Have you ever wondered why your lawn is not as green as your neighbors? The grass doesn’t have to be greener on the other side. The secret of a green lawn is proper weed control, regular mowing and providing enough nutrients and water. But first and most importantly you need to ensure that your lawn is composed of the right type of grass for your climate and usage. It doesn’t matter how much love and care you shows your lawn if the grass type is not suited for the climate.
To get a lush and green lawn requires some knowledge about grass, because grass is not just grass. There are several types of grass and they have different growing requirements. If you look closely at your lawn you will probably find different types of grass. Some of the types might not be well suited and therefore look less lush and green.
You can generally divide the grass types in two different types of climate, cool and warm season. The cool season types are ideal for the northern part of the U.S. and Canada while the warm season dominates the southern part of the U.S. In the transitional zone both warm and cool season grasses can be found growing. It might sound like it would be easiest to get a green lawn in the transitional zone, but it is actually the contrary. In this zone it will be too hot from some grass types while others it will be too cool. Just a few types of grass can grow in both areas.
Cool season grass types commonly include:
- Bentgrass (Agrostis) – This grass type is often used on putting greens for golf courses. It is not primarily used in lawns since it requires a lot of care to maintain. Bentgrass prefers full sun, but can handle some shades as well.
- Bluegrass (Poa Pratensis) – Bluegrass, and especially Kentucky Bluegrass grows best during fall, winter and spring. It can become too hot and dry during the summer season. Bluegrass prefers full sun, but can handle some shade part of the day.
- Fescues (Festuca) – I think Fescue grass is the nicest type of grass for the cool season types. If you provide enough water the grass will remain dark green all year. If the grass is dense enough it will also keep the weed away.
- Ryegrass (Lolium)– This type can come in both annual and perennial. It is generally used as part of a seed mixture for its good wear resistance. Often used as a winter grass in the south and throughout the year in the transition zone.
While the common warm season grass types include:
- Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) – Bermuda grass is extremely drought resistant and can therefore survive the hottest and harshest of summers.
- Buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides) – This type of grass is actually native to the United States contrary to most other popular types. It is also drought resistant and spreads easily.
- St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)– This type likes humid and sunny conditions. It forms a thick turf if the conditions are right.
- Zoysia grass (Zoysia japonica)– Zoysia forms one of the thickest turfs which make it almost impossible for weeds to penetrate. Another benefit is that it is growing slowly which means you don’t need the lawn as often.
- Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) – It forms a dense and very good looking lawn free of weeds. Centipede is therefore very popular.
- Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) – This grass type is most popular in Florida and southern California, but unlike St. Augustine it doesn’t require as much water and therefore are more drought resistant. It is also resistant to bugs and diseases.
Two common areas causing problems are either shady areas or areas with a lot of foot traffic.
- Shady areas – Choose among the cool seasoned types. Fescues are one of the most tolerant of shade.
- Heavy foot traffic – You need a tough grass for these areas and either Kentucky Bluegrass or Ryegrass are good options.
Picking the right type of grass for your lawn can be a bit tricky, but you can always ask at your local garden center for guidance.
Your grass lawn needs sufficient water on a consistent schedule to become lush and green. The best solution would be if Mother Nature ensures your lawn gets enough water by rainfall, but this unfortunately happens in only a few places in the U.S. For the rest of us, we need to manually water our lawns with either an irrigation system or a sprinkler.
An irrigation system concealed underneath the surface with strategically placed sprinklers spread across the lawn is very expensive to install, but very convenient. You can often program the system to automatically water the lawn at specific times during the day.
The cheaper option is to use a garden hose with a sprinkler which you can move to dry areas of the lawn.
Lawn thatch is a layer of dead turf grass tissue that prevents water and nutrients from getting down to the grass roots. If the lawn thatch layer is more than a half of an inch you need to do something. You can solve the problem by using a regular rake or a dethatcher.
Test your soil
To determine whether or not your soil is lacking some of the necessary nutrients you can use a soil test kit. These test kits usually check the pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium values. You can do these tests yourself and get the answer within a few minutes. Test kits can be found at garden centers or online for about ten bucks.
This test kit is simple, fast and inexpensive.The kit contains a test for pH, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus with easy to read scales.
Fertilizer and weed control
A well fertilized lawn and weed control are closer linked than you might think. Fertilizer feeds the grass and makes the roots grow bigger and the grass to expand to bare spots. As the grass manage to cover all bare spots on your lawn it gets harder for the weed seeds to find suitable places to grow. You kill two birds with one stone; the grass gets healthier and keeps the weeds away.
If you follow a lawn-fertilizer schedule, you will prevent both weeds and diseases to ruin your lawn. By starting in May with a Crabgrass preventer, you will suppress and prevent Crabgrass to grow in your lawn. Follow up in June with a weed controler to kill Dandelions and other broadleaf weeds. If you keep fertilizing during the rest of the summer you will keep the weeds away. Remember not to use too much either since this will harm your green lawn.
Mowing the lawn doesn’t only make it look good and well-kept, but it can also make it lusher. A mulching lawn mower is preferred since it chops up the clippings and spread them across the lawn. The clippings will then work as natural fertilizer when they rot. There is no reason to bag or rake the clippings and put them in your compost bin. This only causes extra work. The only good reason to bag clippings is when the grass has become too tall and the clippings pile up on your lawn.
Quick guidelines when mowing your lawn
- A rule of thumb for mowing your lawn should be to cut it when it is about 3 inches and only remove 1 inch. When you cut the grass it will stimulate growth and make each leaf thicker.
- Make sure the blades on your lawnmower are sharp since this will produce clean cuts which improve the health of the grass.
- Mow your lawn when it is dry for the best result.
- Do not always mow in the same direction and with the same pattern to prevent ruts to form over time.