For most homeowners, creating the perfect lawn seems more like a fairy tale than a realistic goal. No magic pill, wish-granting genie, or wand waving can replace the hard work it will take to achieve the lush green expanse we all crave. Most of us are just happy the yard is green. Does it matter that most of what’s green in the yard are weeds? Lots of weeds may not seem like such a problem now, but it’s certainly depressing to look at a yard of dirt in winter.
The truth is, your lawn serves both form and function. Turfgrass helps filter the air around your home, capturing tons of dirt and dust keeping you and your family healthy. It also releases a tremendous amount of oxygen paying you back for all that hard work.
Even if your thumb isn’t green, following our Five Essential Tips to the Perfect Lawn will go a long way to achieving the yard you’d be proud of.
1) SITE PREPARATION
Site preparation is crucial to your lawn’s success. Start by removing any weeds and debris from your yard. The easiest way to do this is to spray Round-Up. Round-Up should be applied and let to dry for 24 hours. We would suggest waiting three days, (although Scotts says you can plant 24 hours after applying), to seed your yard. If the ground is especially compacted, rent a roto-tiller to loosen the soil.
Consider the drainage and grade in your yard. Does water always pool in one spot when it rains? That’s probably why you could never grow anything but moss over there. This is your golden opportunity to create an even grade to your lawn, use it!
If your home is a new build, you may have to dig a little deeper. Dig a couple holes around the yard that are at least 8 inches deep. Are you finding tons of leftover construction material? If this is the case, you will most likely need professional help. Typically this calls for the removal of the top 8 inches of soil. Make sure your contractor is replacing this poor soil with a mix of topsoil and compost. Nutrient rich soil is just the antidote for a poor performing lawn.
2) CHOOSING THE PERFECT GRASS (FOR THE PERFECT LAWN)
That black thumb you claim to have may not entirely be of your making. Choosing the appropriate grass for your property is the first step to success. Before you can make your selection, take note of the sunlight in your yard. Does the north side get blazing sun all day? Does the east side of your home only get sun until 11 AM? Consider also water availability. Does your irrigation reach that corner of the yard? Lastly, consider the soil. Maybe your property is extremely sandy or clayish. If you do a little homework, you can make more sustainable choices.
Still confused? The North Carolina Cooperative Extension has a wonderful online tool to help you choose the right turf. NC State’s Turfgrass Selection Aid gives you brief descriptions, planting, and maintenance instructions for the best warm-season grasses for our area. It also provides pictures of these grasses for each season, helping you to determine the look you want for your perfect lawn year-round!
Properly irrigating your lawn doesn’t just mean healthier turf, it also means a more wisely spent water bill. Water your lawn in the morning. Early morning watering means less loss through evaporation and decreased risk of disease for your lawn.
Apply a half-inch of water to your lawn every three to four days. Deep, infrequent waterings is what makes your perfect lawn develop a nice deep root system. You should be giving your lawn an inch of water a week. If it rains, take this into account. Adjust your irrigation as needed. Overwatering can sometimes be just as bad as not watering at all.
Make sure to have your mower blades sharpened once a year. Dull blades can rip the grass, leaving it weak and susceptible to disease.
To mow at the proper height, take the season into account. NC State’s Turfgrass Selection Aid can help. Look up your turf grass and then adjust your mower to NC State recommendations for the season. It may seem counterintuitive, but letting your lawn grow longer at certain times of the year is important. The longer the grass blades are, the deeper your roots must reach to support them. Adjusting your mower height seasonally is vital to sustainability.
When you take medicine, you do it because you know you’re sick. Do you fertilize because you know your lawn needs fertilizer? The best decisions are informed ones. Conduct a soil test regularly. Visit or call the NC State Cooperative Extension-find your branch here. Most provide both do-it-yourself test kits and services for more in-depth analysis.
Once you’ve received your results, make sure your soil’s pH levels are close to 6.5-7. If your pH is off, it can actually limit the availability of nutrients to your turf. This means that all that fertilizer you put down in the past may have not been used by your turf because the pH wouldn’t have allowed it!
Once your pH hovers around the 6.5-7 mark, visit NC State’s Turfgrass Selection Aid again to read up on how much fertilizer your should be applying for your specific turf type.