Knowing how to maintain your lawn is essential if you want to keep your property looking neat and free of pests, weeds andother undesirable elements. The good new is you don’t need to hire a pro s you can do it yourself.
1. Dethatch Your Lawn
Dethatching your lawn provides several benefits, such as allowing healthy roots to grow and more efficient draining.
How Often Should You Dethatch?
Spring, early summer and early fall are the best times to dethatch for most. As for frequency, it depends on how much thatch your lawn produces.
- If there’s a lot of thatch, dethatch annually.
- If the thatch doesn’t exceed 1.27 cm (half an inch) you can dethatch every other year.
- If the thatch reaches 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) you should do it every spring and fall.
- For warm season grasses, dethatch around the second mowing or late spring.
- For cool season grasses, early fall or late summer are the best times.
Do not dethatch if there’s a heatwave or drought. The best scenario is to have a growing condition of 45 days following each dethatch.
What are the Best Lawn Dethatching Tools?
- Thatching rake: this tool has knife-like blades which you use to rake the thatch. This is mostly suited for small thatching jobs as it can take time.
- Dethatcher: a dethatcher is a gas powered machine built specifically for this purpose. Also known as a power rake and vertical mower, you can find these in rental yards.
A dethatcher has stiff wire tines or rotating blades which go through the thatch. While dethatchers can be large and tricky to maneuver for a new user, it is more effective than a thatching rake.
A vertical mower is also more suited for Bermuda and other thick grasses. Steel blades re also ideal for Bermuda and zoysia grass, while wire tine dethatcher machines are more appropriate for fescue lawns and Kentucky bluegrass.
How to Dethatch
- Mow your lawn lower than you regularly do.
- Make a couple of passes with your dethatcher The second pass should be at an angle 90 degrees to the first.
- After raking the debris you can use it for mulch or compost.
- Fertilize and water your lawn.
2. Test Your Soil pH
Soil pH tells you how acid or alkaline the soil is. It’s important you learn the soil pH number because some plants flourish in acid soil, while others prefer alkaline.
- A soil pH of 7.0 is considered neutral.
- Above 7.0 is alkaline.
- Soil pH below 7.0 is acidic.
How to Test Soil pH
There are two ways to test: use a professional soil testing service and get a full report, or buy a DIY soil test kit.
A DIY home testing kit is the most practical choice as it is sold in most garden centers. They are affordable, easy to use and give you a good idea of the soil’s pH level. If you want more detailed results, you can always submit soil samples to a lab for further analysis.
How to Read Soil pH Test Results
These tests determine the alkalinity or acidity of the soil. As stated earlier, a reading of 7.0 means the soil is neutral.
pH 3 to 3.5
The soil is very acidic. You can increase the pH by adding lime.
pH 5.1 to 6
This is acid soil. It is suitable for camellias and rhododendrons. Add lime if you want to cultivate other plants here.
pH 6.1 to 7
Moderata acid levels. A 6.5 pH level is the best for general purpose planting. You can grow almost all types of plants here. You don’t need to do anything to enhance the soil.
pH 7.1 to 8
The soil is alkaline, reducing the availability of manganese and iron. Adding iron sulphate, sulphur and acid agents can lower the pH.
How Often Should You Test the Soil?
Test the soil each time you plan to build a new garden. After the first test, test again every 1 to 3 years. You can test every five years if the plants flourish, but test immediately if there are problems with growth.
For optimum results, test the soil at the same time each year. Do a full soil pH test if you’re going to plant in spring as there is sufficient time for fertilizing. This also gives you time to adjust the soil’s pH level to suit your needs.
What Factors Affect Soil pH Levels?
- Rainfall: rainfall turns the soil more acidic. During the rainy season, expect the soi to be more acidic, though there are ways you can change its pH,
- Nitrogen fertilizers: legumes, manure and fertilizers contain ammonium and increase the soil’s acidity.
- Plants: certain plants like clovers, alfalfa and soybeans lead to soil acidification.
Here’s more information about soil PH:
3. Aerate the Lawn
Knowing how to aerate lawns is just half of it, as you must also time it right. Just like with dethatching, aerating depends on the lawn grass.
When to Aerate Your Lawn
Lawn grasses fall into two categories, cool season and warm season. Warm season grasses commence growth around summer. Aerating during early summer or late spring means it’ll be filled up quickly by rapid growth.
Cool season grasses start during early fall and quickly grows during that season. The key is to do aeration so there is around 4 weeks for growth before the frost.
Warm Season Grasses: Aerate in Early Summer or Late Spring
- St. Augustine
Cool Season Grass: Aerate in Fall
- Ryegrass (perennial and annual)
- Rough bluegrass
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Fescue (tall, red, hard, chewings)
- Creeping bentgrass
How to Aerate Lawns
There are two ways to aerate your lawn, use motorized or manual tool.
