You know a healthy lawn when you see it: a smooth, lush green carpet, perfect for cartwheels and croquet. So why doesn’t your lawn look like that? Planting a new lawn is like any good adventure: preparation and planning are key and we have tips listed below to answer any questions you may have about proper lawncare maintenance and how to get started. Setting Soil
No matter which planting method you plan to use, you need to prepare the area thoroughly to banish weeds and make sure soil won’t immediately crust over or compact into lumpy ruts. Start by stripping the area of all weeds, including roots, even if that means taking off the top six inches. It’s extremely important to add loam and compost to enrich the soil; many experts suggest mixing equal parts of loam, sand and your original topsoil. You’re best off in the long run if you incorporate a slight slope to facilitate drainage and prevent pooling. Finally, use a roller to pack down the soil, then grade the area with a metal rake. Be as thorough as you can — remember, once you’ve put your seed or sod down, you can’t go back and regrade.
No question but rolling out a carpet of sod is the quickest way to a beautiful lawn. But sod can get expensive, especially if your lawn is going to cover a large area. The alternative is seeding the area yourself, either by hand or with a method called hydroseeding, which has recently become quite popular. Long used by farmers to sow large fields, hydroseeding solves one of the main problems of hand seeding: even dispersal of seeds. The grass seed — a mix of varieties blended for your climate and the type of use your lawn will get — is mixed into a pulp made from virgin wood fibers, fertilizer and binding agents.
A weekly soaking helps roots extend deeper into the soil, while frequent shallow waterings tend to lead to thatch, that unsightly web of dry brown runners just above the soil. Watering deeply can also prevent chinch bugs, a pest that tends to attach dried, stressed out lawns across the midsection of the country. To figure out how much water your lawn needs, take your soil type into account: sandy soils dry out faster, while clay soils hold moisture longer and don’t require watering as often.
For a newly seeded lawn, water every day for five to 10 minutes only. Your goal is to dampen the seeds without causing runoff that might wash them away or mar the surface with gullies. After the seeds sprout and the new grass is a half inch tall, water once a day for 15 to 20 minutes.
No doubt about it, crabgrass is the bane of every lawn gardener’s existence. But that doesn’t mean herbicides are essential to a healthy lawn; in fact, many experts avoid them. The true secret to banishing weeds, they say, is to grow such healthy grass that it chokes out the invaders naturally. Mowing regularly helps too, because it tops off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass before they have a chance to scatter their seeds. When you do find yourself compelled to do battle against a path of weeds, Paul recommends using one of the new “natural” herbicides that derive their potency from corn gluten, salts from fatty acids or other nonchemical sources.
When grass gets too compacted, nutrients can’t penetrate to the root system where they’re most needed. That’s where aeration — poking holes in your lawn to improve oxygen circulation — comes in. Most people aerate with a simple tool that looks like two hollow tubes attached to the end of a long handle. Of course, you can also just waltz around your lawn in spiked sports shoes — that works fairly well too.
There are hundreds of types of grass available, and new varieties are developed every year. As with all plant choices, climate plays a big role in determining which type of grass will work best for you — soil type, rainfall and other factors also come into it. As a general rule, cool-season grasses go dormant during the warm weather, and warm-season grasses go dormant during the coolest months of the year; in areas where it’s possible to have a green lawn all year round, you want a mixture of both these types.