well, don’t despair. If you look for excess straw, give your lawn enough water, and learn how to properly mow and use lawn manure, the grass will be greener both Sides of the fence (and maybe even a little greener on your side).
Straw is a naturally occurring layer of mostly dead grass that lies on the bottom of your lawn. It consists of undecomposed stems, runners, rhizomes and roots. If the straw layer gets more than about 1/2 inch thick, it can be unhealthy for your weed and should be removed through a process called de-felting.
If the thatch build up is about 1/2 inch, you have a small thatch problem that is pretty easy to solve. A thick layer (e.g. 3/4 inch or more) will require the use of a core aerator or vertical mower. Both can be rented from your local rental center.
Give him enough water
What is the annual rainfall in your region? In arid climates, installing an irrigation system is required for successful grass growing. But in the misty Pacific Northwest, it’s understandable that many choose to let Mother Nature do the watering. For most of us, the decision of whether or not to have a lawn irrigation system will not be so straightforward. Cost is often the main factor, but remember that having an irrigation system can save you money in the long run as it is more efficient than other irrigation methods.
Whichever method you choose, your weed must have enough water on a consistent schedule to stay green and healthy. While overwatering can create problems of its own, an underwatered lawn lacks the strength and resilience to compete with weeds and disease, let alone stay green.
Weed control feed
We know we need to fertilize the tomato plants in our gardens or the houseplants on our window sills. But it’s easy to overlook the fact that fertilizer needs to be spread over our grass. Perhaps it is because the individual grass plants work in unison and together form what we know as a “lawn”. However, it is more accurate to think of a lawn as having millions of individual plants that need to be fed regularly.
Fertilizing your lawn goes hand in hand with controlling weeds. As your weed absorbs the nutrients from the fertilizer, its root system will expand and begin to cover any bald spots. Weed seeds count on these bald spots to take hold. By removing these stains, you will find weeds where it really hurts. Ideally, thanks to your fertilization and other care measures, you will reach a point where your grass is healthy enough that it will crowd out most of the weeds.
The best way to satisfy the hunger of your lawn plants is with slow release fertilizers that extend feeding time and burn less grass than other formulas. You can also choose to feed your grass and control weeds at the same time by using a “weed and forage” fertilizer that is essentially food for grass and poison for weeds. Remember that these fertilizers are not organic and can usually only be applied twice a year.
Follow a fertilizing plan
Scotts, a major fertilizer manufacturer, recommends applying lawn fertilizer in four stages. The exact dates of course vary from region to region. Another factor is the type of grass you are growing. Therefore, always read the packaging labels carefully before applying and seek out the heads of the staff at local garden centers or a local advisory service.
As an example of a typical fertilizing plan, if you live in the northeastern United States and your lawn is a mix of cool season grasses, you can feed the grass in May with a product that contains a pre-emergence to prevent crab grass from growing . Use another lawn fertilizer in June that does two things at the same time. In this case, the other task (besides fertilizing) is to control broad-leaved weeds. For the latter, you’ll need a product that contains a post-emergence herbicide designed to kill weeds that have started growing in your lawn.
In midsummer, beetles and drought are two of the biggest enemies of your grass.
Lastly, if you’re winterizing your garden in the fall, don’t forget your grass. It’s not hard to remember which fertilizers to buy at this point as they often have “winterizers” in their names. These products are designed to help your weed build a deeper root system to weather the winter.
But be sure to read the label on a Winterizer bag before buying so that you can learn about the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium or NPK content. In The Myth of “Winterizer” Fertilizers, Robert Cox, Cooperative Extension Agent at Colorado State University, warns that such lawn fertilizers will not make your grass winter harder if they do not contain enough nitrogen. Cox suggests using a fertilizer with an NPK of 25-5-5 (or approximately) and even goes so far as to say, “Nitrogen applied in the fall is the most important lawn fertilizer of the year.”
For those who prefer to go organic, compost is the answer (or at least a large part of it). If you feed your grass well with compost, it has a better chance of dispelling weeds (and preventing pests, too). To biologically control the weeds that emerge, you’ll need to resort to good old-fashioned hand pulling. If you choose this route, water the area first as weeds come out of wet soil more easily than out of dry soil.
Mow at the correct height
According to the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, cutting the lawn with a mower set at the correct cutting height can save you from bagging your clippings even if you don’t own a mulching mower. The rule of thumb suggested by the Cornell Extension is, “Mow when your grass is dry and 3 to 3 1/2” high. Never cut it shorter than 2 to 2 1/2 “or remove more than a third of the grass the leaf surface with each mowing. ”
The point of this mowing tip is that the valuable nutrients in the clippings can be good for your lawn if it is exactly where it is after mowing. By following this rule of thumb and cutting only about an inch at a time from the top of your lawn, most of the clippings will be kept low.
Of course, if you follow this mowing tip, you’ll have to cut more often (which also means you’ll have to sharpen your mower knife more often). The result, however, is a healthier lawn that is fed with nutrients that you would otherwise be carrying away. Cutting a lawn too short can be stressful, especially in hot weather. In addition, cutting the lawn stimulates growth and increases its thickness. In fact, you “pinch” your grass plants every time you mow, just as you pinch many house plants or garden flowers to make them stronger plants.
Note that with mulching mowers you don’t have to be so careful with the cutting height of the lawn, as the grass clippings are finely shredded. This works much better for those of us who don’t normally walk around with tape measures on our belts.