Your lawn may look sadder than a termite at a concrete festival, but it certainly doesn't have to stay that way. Giving your grass a bit of attention toward the end of winter will pay off big-time this spring and summer.
Compacted soil is hard for water, air, and roots to penetrate, and that makes it hard on grass. So go to your local equipment rental store, and get a core aerator. A half-day's rental should cost you around $40.
This machine, which resembles a large rotary tiller, uses steel tubes to take plugs of soil from the lawn and deposit them on the ground. Aerating once a year reduces compaction and increases the vigor of your lawn.
Those with cool-season grass (bluegrass, fescue, or perennial ryegrass) can skip this part. But those with warm-season lawns (Bermuda, buffalo grass,centipede, St. Augustine, or Zoysia) need to mow that old, brown grass low at the end of winter to remove thatch, an accumulation of dead stems and leaves.
Heavy thatch prevents water and nutrients from reaching the roots and promotes disease.
Cut Bermuda lawns to 1/2 inch and leave the clippings in place to decompose. Mow other types to 1 inch. If you use a regular mower, bag the clippings; then compost or discard them. Mowing low lets more sun reach and warm the soil, encouraging the grass to green up.
As the temperature reaches 70°, seeds of lawn weeds sprout. Stop them by applying, in late winter, a pre-emergence lawn weed preventer such as Scotts Halts Crabgrass Preventer, Vigoro Ultra Turf Pre-emergence Crabgrass and Weed Control, or Green Light Crabgrass Preventer.
When watered in, it forms a barrier atop the soil to keep weeds from sprouting. (Don't aerate after you put down the chemical, or you'll break the barrier.)
However, if you're sowing grass seeds this spring, don't put down any of these products, since weed preventers keep grass seeds from coming up, too.
If the idea of maintaining a large expanse of grass seems a bit daunting, consider downsizing your lawn.
If you like clean landscape lines, healthy green grass, and free weekends, consider hemming your lawn in with pavers or a brick patio. Because lawnmowers and string trimmers can damage the bark of trees and shrubs, reshaping your lawn so that all other vegetation is outside its perimeter avoids accidental contact.
This change also benefits the turf by reducing water and nutrient competition and providing more sunlight. With less fertilization, less watering, and less mowing to do, you can enjoy the lawn more!
Reap some wonderful landscape rewards with a little lawn.
Red brick or black stone borders around your lawn create a contrast of color that breaks up the monotony of green. Replicating the brick or stone of a house's foundation in the landscape will pull the eye from the curb to the front door, while repeating the straight lines of a front porch or the curved lines of an archway will create a pleasing effect.
In the lawn at left, combining flat stone pavers with turf creates a formal but functional entrance.