Just like the best way to reduce your gasoline consumption is to drive less, the best way to reduce your lawn maintenance chores is to modify your ideas about what makes a good lawn. If you’re absolutely set on a plush, thick green carpet that’s completely free of weeds, insects, and disease, that wasn’t what you wanted to read and trust me, to have a lawn like that, there aren’t many cheap shortcuts. But if you don’t mind living with the occasional dandelion, an occasional bare spot, or Japanese beetle, you can get by on a slimmer lawn care workload. You may just find that you can spend more time enjoying your lawn rather than maintaining it.
Sometimes letting go can free you up!
1. Put your yard on acid
Test your soil and adjust the pH so that it’s slightly acidic (a pH of 6.0 to 7.0). You can get soil test kits at many home improvement centers or by contacting your county’s cooperative or extension agent, or even a local university.
2. Poke holes in your yard
Aerate the soil every two years with a power aerator. Don’t buy one, rent one.
3. Comb out the dead stuff
Dethatch your lawn once a year with a power de-thatcher. Again, rent it rather than buy it.
4. Give your yard a power boost
Fertilize only four times per year, based on your soil test recommendations. Fertilizer has three components: nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) and you can buy it with the percentages your lawn needs of each element. Choose a water-insoluble fertilizer because of its slow- release characteristics and fertilize depending on the season:
- Spring – use a weed-and-feed fertilizer
- Summer – use a good general purpose fertilizer
- Fall – use a fertilizer with less nitrogen but more potassium to encourage better root growth
- Winter – use a fertilizer with low nitrogen and phosphorous but higher in potassium and with a good weed pre-emergence
5. Drink only when thirsty
Water your lawn only when it needs it. If you walk on it and the blades don’t spring back, the lawn needs watering. A good rule of thumb is 1" of water a week during dry spells. Water in the morning while the dew is still on the grass. The water will be able to soak into the soil before the hot sun can evaporate the moisture.
6. Let your yard become a hippie, sort of
Cut the grass longer than you would think using a sharp mower blade. For most grasses, long is considered to be 3". Higher grass will also prevent sunlight from reaching newly sprouted weeds, depriving them of the sunlight they need to grow.
7. Neatness doesn’t help
Leave your grass clippings on the lawn, don’t collect and remove them (you’ll save time and your back). These finely cut clippings don’t promote thatch but do act like a thin, green mulch to help keep moisture in your soil. And once they decompose, they work as a high-nitrogen content fertilizer. Perfect for spring and summer!
8. No fighting!
With the exception of army worms (or other highly invasive, destructive worms or pests), lawn pests aren’t worth fighting. If you improve your soil and the health of your lawn, harmful pests will start to disappear without you lifting a finger.
9. Smaller is better
Consider replacing some sections of grass with ground covers (such as English ivy) or ornamental grasses (such as fountain grass, monkey grass, or a large pampas grass clump). These plant types don’t respond well to a rugby game played on them, but they’re good alternatives for no-traffic areas. Just be sure to select the plants carefully: you have to match the plants to your property’s soil, climate, and amount of sun and shade as well as the amount of care the plants require.
10. Launch a drinking intervention if necessary
Take into consideration the amount of rainfall your lawn receives so you won’t overwater it. Place a rain gauge in an open area to measure how much rain you get each week.
By taking a few steps to make lawn care easier, you can make your lawn more enjoyable!
Photo by Sir Mildred Pierce