My father once told me the three most important things in life are:
- Provide for your family
- Max out the good times with the people you love
- Have a badass green lawn for your house
Now as a kid growing up in Minooka, I never understood the importance of a green lawn. I always thought it was some kind of Italian-immigrant pride thing.
Now that i'm grown and helped my dad build a million dollar landscaping empire, I've learned a few things about lawn care, and why people are so obsessed with it.
Here's a few tips on lawn care to make your grass look greener and out shine your neighbors, by a professional landscaper.
1) Aerating and Dethatching Your Lawn
Aeration or aerating, is the process in which you poke small holes in the grass to allow air, water, and nutrients to pass through to the roots of the grass. In Illinois, you should generally aerate in the early months (Spring, August, September) because this is when the grass experiences vigorous growth and will rebound faster due to coming out of grass dormancy. Here's a diagram of what aeration does:
Dethatching is the process of removing dead layers of roots and stems that is found between the surface of the grass and the soil beneath it. Generally this is done when your lawn is covered with more than a half inch thick of thatch, which blocks nutrient passage to the grass roots.
How and When Should You Dethatch?
Thatching is more aggressive than aerating and should be done about once a year, or when the thickness of the thatch reaches about a 1/2 inch.
Dethatching can be done using a rake or using a dethatching machine. Dethatching should be done either in the early spring or fall.
Disclaimer: Never dethatch and aerate at the same time. This will cause too much stress on your lawn and damage it. If you're in Illinois, we recommend aerating in the spring and dethatching in the fall if necessary. Contact a professional landscaper if you have questions about dethatching or aerating your lawn.
2) Fertilize Your Lawn
Fertilization is the next step to having a greener lawn. Everyone know this, but sometimes it could backfire and actually damage your lawn. This is due to over-fertilizing, which gives too much nitrogen and burns the grass.
The best way to understand when and how to fertilize is by diagnosing the current ph level of the soil. If the soil has a low-acidic ph level (below 6.2) stay away from nitrogen based fertilizers, and use a limestone fertilizer instead. If the soil ph is more alkaline, (above 7) use a nitrogen based fertilizer.
Lawn fertilizing is very effective when combined with aeration and dethatching. The best schedule to fertilize your lawn for optimal results is as follows:
- Early Spring Pre-emergent (Granular)
- Early Summer Weed and Feed (Spray)
- Late Summer Weed and Feed Spot Spraying (Spray)
- Late Fall Winterizer (Granular)
Always water your lawn after you fertilize. It will bury the nutrients deeper into the soil maximize the fertilizer's results.
Note: The best way of preventing weeds is the first application of spring pre-emergent. Always use pre-emergent first thing in the spring so that you can prevent weeds instead of having to focus on treating them in the future.
3) Water Your Grass Effectively
The best time to water your grass is in the morning. This is because the air is cooler and there's less wind to blow the water droplets. If you water in the middle of the day, it can evaporate quickly due to sunlight. The worst time to water your grass is in the evenings. If you water your grass after the sun sets, the water can stick to the grass blades and causes lawn diseases.
The best time to water your grass is 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM.
The amount of time you should water your grass for is generally about 15 minutes a day, or once a week for one hour. Its best to water infrequently to stimulate the grass's absorption.
4) Grass Cutting Height
Grass height usually depends on the climate of your location. In Illinois, the climate is consistent with cooler springs, warm to hot summers, and cooler falls.
A general rule of thumb for grass height is, the cooler the temperature, the longer you should cut your grass at. The hotter the temperature, the shorter your should cut it at.
Our grass cutting height usually is 3.5 inches to 4.25 inches long in the spring and early summer. And when it starts to get really hot outside, the grass height slows down. We'd then cut it at 2.5 inches to 3.25 inches depending on that grass's growth rate.
In the fall, we cut the grass as short as possible in order to maintain its health during the winter. If you leave your grass too long in the winter, you'll see a lot of damaged areas in the spring. Be careful!
5) Recycle Your Grass Clippings
Recycling grass clippings is an effective way to to maintain a flow of recycled nutrients to your new layer of grass. This is a simple and effective strategy for maintaining lawn health, and not having to carry a heavy bag of grass to your dumpster. And it's good for the environment. So don't bag your grass clippings dammit!!
6) Flush Pet Urine Spots
This tip is for animal owners. Whether you own a dog or a goat, sometimes it has to use the bathroom. That bathroom to them is your grass. Urine contains high acidic properties, and the best thing to do for urine spots is to flush them with water. The water will dilute the acid and will eventually aid continual grass growth.
7) Avoid Cutting Wet Grass
A general rule of thumb for mowing wet grass is, if your shoes get wet when you walk in it, it's too wet to cut.
Always wait for the grass to dry before cutting. Cutting wet grass usually will give an uneven cut, and potentially rip the grass out of its roots. Not to mention it can damage your lawn mower as the wet grass can clump inside the machine as you cut.