The perfect lawn — we’ve seen it on TV. Just the sight of that lush, green grass and we’re pulling out the lawn mower and getting to work. But two hours later, the lawn bears no resemblance to the one we saw on the screen. In fact, it looks downright pitiful.
That’s because great lawn care involves more than mowing the lawn. According to Mark Taylor, owner of The Ground Guys of Central Virginia Beach, a good looking lawn takes fertilizing, watering, controlling weeds, patience and regular attention. Follow his pro tips and your lawn may be pretty as a picture, too.
Give it time
“A great looking lawn takes two seasons to really get firing on all cylinders,” say Taylor. “Homeowners will get the most bang for their buck by starting a weed control and fertilization schedule and making sure to seed and aerate the lawn in the fall.”
Fertilizing is vital to a healthy lawn. It not only feeds the grass, it also gives the root zone the strength it needs to withstand the stress of hot weather and unpredictable rain. Many fertilizers come with added weed killers. If you notice weeds invading the lawn, try a weed and feed product that targets your particular weed. Before selecting a fertilizer, however, Taylor recommends having your soil tested at a local extension center to determine which nutrients and supplements the soil needs.
Big box stores have a nice supply of fertilizers as do garden centers. Both carry many of the products that make DIY weed and feed programs easy. Not a once-a-year process, weed and feed applications should range from 4-7 times per year, depending on the program you use.
Water the right amount
No matter how much you fertilize, grass cannot grow without water. “Newly seeded lawns need watering twice a day at 15 minutes per cycle to help establish a strong root zone,” advises Taylor. “Established lawns need one inch of water per week and should be watered every other day for 30 minutes at a time.”
Mowing — but don't go crazy
If you’re tempted to cut the lawn very short so you don’t have to mow it as frequently, don’t do it. “Set the blade height to 3+ inches (4+ inches for lawns during the heat of the season)”, says Taylor. By cutting off less grass, about 1/4 inch per lawn cutting, the blades of grass will look nicer and the lawn won’t get scalped.
Spring and summer mean lots of rain. Be careful not to mow the lawn too soon after a downpour. “It’s best to wait until the yard is dry enough to cut it without leaving tracks or ruts,” says Taylor.
Here’s another super tip from Taylor. Instead of mowing the lawn in the same direction every week, consider changing directions each week. This will minimize tracks and allows the lawn to rebound if it gets stressed in one position. If you feel artistic, there are ways to achieve fancy patterns simply by mowing the lawn in different directions.
Let's talk lawn mower blades
A sharp blade means a good cut. “If you notice a yellowing at the top of the blade of grass after cutting, you are tearing and not cutting the grass,” explains Taylor. “That’s a sign of a dull blade that needs to be sharpened or replaced.” Get in the habit of starting the season with a sharp blade.
Not only do blades get dull, they also get out of balance. When the cut is uneven — scalping the grass on one side and cutting high on the other — it’s time to buy a new blade (about $20).