Every spring as the weather warms up and the BBQ's start getting fired up, lawns always come to mind (and mainly in men's mind at that). The winter can take it's toll on all of us and your lawn, but there are some steps you can take to get the perfect lawn.
Raking your lawn hard is one of the most important things you can do in the spring to get a healthy lawn. Make sure the ground is relatively dry and isn't soft and squishy. By raking hard, you pull out all the old dead grass and lift up some of the matted grass to keep fungus problems to a minimum. It does take a considerable amount of elbow grease, but it really is the best thing you can do from your lawn. A good annual raking effectively acts like basic de-thatching.
I'm not really a big fan or aeration in residential lawns. Unless your have incredibly high traffic on your lawn, mother nature takes care of that for you. Earthworms are the most common and the best aerators out there.
Doing a little over-seeding of your lawn is a great way to thicken it up a little. Grass seed is quite inexpensive and it's easy to apply. It grows best when seeded early in the year, or very late in the year - any time there is an "r" in the month which makes April ideal. Under ideal conditions, the seed should be covered with a little soil, but applying the seed and a little raking is usually sufficient. When over seeding, use half the rate listed on the package. Too much seed just causes excessive competition so keep the rates down. Pick a shade mix for shady locations and a sun mix for sunny locations.
If you have dogs and get tired of those little spots on your lawn, lime can be added to help counter the acidity. It also can help counter the acidity of evergreens and sometimes cedar mulch, which makes it equally suitable for flower beds as it is for lawns. If you see patches of moss rather than grass, you have an acidity issue and that's where the lime really makes a difference.
For salt damage, try using gypsum to help sweeten the soil. If you have left-over Gypsum, it's a great addition to your vegetable garden and prevents bud-rot. All in all, you end up with a better vegetable garden with a little bit of gypsum added.
When it comes to fertilizing, we're into another category. Traditional synthetic fertilizers have very high nitrogen which green up your lawn quickly. As good as they are, the overall direction of growing methods is changing. Moving to more natural solutions and less concentrated fertilizers does take a little more effort but produces a hardier and healthier lawn. Naturally sourced fertilizers are becoming more popular. You may need to apply a few more times in the year, but it's not difficult. These naturally derived fertilizers are great if you have pets since synthetics are more salt-based so it's easier on their paws. Synthetic fertilizer also tends to be slightly acidic so if you use it every year, chances are you will eventually need to start using lime to counter the acidity. You can use anything from granular natural fertilizers based on ground feathers, bones, and a host of other naturally derived ingredients, or you can simply get manure or compost and spread that thinly over your lawn. Going the manure or compost route also encourages earthworms which aerates your lawn for a double-whammy.
Weeds are a touchy subject nowadays. Weeds are one of the most annoying factors in your lawn. Working with plants all the time, I can see what damage weeds can do and I definitely don't consider dandelions to be "pretty yellow flowers". However, I also believe in the proper use of products to control weeds. That being said, the governments feel all weed control is bad so we can't use anything other than Corn Gluten Meal to try and prevent weeds. It does so by inhibiting seed germination. The downside is it stops all plant seeds, not just weeds, including grass seeds or seeds in your flower beds. It also builds up in the soil over time so the more you use it, the less seeds germinate so you can no longer overseed your lawn or fix bald patches without going to sod. There's also a risk that it will leech off your lawn into the natural environment where it can stop wild plant seeds from germinating, something that makes me very apprehensive. Make sure to keep that in mind. As annoying as it is, pulling weeds is currently the best solution we have available.
Grubs are very noticeable in the spring and everybody's first instinct is to kill them. However, spring is the worst time to try and kill them. It takes a very large amount of chemicals to kill them and those chemicals have a very low level of effectiveness. It's best to just leave the grubs alone and re-seed or sod your lawn to repair the damage and deal with treating your lawn against grubs in June.
Fungus problems can also be hard to deal with. Though it's more rare, it can happen. Raking well can prevent the fungus in the first place. As a consumer, lime sulphur may help, though it's not always successful. Again, because of the pesticide ban, we aren't left with any real options for fungus control in our lawns.
As you can see, there are quite a few steps that can be taken to end up with the super lawn. Lawns take time to get "perfect" but it's well worth it. Lawns make a create place for a summer retreat and have a major cooling effect. No wonder it's so nice to sit on your lawn on a sunny summer's day.