A manual aerator is most appropriate for small lawns, and used properly produce quality results. You set 2 or 4 cylinders in the soil to punch holes or extract the core. You can use spike-on shoes to do the hole punch, but these can’t be used for soil core removal.
Automated aerators have a spikes or hollow cylinders on the back or a drum out front. These machine are most effective on large lawns and can take out soil plugs. Look also for auto aerators with weight over tines or deeper lines for better performance.
You may also use an ionized soil conditioner to break up soil clay particles. This also stimulates microorganisms into consuming thatch.
Before aerating your lawn:
- Use markers or flags to designate areas of buried utilities, septic lines, irrigation and sprinkler heads.
- Use your standard mowing pattern for light compact soil. Use this method too for soil if it has been aerated the past 12 months. Only one pass is needed.
- For high compact soil, or if it has not been aerated in a year: conduct two passes. The first pass follows your mowing pattern, while the second is angle to the first. Create 20 holes per sq. ft.
After aerating your lawn, keep the soil plugs there for decomposition. You can also seed and fertilize your lawn after aerating, and there’s no need to add a soil layer over it.
4. Weed The Garden
Garden weeding doesn’t have to be difficult, and a lot of problems can be avoided with the right technique and timing.
How Frequently Should You Weed Your Garden?
Weed your garden once a week. Keeping up with this schedule prevents weeds from maturing, and it’s easier to pull young weeds.
The problem with not weeding is difficult weeds will settle in. Some of the most difficult weeds like Canada thistle and dandelions have roots that go down several feet. By weeding and pulling weekly, you will deprive them of sunlight, causing them to die out.
How to Weed
The worst you can do is the old grab and pull method, because you’re just pulling the stems but the roots remain intact. The weeds will then regrow quickly since the roots are still there.
To weed your garden, use the pinch and pull technique:
- Pinch the weed near its base, firmly but gently.
- Pull the weed out, again firmly but gently.
- Pull it out and you will see the roots pulled along with the stems.
It might take some getting used to, and you might see weeds snap off the stems. But give it time and you will get a feel for the amount of pressure needed to pull the weed’s roots out.
When is the Best Time to Weed a Garden?
The right time to weed is after watering the garden or a rain storm. The ground is moist and the roots will be easier to pull out.
You can also weed during the morning. Do it before the dew dries up. The sil won’t be as soft as after rain, but it’s still softer compared to weeding later in the day.
You can keep weed at bay using a weed killer like the Compare N Save Concentrate Grass and Weed Killer. A gallon is good for up to 25,000 square feet, and you will results in just 2 to 4 days. Follow the label instructions for use.
Garden Weed Tips
- Kill and pull weeds by the roots, but do your best not to disturb the rest of the soil.
- Do not disturb any dormant weeds as they could cause trouble.
- Do not let weeds see sunlight as it provides nourishment. Use mulch like pine needles, straw, bark nuggets, wood chips, etc. to drown the weeds.
- Stick to the weekly schedule.
- Chop off the weed heads whenever you have the opportunity..
5. Water and Fertilize
Fertilizing provides a lot of benefits for your plants and lawn:
- Fertilizing makes your lawn and plants look good. Regular reduces the amount of work and maintenance you have to do.
- Fertilizers makes plants stronger and more resistant to drought and heat.
- Provides nourishment for your plants, allowing them to grow and stay healthy.
- Makes your garden look organized: healthy lawns and plants go a long way towards making your home stand out
- Prevents weeds from spreading: fertilizers not only makes your garden aesthetically appealing, but it also keeps weeds at bay.
The bottom line is fertilizing does a lot of good for your plants and lawn. The amount of work you put in into nurturing your plants will pay off with a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing garden.
When is the Best Time to Fertilize?
The best time to apply fertilizer is in early spring as this allows for leaf growth and the production of fruits and flowers. In some areas of the US, early spring may still bring about some snow or freeze. To avoid this, fertilize on the final day of frost.
Fertilizers are most effective when you apply them during the peak growing cycle of a plant. This is the time when plants start to leaf out, put out new growth or flower. For this reason, spring is the right time for fertilizing.
There are however, other plants which have different fertilizing times:
- indoor pot plants: you can fertilize these every month with liquid plant food. Fertilizing should be done during spring summer and fall. Do not fertilize during winter.
- Vegetables and other outdoor plants are better off with slow releasing, gentle fertilizers. The gradual release can feed plants for several weeks. Feeding with fertilizers during the growth season is also good for vegetables and other plants.
Which Companies and Brands Sell Fertilizers and Plant Food?
Among the most popular fertilizer brands are Miracle-Go, Keter, General Hydroponics, harris, scotts, and Jobe’s Organics. Their products are available online.
When is the Best Time to Water?
The best time to water your lawn is in the morning, 4 to 10 am. The best time to water plants is the morning while the temperature is still cool.
Watering in the morning enables the water to get in the soil and roots without losing much due to evaporation.
The amount of water needed varies per plant. Frequency also depends on the prevailing weather condition.