Please Feed Me
Even the healthiest lawn gets hungry and needs a solid meal. Twice a year, spring and fall, is the bare minimum most experts recommend for fertilization, though some add a feeding in the middle of the summer. But beware the common N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) fertilizers popular with most gardeners, says Gary; they don’t provide everything your hungry grass needs. Instead, he recommends a complete fertilizer that includes micronutrients such as sulfur, copper and iron. “Just like you take a multivitamin, your grass needs one too,” says Gary. In addition to regular fertilizing, he recommends an application of dolomitic lime every few years. This is because watering and fertilizing cause soil to become acidic over time and lime restores the pH while putting important minerals like calcium and magnesium back into the soil. In some Western areas, soils are naturally alkaline and may not have this problem, so it’s best to test your soil’s pH first.
Weeds, Go Away
No doubt about it, crabgrass is the bane of every lawn gardener’s existence. But that doesn’t mean herbicides are essential to a healthy lawn; in fact, many experts avoid them. The true secret to banishing weeds, they say, is to grow such healthy grass that it chokes out the invaders naturally. Mowing regularly helps too, because it tops off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass before they have a chance to scatter their seeds. When you do find yourself compelled to do battle against a path of weeds, Paul recommends using one of the new “natural” herbicides that derive their potency from corn gluten, salts from fatty acids or other non chemical sources.
When grass gets too compacted, nutrients can’t penetrate to the root system where they’re most needed. That’s where aeration — poking holes in your lawn to improve oxygen circulation — comes in. Most people aerate with a simple tool that looks like two hollow tubes attached to the end of a long handle. Of course, you can also just waltz around your lawn in spiked sports shoes — that works fairly well too.