Four Steps to Improve Your Lawn
Not every home needs a cookie-cutter square of grass out front, HOA-style. But for most homeowners, having an area of grass can be useful for kids to play on, pets to spend time outside, and an outdoor gathering space for socializing throughout most of the year thanks to the weather we enjoy here in Eugene.
Carefully consider where you really want grass, vs. where you’d like flowers, vegetables, or other good growing things. More and more families are opting to remove or reduce grass areas in favor of useful and productive garden spaces.
How to Improve the Grass you Choose to Keep
If you’re starting with a raggedy clump of assorted grass varieties growing in tufts intermixed with weeds that seem to multiply all year-round, the following steps should help to gradually improve the appearance and health of your lawn area without any drastic measures, at minimal cost and with minimal effort on your part. The plan involves only quarterly work and application of products to maximize lawn health exactly where you want it.
Seasonal Attention - Consistent for One Year
I will assume you’re starting this lawn-improvement process in the spring for the purposes of this tutorial.
First of all, take a good look at the terrain you want to be lovely uniform grass and fill any divots and holes with good plain topsoil, or, if there’s zero budget for this, use dirt you’ve removed from some other area of your property (hopefully because you dug a hole for a new fruit tree, or planted something new somewhere else, and now you have a little bit of dirt and you wonder where to put it). New grass seed will root well in dirt you’ve loosely packed into lawn divots and lightly leveled off, and the roots will firm up that new loose soil to create a more uniform, less ankle-twisting lawn area over time.
Once obvious holes have been filled to level, fill a rolling spreader with an equal mix of weed and feed (any brand you prefer is fine) and grass seed chosen for your specific lawn space. Go for a sun and shade mix for a dappled lawn or full sun grass seed for a south-facing lawn that gets baked all day. I’ve also seen a very good Pacific Northwest specific grass seed variety that does really well in Eugene and the surrounding area.
Roll the whole lawn area evenly with the mix of weed and feed and half grass seed in your roller spreader – go over it all several times, more than you think you really need to. Then, water well and frequently according to the needs of your lawn area.
- Yes, Organic and Natural products are available that are comparable in effectiveness to conventional weed-and-feed type products. I’m not advertising or advocating either kind here, or any particular brand in this article or in general, so please do check with your local garden center to choose the products you prefer to use on your property.
“I broke my ankle in a hole in the yard, but Eugene Garden Design came by just four times over a year, and it’s safe to go out there and looks great now! It wasn’t an instant process, but I was willing to be patient rather than bring in heavy equipment to completely scrape the yard, and it was far less expensive than the quote I got for putting in a new sod lawn.”
Once the initial heavy spread of half weed and feed plus half grass seed has gone down, it’s a matter of watering and mowing rather gently for the next three months.
Brand new baby grass shoots should be allowed to grow to about 5-6 inches tall before the very first cutting. After that, you can adjust your mower deck height to your preferred level, but most grasses grow healthier and maintain a better overall appearance when they’re not cut super short, so err on the side of just a bit more length. Trim new grass gently using a bag on your mower to keep the trimmed bits from blocking sun from the new growing grass. Watch over time as the grass grows up and creates the root mats that hold the dirt firmly together, creating a nice walking surface.
THE NEXT QUARTER
After about three months of new grass growth growing in with the old, existing weeds being affected by the heavy application of weed and feed, and the grass being allowed to fill in where those weeds have died off, your yard should already be looking more uniform and attractive.
Now it’s time to check the seasons and adjust your watering schedule to suit. Is it high summer? Does your yard face full south? You might need to automate your sprinklers to run every morning if you want it to stay green. A more shaded yard can use less water, so consider adding a new tree if you can!
Quarter 2 of this program involves a fun step – put on your golf shoes! No, really. Golf shoes, spikey cleats, you can get the whole family involved! Just tromp around on the lawn poking tiny holes all over – and have fun looking for any area you’ve missed. Turn on some music, and have a family dance party to aerate the lawn.
Once the party is over, get the roller spreader back out and roll a light application of weed and feed, and then roll a good application of a lawn fertilizer. Weed and feed products kill off weeds when applied during their active growing phase.
*Because of the environment here in Eugene, we can watch new weeds starting to grow up in our lawn areas throughout the entire year – so to stop that ongoing cycle, quarterly application of a weed and feed product will help to eradicate the new-growing weeds before they have the opportunity to go to seed and create that next generation. By applying weed and feed once quarterly for a whole year, you effectively break that constant new weed seeding cycle, and over time you can reduce your weed and feed spreading to the more reasonable spring and late fall, just twice yearly applications to keep the weeds at a minimum and the grass at its healthiest.
After the aeration party go back to watering and mowing like normal, and again, let the grass do it’s thing growing and filling in as weeds gradually die and the grass increases its domain.
Now the next quarter, it’ll depend on where you’re at in the year on this process. If we’re talking autumn, do another spread of weed and feed, and further aerate any areas that look like they didn’t get enough the first time. Yes, you’ll be able to see what areas need it.
If it’s coming into winter, or is full winter in your lawn fixer-upper process, it’s time to roll the spreader across with a good lawn and grass winterizer product to feed the lawn and keep it as healthy as possible through the coldest part of the year.
By this time, you should see minimum numbers of dandelions, clovers and other “weeds” still in existence, and a full spread of lovely grass, level ground and uniform growth in your lawn. So step 4 of this process is to once again hit the whole area with a spread of weed and feed, and then again lawn fertilizer. You should now be very comfortable in your watering and mowing schedule, so keep it up. Now that the grass is very well established, take a thorough walk around to ensure stable ground, and consider throwing a garden party to celebrate the achievement!
Many people simply don’t have the time or energy to undertake this type of lawn-rejuvenation process themselves. If this all sounds like too much for you to do, call Eugene Garden Design and arrange for us to rehab your lawn gradually, with no invasive backhoes or other big machinery. This rehab process doesn’t create instant lawn results, but it’s much less invasive, less costly, and gradually heals a lawn over time. CONTACT Eugene Garden Design for help.