A lush lawn around your home isn't just about making your neighbors envious. In fact, a healthy lawn increases your real estate value, keeps your home cooler during the dog days of summer and helps purify the air. If your grass is looking a little brown, patchy and unhealthy, a few quick maintenance tips can help your lawn recover, repair and regrow.
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You Reap What You Mow
Properly mowing your lawn is key to grass health and repair. Cut it too short, and your grass gets stressed, grows shorter roots -- this makes your lawn more vulnerable to dehydration -- and may become patchy. For the best results, allow your recovering lawn to grow to a height of at least 3 inches. When you do decide to mow, never cut off more than a third of the lawn's height. Thus, if you're trying to maintain a height of 3 inches, don't mow your lawn until it's approximately 4 1/2 inches tall.
Yes or No to H2O
Your lawn's health suffers when you water it too little or too much. Adjusting your lawn watering ritual is key to helping your lawn repair itself and reach optimal density and health. Wait until your lawn is just beginning to show signs of drought stress -- slight wilting of the leaf blades so they're just starting to curl -- before applying irrigation. Then, use enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of approximately 6 inches. This sparsely scheduled deep soaking encourages your lawn to grow its roots deep into the soil, making it more resistant to drought and heat stress.
Spot the Problem
An unhealthy lawn often develops bare, patchy spots where the grass has become especially weak and in need of repair. When you notice such spots emerging, overseed the area to help it recover and catch up with the rest of your lawn. First, mow the grass in this patchy spot exceptionally low to just an inch or two. Use a hand spade to break up the soil surface to a depth of a couple inches, then sprinkle grass seed over the area at a rate of approximately 3/4 pounds per 500 square feet. Water this newly seeded area twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon until seedlings appear, then irrigate just as you normally would.
Satisfy the Appetite
Your grass is hungry, and a recovering lawn needs occasional fertilization to stay dense, green and healthy. While every lawn is different, lawns should generally be fertilized when the grass is actively growing and not when it's dormant. While a soil test from your local cooperative extension service can help you pinpoint general nutrient deficiencies in your yard, a general rule is to apply approximately 5 pounds of 10-10-10 all-purpose fertilizer for every 500 square feet of lawn surface.
Air Out Your Problems
Over time, the soil in your yard can become dense and compacted, injuring your lawn's health. Aerating your lawn allows oxygen and moisture to better penetrate the soil, helping your grass to repair its health that might have been compromised by poor soil conditions. Using a lawn aerator, which you can buy or rent from most garden nurseries, poke holes all across your lawn that are approximately 2 inches deep and spaced apart by 4 inches.