Think The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side? Not With These Tips
We all know what a healthy lawn looks like when we see it. Lush, green grass, without annoying intruders, like moss, messing up the look. Many of us go to stately homes which have teams of professional gardeners and wonder how they manage to get their lawns so darn perfect – good enough for a cartwheel or a round of croquet.
According to Gary Alan, a pro gardener, getting a perfect lawn is all about mindset. Just as in golf you’re supposed to imagine yourself as the golf ball, when creating the perfect lawn, you have to imagine yourself as the grass. And what does grass need? A trifecta of water, sunshine and grass food. According to Gary, once you’ve got those principles nailed, the rest is somewhat academic. Here are some of his tips for the perfect lawn.
Tip #1: Plant Grass Seeds That Are Suited To Your Climate
Grass isn’t just grass. In fact, there are hundreds of different species of grass, each of which has remarkably different properties. Some grasses are thick and large, others are small and thin. And some are more suited to different climates than others.
As you learn more about grass, you start to realize that the type of seed you choose for your garden is important. The best types of grasses for temperate regions, like the Midwest, northern US, Europe, and Canada are cool-season grasses. These are a particular kind of grass that goes dormant for the coldest parts of the year before re-emerging once the weather gets warm enough again. The great thing about these grasses is that they are able to survive prolonged periods of frost during the winter, preserving their energy until the heat returns.
The other main type of grasses are those that grow during the winter and go dormant in the summer. These are grasses that evolve in tropical climates where the weather was too harsh and dry in the summer to support growth. The type of grass you choose will depend on the state that you live in. But if you want to have grass that’s green the whole year round, it’s a good idea to plant a mixture of both types of grasses.
The best warm-season grasses include centipedegrass, Bahiagrass, and Zoysiagrass. Popular cold-weather grasses include ryegrass, bentgrass, and bluegrass.
Tip #2: Ensure Adequate Air Supply
One of the biggest problems that grasses encounter is becoming too compacted. When nutrients cannot penetrate the soil, they can’t get to the roots, and the entire plant starves, no matter what you do. The key here is to make sure that the soil is adequately aerated. Plants, like other creatures, need to be able to breathe. But if the ground has been compacted after years of people trampling it, they can struggle to get the resources they need to grow. This is one of the reasons why grass almost never grows on footpaths: nutrients cannot penetrate the soil.
If there are patches of ground in your garden where the grass doesn’t grow, try poking holes in the soil. These holes should improve air circulation in the soil and give seeds a chance to grow. If that doesn’t work, the next thing you might have to try is tilling the ground: literally digging it up and turning it over to decompact it. Another thing that pro gardeners like to do is walk around their garden wearing spiked shoes.
Tip #3: Deal With Vermin
Like homeowners, vermin like lawns too. But their aesthetic preferences are a little different to yours. One of the worst creates that can affect your lawn is moles since they leave big piles of mud everywhere whenever they dig their burrows. In these situations, it’s worth calling out an extermination company to deal with the problem quickly and humanely. One the vermin have been eliminated, the next step is to put measures in place to stop them returning, like removing any food from ground level.
Tip #4: Choke Out The Weeds
We’ve all seen those immaculate lawns where every blade of grass is an actual blade of grass and not a weed, but how are they achieved? Well, first it’s worth noting that gardeners aren’t going around with tweezers, plucking every last weed out with their hands. Instead, they take a different approach: make the lawn so healthy and vigorous that no weed can possibly muscle its way in. That means making sure that it gets enough sunshine, water, and food.
Gardeners also recommend regularly mowing the lawn. This won’t stop the grass from reproducing, but it will stop weeds from growing long enough to spread their seeds.
If you do find yourself with a serious weed problem, opt for natural weed killers before reaching for cancerous Roundup. Natural weed killers include things like salts and gluten from corn.
Tip #5: Give Your Lawn A Solid Meal
All the experts are unanimous in their agreement that lawns need to be fed at least twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. Some also give their lawns a boost in the middle of summer.
However, many pro gardeners, including Gary, are becoming increasingly wary of fertilizers which contain only nitrogen, potassium and phosphate. These fertilizers often don’t provide all the nutrients that grass needs to survive. Just as humans need more than “protein, carbohydrates, and fats” to live, so too does grass. It’s much better, according to Gary, to find a fertilizer that comes with a complete assortment of micronutrients, including trace elements like sulfur and copper. Although plants use them in small amounts, these elements are essential.
Regular fertilizing can leave the soil under the lawn very acidic if performed year after year. If the soil becomes too acidic, then the quality of the grass can be compromised. Gary recommends, therefore, that gardeners treat their soil with dolomitic lime every few years. With regular watering, this lime will make its way into the soil and restore it’s pH balance while also putting crucial elements, like calcium and magnesium, back into the ground.
Tip #6: Water Infrequently, But Deep
Grass is a pretty hardy plant. It’s used to surviving for long periods of time without water. But watering grass too often can leave it weak and susceptible getting water logged. The official advice is to only water grass once per week, but water it deep. Watering grass well for an extended period of time forces water into the soil and makes the roots go deeper. Sometimes, when watering is only shallow, the grass adapts and sends its roots towards the surface. This creates a sort of “thatch” effect which doesn’t look very appealing. Watering deep, on the other hand, forces the roots to go deep, which looks far better.
A word of caution: different soil types and climates have different watering needs. If your grass grows in sandy soil, the soil will dry out faster, and you’ll need to water more often. If your grass grows in a clay-like soil, then it’ll remain damp for longer.
Tip #7: Don’t Mow Too Short
According to the experts, most amateur gardeners mow their lawns way too short. Mowing the lawn too short, according to Paul James, the host of Garden by the Yard, causes the grass to get over-stressed. He says that people should set their lawnmowers to the highest notch possible, meaning that they’re just trimming away the excess while leaving the majority of the blade intact. Of course, this means that you’ll need to mow slightly more often. But according to James, it’s better to treat a lawn with a small amount of benign neglect. Taller grass, he says, promotes better root development, which, in turn, makes for stronger, more robust plants.
James also points out the other benefit of taller grass: the fact that it stops weed seeds from germinating. Tall grass blocks out the sun’s rays, preventing weed seeds from sprouting and getting a foothold in your garden.
Tip #8: Use Hydroseeding
Seeding your lawn by hand is tricky. When you’re sowing by hand, you have to guess at whether you’re distributing the seed evenly. Almost always, you’re not, especially if you’re seeding over a wide area. Uneven seeding will lead to uneven grass growth, which will show up in patches on your lawn.
The good news is that there is another way to seed your lawn which doesn’t involve spreading by hand. It’s a technique called hydroseeding which farmers have been using for decades. Primarily it involves mixing the seed with a bunch of water and wood pulp and then using a spray to spread it all over the ground. This result is the even dispersal of seeds – something that is practically impossible to achieve by any other method.
Tip #9: Prepare The Soil
Perfection takes planning. That’s why it’s so important to plan and prepare your soil beforehand. John Griggs, a keen gardener from West Virginia, says that people need to test the pH of their soil by hand, making sure that it has the right conditions to allow grass to grow.