With the warmth of the Sun’s heat increasing in the summer months, as well as the extended daylight hours, it is the perfect time for nature to soak up and utilise these rays, transforming the landscape as it undergoes a kind of renaissance. Gone are the bare trees and darkness, the wildlife returns, and nature –reborn after winter- moves into full bloom, and millions of people around the world look forward to the thought of getting stuck in to the task of maintaining their yards and gardens. Thus, as the relaxing sounds of the singing birds slowly fills the air, so too does the gentle hum of the lawnmower, a constant, almost reassuring background noise. Lawnmowers are associated by humans as usually only being heard throughout the hot months, and so subconsciously link the two together.
Maintaining yards and gardens is a big business. Seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, trimmers, shears and lawnmowers are all purchased in an effort to maintain, and take a pride and joy in, an outside private space which can be enjoyed in the hotter weather. Customers in America spend approximately $6.4 billion per year on different lawn care products, and lawn maintenance equipment. There is an estimated 25 million acres of lawn tended in the United States alone. A lot of the knowledge from gardening comes from direct experience, and exchanging information and tips with other gardeners is common. We will have a look at the top five tips for grass maintenance, and will address issues such as how short and when to mow the lawn.
Five Tips for a Lush Lawn
Ideally, you should start preparing your yard in the spring, when an initial clearance of debris may be needed after the winter. The winter will also have likely affected the pH level of the soil. Local Environmental Service Authorities can supply you with soil testing equipment if requested, and it is a worthwhile exercise to do. The effects of the cold will have compacted and hardened the soil and made conditions suitable for weeds, and promote bare patches and other invasive plants. It is important to clean, fertilize and mow the lawn early in the summer season.
1 – Cleaning and Preparing the Lawn
If your grass is already well maintained, a decent raking in the spring months, along with the removal of any debris, will usually be enough. However, any problems brought on by winter should be addressed quickly, as it can stress the lawn, and increase susceptibility to disease. One problem is uneven ground, which can cause to poor drainage, and promote poor grass growth. Simply use a shovel to cut off the elevated areas, and fill in the depressed areas. The other common problem is densely populated areas of soil, or soil compaction. With so many organisms vying for a position, it is usually only the hardier weeds that can survive and prosper. Stick a knife into the area you suspect, and if it doesn’t penetrate 2 inches (5 centimetres) it will be compacted. This is remedied by using an aerator, which is designed to remove small plugs of soil from your lawn, allowing space for new grass to grow.
2 – Plant the grass seeds in spring
If, after you have levelled and un-compacted the lawn, the other problem is of patches of bare grass. Correcting this will have a massive impact on the overall aesthetics of your yard, and is well worth taking the time to do it. Try to assess the conditions and pH of the soil if possible, to investigate why grass was unable to grow there in the first place. It is possible to get pH tester for soil, and addressing and correcting the balance will ensure a green patch where it was brown before. Choose a seed which is suitable to you particular climate, position and sunlight available, and roughly calculate the area you intend to sow, as coverage is measured in pounds per square foot. Sowing by hand over smaller areas is good, but for larger areas a machine such as the broadcast spreader will do an excellent job. Remember don’t ignore the grass once you’ve sown it, and water regularly to maintain soil moisture, and use a slow release, low nitrogen product.
3 – Preparing for summer
Once you have established a level and full patch of grass in your yard, it should still be spring, though moving closer to summer. The grass will grow, and you should cut it when it reaches 3-4 inches (7 to 10 centimetres), but try not to trim off over half an inch ( 1 cm) as shearing too short can stress the grass. To enable the whole lawn to be lush and thick with grass, a good quality fertilizer can be used, but bear in mind that if not used properly can damage the grass. Slow release nitrogen ones are best, and no more than one pound (0.45 Kg) of nitrogen should be spread over an area of 1000 square feet (93 metres squared). Apply this when the grass is actively growing, the timing of which will vary from region to region. Check the package to see how much water should be applied after the fertilizer. Herbicides, used for controlling weeds and other invaders, should be applied also, but with much care. Improper use can lead to prevention of the grass seeds from being germinated. Isolated application should suffice, or if in the case of a wide spread weed infection – which should have been dealt with in the previous weeks – by applying the herbicide as a first step over the whole infected area. The best weed prevention method is ultimately a thick lawn of grass.
4 – Mowing the Lawn
There is a bit more to mowing the lawn than simply moving the machine over the grass. The frequency with which you mow, and how much you cut off are both important considerations to make. Cutting the grass as short as you can, although can reduce the number of times you need to mow, can be harmful to your lawn in the long run. Constantly mowing too short can remove nutrient supplies the grass relies on which is stored in the leaf blades, and can expose the soil to sunlight, allowing weeds to take hold more easily. Mature and taller grass is better positioned to fight off initial weed growth because of a larger root system and higher tolerance for the heat. Taller grass also shades the ground better, allowing the soil to retain moisture. Some common types of grass and their recommended cutting heights are:
- Common bermudagrass – 1-2 inches (2-5 cm)
- Fescue – 2.5 -5 inches (5-9 cm)
- Kentucky bluegrass – 2.5 -5 inches (5-9 cm)
- St. Augustine – 2-4 inches (5-10cm)
- Zoysia – 0.5 -1.5 inches (1-4cm)
Mow the lawn so you are only removing the top third of the grass blades, and avoid stressing the plant. Retain these clippings, which are able to decompose quicker than larger pieces, and this type of organic matter is actually quite good for the soil. Edges and hard to reach places can be cut with other equipment, such as hand shears, adhering to the same height instructions.
5 – Maintenance of Garden Equipment
Some time out to maintain and preserve your equipment is highly recommended. In many cases, a gasoline powered lawn mower will be your most expensive piece of equipment, and here is a simple schedule to perform your own lawnmower service:
- Remove the gasoline, which can be stale from last year.
- Disconnect the spark plug makes the engine safe while you perform the maintenance.
- Remove the blades carefully, using gloves for protection.
- Drain the oil from the usual four cylinders found in most lawnmowers.
- Clean thoroughly using a knife or similar to knock off built up dirt and grime.
- Replace the blades carefully.
- Fill the oil tank with fresh oil.
- Replace the air filter, improving airflow to the engine.
- Replace the spark plug, doing this will ensure optimum performance, even if your old spark plug seems to work.
Other equipment, such as hand worked tools like spades and shears, should be cleaned and inspected for damage before use. Replace as necessary, as damaged equipment can potentially lead to serious gardening injuries. Other electric equipment, such as trimmers, should be isolated from the power supply, cleaned, have the removable parts removed and cleaned, then replaced. Install new working parts if necessary, remembering to apply lubrication, and then finally test the equipment, to ensure everything is held in place before starting work. Following these tips through to the conclusion will enable you to achieve a very attractive, level and healthy lawn, but as with many things, what you put in, you get out. The more time and effort you can dedicate to maintaining your lawn and equipment, the better the end result will be.