Our staff expert tells you the secrets for growing greener grass. You’ll keep your lawn healthier, greener and thicker with a lot less effort. He also reveals the five biggest mistakes!
Meet the expert
As the in-house turf ‘expert’ at The Family Handyman for the past 15 years, I’ve spent a huge amount of time talking with world-class grass gurus and learning the science of lawns.
And I’ve spent even more time clearing and converting a half-acre of rough, overgrown horse pasture to a Pebble Beach–quality lawn. My final conclusion is this: Growing greener grass is surprisingly simple and easy.
If you’re willing to learn some basic facts and put in just a few hours of light labor every summer, you can have a lush lawn. You supply the labor and we will supply the know-how so you can learn how to grow greener grass.
Water deeply, but not often
If you water frequently and for short periods, the grassroots have no reason to grow deep. Those shallow roots can’t reach deep soil nutrients or deliver the water when you skip a watering. Instead, water deeply enough to penetrate the soil 4 to 6 in.
Do our little test for a few waterings and you’ll get a sense of just how long and often. It’ll depend entirely on weather conditions and your soil type. Water for 30 minutes. Then plunge a spade into the soil and pry out a wedge to see how far the water has penetrated.
Four to 6 in. deep is ideal. Not deep enough? Water longer. Once you know how long to water, use a water timer and you’ll know what to set it for every time. Heavy soils should be watered less often and less heavily but for longer periods of time.
Sandy soils, on the other hand, can handle heavy, fast watering but dry out faster. In hot, dry weather, you may have to water every two to three days.
Attack broadleaf weeds in mild weather
You need to kill weeds when they’re growing. That’s because the herbicide is absorbed through the leaves and then sent throughout the rest of the plant.
When the weather is too cool, the weed isn’t growing and the herbicide won’t be absorbed, and the chemical isn’t as effective. Too hot and the herbicide will stress the grass. The product directions will give you the best temperature range.
Apply herbicides when rain isn’t forecasted; a soaking will just rinse off the herbicide before it can do any good.
Kill crabgrass before it spreads
Crabgrass preventers (aka pre-emergence treatments) do one thing and one thing only. They prevent crabgrass (and any other seed) from sprouting.
Once crabgrass sprouts, it’s too late. Here’s the key. Apply preventer between the second and the third mowings. Because crabgrass starts sprouting a few weeks after the grass greens up, that’s generally just the right time.
Don’t skip the fall fertilizing
Before the lawn goes to sleep for the winter, you should feed it well. Even after the grass seems to go dormant, the roots are soaking up nutrients and storing energy for the next growing season.
Surprisingly, it’s much more important to fertilize in the fall than in the spring, when most people do it. Like watering, this is one of the most important favors you can do for your lawn.