Keeping the lawn attractive while cutting down on its overall maintenance is important to most homeowners. A lawn is your welcome mat. It is one of the first things that people notice as they drive up to or past your home. With a few simple tips, it is possible to not only have the lawn of your dreams but one that will require less work in keeping it healthy. A good lawn is an easy-care lawn. Mowing and other lawn maintenance chores should not be complicated or time consuming. Minimize these tasks by implementing edging around beds, walkways, foundations, steps, etc.
Using Edging for the Lawn
An attractive edging can be constructed with paving stones or brick and laid flush with the lawn. This kind of edging will also reduce the need for hand trimming. Steel, aluminum, and plastic edgings are attractive and readily available alternatives as well. Edging can also save on lawn maintenance by keeping mulch in and grass out.
How Often to Mow
A good-looking lawn requires mowing no more than every two weeks. Rather than giving the lawn a close trim each week, let it grow a little. This will actually help the lawn by allowing it to shade out weeds and develop stronger root systems. Removing no more than a third of its overall length at a time may be helpful as well. Also, mow only when the grass is dry and use a sharp mower blade to make cleaner cuts. Mowing wet grass can spread fungus or insects; it can also dull the mower blades.
Preventing Weeds in the Lawn
A well-prepared lawn doesn't contain bare spots or patchy areas where grass will not grow. If a bare area should develop, don't leave it open to weed invasion; reseed the area as soon as possible or turn it into a flower bed instead. If your lawn has significant shady areas that make growing grass difficult, consider using shade-loving grasses instead or incorporate a shade garden. You could also try to reduce the amount of shade by removing the lower branches of trees that might be causing this shade. Weeds and wild grasses should not be present in the well-manicured lawn. Dandelions popping up throughout the lawn are a tell-tale sign that soil problems are occurring.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Even if you are committed to having a low-maintenance lawn, you will need to fertilize it with nitrogen to sustain a thick, vigorous lawn. In addition to nitrogen, your lawn may require doses of phosphorus and potassium as well. Depending on where you live, however, your soil may naturally contain sufficient levels of these elements. Test your soil regularly to make sure that all nutrients are in balance. When choosing fertilizer, look for the slow-release forms. Using slow-release fertilizers will allow you to reduce the amount of time you spend feeding the lawn. These don't have to be applied as frequently, saving you both time and money. Leaving clippings where they fall not only saves on maintenance, but it also reduces the need to fertilize. Grass clippings naturally add nitrogen to the soil as they decompose and also help conserve soil moisture. This is also a great alternative to using chemical fertilizers. A healthy, well-fed lawn will resist the attacks of pests and diseases as well as crowd out weeds.
Watering Your Lawn
One of the best lawn-maintenance savers is less frequent but deeper watering. How much water your lawn needs depends on the grass, the soil, and the amount of rainfall your lawn gets. Generally, watering an inch (2.5 cm.) once or twice a week should be sufficient. Give your lawn the water it needs but no more. If it rains during the week, decrease your watering. If it is extremely hot or windy, you may need to increase the watering. There are, however, ways to minimize the need for watering. Keeping the grass taller by mowing less frequently will help shade the soil, reducing moisture evaporation. Choosing native grasses or those adapted to your area generally require less watering. Improving the lawn's soil quality, without chemicals, can also reduce watering needs, and organic lawns require less watering than chemically treated lawns.
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.
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