Growing a lush, green lawn is well within the capabilities of any homeowner, as long as you follow a few simple rules. Unfortunately many lawns fail, not because of neglect, but because of some bad practices and misconceptions.
So, to help you have the greenest, healthiest lawn in the neighbourhood, this compiled list helps you avoid the biggest pitfalls standing between you and a great lawn.
Mistake #1: Cutting the Lawn Too Short
As a general rule, grass should be cut no shorter than about 3 inches long. Trimming it too short removes much of the energy-producing top growth and puts unnecessary stress on the plant, making it more susceptible to insects and disease.
Adjust your lawnmower’s cutting height accordingly, but never trim off more than one-third of the grass leaves. Another important benefit of not cutting the grass too short is that thicker lawns do a better job of crowding out weeds.
Mistake#2: Mowing With Dull Blades
Regardless of whether you use a walk-behind or riding mower, it’s important to use sharp blades. Dull blades rip through the grass, leaving jagged ends that easily turn brown and make the grass more susceptible to disease.
If you regularly hit rocks or scalp the ground, you’ll need to sharpen the blades more often.
Mistake #3: Not Testing the Soil
In order for grass to germinate and grow strong, the soil must have the right pH, which is the measure of acidity and alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from zero to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Grass grows best in soil that has a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. To test the pH of your soil, buy a DIY soil-test kit for about $15 and follow the manufacturers directions.
In most cases, it’s a simple matter of mixing a little soil and water in the kit’s plastic vial and then waiting for it to change color. The color-coded chart alongside the vial will reveal the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. If your soil is too acidic—below 6.0—you can add pulverized lime to raise the pH. If the soil is mildly alkaline—7.5 to 8.0—you can balance the pH by mixing peat moss into the soil. If the soil is very alkaline—over 8.0—lower the pH by adding sulfur.
Be aware that soil conditions change, so it’s important to repeat the test at least once every spring.
Mistake #4: Bagging the Clippings
As you mow, don’t collect the grass clippings. Instead, leave them on the lawn to decompose and they’ll provide much-needed moisture and nutrients. However, if the clippings clump together, be sure to rake them out. Otherwise they’ll form a thick mat and suffocate the lawn.
Mistake #5: Not Dethatching
To help grass absorb sunlight, nutrients and water, it’s important to dethatch the lawn at least once a year, preferably in the spring. Dethatching is the act of removing thatch, which is a layer of dead organic lawn matter, such as grass clippings and shredded leaves that forms on top of the soil. If the layer of thatch is ½ inch thick or thicker, in can starve the lawn.
For small lawns, you can use a thatching rake to remove the thatch, but in most cases it’s quicker and easier to rent a dethatching machine. Simply run the machine back and forth across the lawn and its spinning tines will pull out the thatch. Then, rake up and dispose of the thatch.
Check Part 2 For More Mistakes & How To Fix Them
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