Some of my favorite tools and tips for maintaining a beautiful lawn…
I love springtime… Once again the garden starts coming back to life, and it is no different for your lawn. Now’s the time to start a few maintenance things that will ensure your lawn is green and lush, giving you a Summer of fun and enjoyment.
There are some excellent tips you can apply that will give you lawn success, but you will of course need to make sure you have the right tools for the job. While a lawn mower is perhaps the most obvious tool, don’t make the mistake of thinking that is all you will need!
Just like any plants, grass needs the right soil and conditions to ensure that your grass becomes lawn. One of the most nagging issues or enemies in any garden are the bugs and weeds. This is where starting with the end in mind will save you a bunch of work and disappointment.
1. Watering Systems
If you are planning on giving your lawn a ‘make-over’ then one thing you will want to plan for from the start is to make sure you have a suitable watering system set up. There are a few options for homeowners. Many go for a fully automated sprinkler system, which could be a great solution, firstly if you can afford it, and secondly, if there are no local laws imposing certain water restrictions.
These systems can be expensive; by the time you purchase and install the piping, watering sprinkler heads and timers. Of course no one says it has to be automated; you can use the same sort of system but just operate it manually. Another ‘step down’ from the permanently installed watering system, is the use of a sprinkler on the end of a moveable hose.
You can also get specific hoses that have holes all the way along, so they become a sprinkler hose, and another variation is the drip or slow soaking hose that is usually not so suitable for lawns as it is for specific plants or shrubs.
2. Fertilizers and Soil Building
Watering is important, but no more than making sure your soil is rich and full of nutrients to make sure your lawn can grow quickly and also be a healthy looking green. This not only affects the thickness and lushness of your lawn, but it will make it just that much more resistant to bugs. It is also a good way to help overcome weeds, by ‘choking’ them out with thick growing healthy grass.
Fertilizers are available specific for lawns and you can get a huge range from your local gardening store. For me, I always recommend organic over synthetic, even for grass. The main reason is that a good quality organic fertilizer cannot be ‘over applied’, as it just works with the soil and the plants in a more holistic way. Plus I don’t really see the point in having synthetic fertilizers for the lawn, and then organic ones for my vegetable garden, and I definitely only want to go organic with my families food supply.
How you spread fertilizer over your soil, will depend on the type you are using and whether or not it lends itself to using a spreader. I usually just have some in a container and broadcast it by hand over the area. It seems to work quite well. Again, with organic fertilizers the dosages is not so critical.
Don’t be tempted by the phosphate type fertilizers that promise to ‘green’ up your lawn. While they will do what they say, they also have detrimental effects in the longer term and throw the ‘mini-ecosystem’ that you want to create, out of balance, so steer clear, because you can get the same or better results using an aged chicken manure fertilizer, which improves the soil at the same time.
3. Planting Seed or Laying Sod
This is a question you will need to answer depending on your own specific situation.
Sowing seed is great for patching up bare spots in your lawn, or for freshening up and thickening your grass. Of course there is specific preparation and care required to maximize success. Once your soil is prepared, you will just broadcast the seed again, using a purpose made spreader or just by hand.
If you choose the laying sod option don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need to prepare the ground; you will still need to do similar preparation. The main difference is you have ‘instant’ lawn which is great. You will need to give it some special care to ensure that firstly it is laid correctly (there is a right way and a wrong way), and also to ensure it doesn’t just die off, either ‘en masse’, in patches or around the edges.
Of course the ‘instant’ lawn option is far more costly than if you choose seeds and growing your own, and both will need preparation and care to ensure success.
4. Tools for Lawn Maintenance
There are some excellent tools that prove to be a good investment with caring for your lawn. One of the first I will mention is a lawn aerator tool. This is a tool that simply puts holes down to the roots and aerates the soil, as well as helping water to reach the roots all important for a beautiful healthy lawn.
If this is not something you want to do yourself, then you can obviously get someone in to do this for you, but if you are a hands-on gardener, then you will be glad you have one of these useful tools. These tools come from motorized versions to hand held and even special shoes with spikes that you can ‘walk’ around and poke holes into your sod. This is usually just a ‘once a year’ job, and you will be surprised what a difference it can make to the look of your lawn.
I can’t pass by without mentioning the good old lawn mower. Our faithful garden friend…. Of course there are many options available here, and your choice will depend a lot on the size of the area you want to maintain. You can get push mowers to drive mowers, and you can even get mowers that are not motorized at all, gas operated to electric, with or without a cord.
How often you mow can affect the health and look of your lawn? Two useful tips are…
- Don’t cut it too short as it will tend to ‘kill’ off patches
- mow regularly without letting it get too long (it will look all yellow and dead when you cut long grass until new growth comes through)
Other tools you will want to consider:
- A good quality edger – Nothing spoils the look of a lawn, more than scrappy edges and nothing makes it look as good as beautifully manicured straight edges around your gardens and paths. All the better if you can afford a motorized variety.
- A cord trimmer – this will help to maintain some edges around your garden, and depending on the type of area you have to maintain, can be useful for working through weedy outcrops that are not in your lawn area.
- A blower-vac – to help with leaves if they are a problem and it will also help to ‘clean’ up after mowing as well – Great for either blowing off the grass clippings that inevitably get all over paths when you are cutting your grass or doing your edges.
5. Dealing with Weeds
This can be one of the most frustrating things about maintaining a lawn and perhaps the situation where people most quickly resort to using chemical ‘weed killers’. Let me encourage you to consider other options, not only for the environment but also for the improved health of yourself, your family and your pets.
The types of chemicals that are used in any pest killers are harsh and also tend to accumulate in our bodies tissues. These chemicals may seem like they won’t do us any harm because most often we do not notice any immediate effects from using them (although in some cases immediate detrimental effects can be experienced).
They are quite insidious in how they can be stored within our bodies and over years in particular, can contribute to many cases of chronic illnesses. Usually as we develop these conditions the last thing we connect it with, is the use of chemicals around our house or garden, and this includes professional pest control treatments that many homeowners get done in and around their homes on a regular basis, perhaps every one to two years.
I cannot recommend avoiding the use of as many artificial chemicals in and around your home and garden. This is going to be a good habit that will help towards maintaining your own health and well-being, as well as being much better for the environment.
So the moral of this story is, always aim to go organic and as eco-friendly as possible, and look at alternatives to chemical control for weeds and bugs.
Simple ways to minimize weeds and pests
- Choose a ‘weed’ and ‘pest’ resistant variety of grass. Talk to your supplier about the options.
- Make sure your soil is healthy and your preparation done prior to planting or laying grass
- Consider manually ‘pulling up’ weeds when you see them (is a bit labor intensive, but quite therapeutic and satisfying, and certainly works well).
- Find some natural ‘weed killer’ recipes you can make or use. Things like boiling water poured on a weed (mainly for paths because you don’t want to kill your grass as well), or other solutions you can ‘paint’ onto weeds.
- Remember a good thick, healthy lawn will discourage the growth of weeds.
By giving some thought and planning you can make sure that your yard can be a wonderful place to spend time for the family, enjoying the ‘fruits’ of your labor. Children love playing on a lovely soft grassy area, and for me, well I love walking barefoot on a nice soft lawn, not to mention the beauty of a well-kept lawn and garden.
If you apply the tips and utilize the tools your lawn maintenance will not only be easier, but will be much more rewarding when it comes to enjoying the results of your hard work. After all, the main reason to go to the trouble of cultivating a lawn is for the enjoyment and satisfaction it provides.