Maintain a healthy lawn
Lush, thick grass -- it's the pride of many homeowners. Follow these common-sense guidelines for a healthy, manicured lawn.
Mowing causes stress -- and stressed grass weakens lawns, making them more susceptible to invasion by pests and disease. Bearing in mind that no more than one-third of the length of the grass blades should be cut during a single mowing, cut your lawn with a sharpened mower to a height of about three centimetres during cool periods of the growing season and to five centimetres during the hot summer months. Shadier areas should be cut slightly higher.
Make your first spring cut only when the grass is about six to seven centimetres high to give the roots a chance to regenerate, and make your last cut of the fall when the weather becomes cold enough to stop the grass from growing.
Grass is smart. Grass will send you a signal when it needs water -- the blades turn a darker green and fold inward. When this happens, water deeply. How deep is deep? Generally, water to a soil depth of 15 to 20 centimetres. Depending on the type of soil you have, this translates into about 2.5 centimetres of water. (This is where a rain gauge comes in handy.) Watering deeply like this encourages a healthy, deep root system.
Fertilizing in the late fall with a slow-release, high-nitrogen product gives your grass the boost it needs, when it needs it -- in the early spring when it starts to green up. Apply fertilizers only when the grass is dry. Follow up by watering the lawn for at least 20 minutes to allow the fertilizer to soak into the soil.
Alternatively, in the fall, top-dress your lawn with a thin layer of nutrient-rich compost.
Although a healthy lawn is pretty much a weed-free lawn, sooner or later you'll find a stray dandelion or two or encroaching patches of crabgrass. If caught before they become a problem, hand-pulling is one of the most effective ways of controlling weeds in the lawn -- and a satisfying one that's welcome after a particularly hard day.
To prevent the buildup of thatch (a thick layer of organic material that causes turf grass to become shallow-rooted), aerate your lawn each spring or fall using a coring tool or vertical mower. These mechanisms remove small cores of soil from the surface of the lawn. Once removed, rake the cores into the topsoil.