Tips to get the nicest lawn on the block this summer

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When you mow during the cooler hours of the day, you reduce stress on the grass.

Spring is approaching so quickly its practically here. It may be hard to say goodbye to a winter season that never quite was but the extended warmer temperatures have most of us already planning about getting our lawns spring and summer ready.

With this extended spring if you’re looking to flex your green thumb, here are some tips to get started on a well-manicured and healthy lawn.

Watering like a pro

1. The morning (4a.m. – 10a.m.) is best.

By lunchtime, the temperature has gone up, which means water can evaporate easily. Do not water your grass at night either. Water clings to grass overnight and can breed fungus.

2. Use pulsating sprinklers for mature lawns and oscillating sprinklers for new grass.

The force of a pulsating water stream can fight strong winds easier than an oscillating one. But for new grass, the pulsating sprinklers may be too strong. Use oscillating sprinklers until the roots are secure. Make sure the sprinkler heads are angled close to the grass to reduce evaporation.

3. Your lawn and garden require different frequency schedules.

Each grass type has different water requirements. Create a watering schedule that is specific to each plant.

4. Put a shovel in it.

To test if water is sinking in deep enough, put a shovel in the soil and pull it out to see the depth of penetration. Also check to see if the roots are growing deep enough. The roots should be at least 4 inches deep.

5. Use smart or manual timers.

Smart timers are able to adjust to temperature, rainfall, evaporation and irrigation. Take advantage of this. If you don’t have a smart timer, you can use an oven timer to ensure that you are not overwatering, which can lead to shallow roots. Also adjust your settings each season.

Upgrading your mowing and cutting skills

1. Remove only 1/3 of grass blades with each mowing.

Exposed soil is vulnerable to disease and weed growth. Adjust the mower cutting height to prevent scalping. Tall grass cools the soil and helps lock in moisture. Follow grass height recommendations that are specific to your type of grass and your region.

2. Sharp blades cut. Dull blades tear.

Dull blades tear grass making it susceptible to disease. Sharpen or replace the blades frequently. Avoid running the mower over areas that could damage the blades, like tree roots and rocks.

3. Mow dry grass, not wet grass.

The cut is cleaner on dry grass. Mowing when the grass is wet can leave clumps behind and is slippery on slopes.

4. Change up your pattern.

Mowing in the same direction can lead to compacted soil, which affects efficient aeration. It can also change the grain of the grass and cause it to lean. You want the grass to stand upright.

5. Do not mow in the heat.

When you mow during the cooler hours of the day, you reduce stress on the grass.

Trouble shooting

If your lawn is patchy or brown, it can be resurrected. Here are some recommendations for nursing it back to its earlier glory.

1. Give extra attention to the areas that have higher foot traffic.

The areas that get a lot of traffic can become compact. Make sure these areas are aerated periodically and get extra topsoil.

2. Use seasonal fertilizers.

Fertilizer is season specific. Early fall fertilizers are high in phosphorus, which supports root growth. Spring fertilizers are high in nitrogen, which supports grass shoot growth.

Mature lawns do not need phosphorus. Test your soil every 3-4 years prior to buying fertilizer to see what it needs. A local Cooperative Extension Service can test it for you or you can use an at-home kit.

3.  Try scarifying (more often known as dethatching or raking)

This is the process of using a thatch rake to remove lawn debris and dead, matted grass or thatch. Dethatching can reduce disease and improve irrigation. Do this annually depending on your type of grass.

4. Consider aerating

Aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots.  Ideally, aerate cool season grass in the early spring or fall and warm season grass in the late spring. 

Dethatching and aeration power tools can be rented at most rental stores, or are available as optional attachments on tools like the Mantis Tiller/Cultivator made by local manufacturer Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.  Steve LePera, marketing director at Schiller suggests knowing your grass type, as power methods are not recommended for surface-rooted grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, and St. Augustine) because of potential damage to the root system.

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