It’s been a long winter and an even longer spring, but summer is finally here! And now that it is, it’s time to get outside and get your lawn spruced up for the warm weather. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your yard this summer, and these DIY backyard prep ideas will help you get it ready.
Aerate and Dethatch Your Lawn
Aerating and dethatching your lawn is one of those outdoor home improvements that you might be inclined to let go by the wayside. Do you really need to aerate and dethatch your lawn every year, or at all?
The answer is that you probably don’t need to dethatch your lawn, at least not if the thatch — the layer of tightly woven, dead stems, leaves, and roots between your grass’s visible blades and the soil — is less than an inch thick. If it is an inch or more thick, you can rent a power rake to dethatch it. How can you tell if your lawn needs to be dethatched? Put away the ruler, and take a stroll across the grass instead. If your lawn feels spongy or bouncy instead of firm, you need to dethatch.
Aerating your lawn, on the other hand, is a different process that removes plugs of soil from the lawn. This allows the roots of your lawn to get better airflow and more nutrients from fertilizer. Increased air and water flow to the roots of your lawn can also help thatch decompose faster, so you can delay or even completely avoid dethatching. You should aerate your lawn every one to three years. The more foot traffic your lawn gets, the more often you should aerate it. You can even aerate very high-traffic areas more often than once a year.
Feed Your Grass
Fertilizing your grass is another one of those outdoor projects that is shrouded in mystery for many homeowners. How often should you fertilize? How much and what fertilizer should you use? Feeding your grass can be a stressful activity, especially since using too much or the wrong kind of fertilizer can damage your grass.
Complicating the matter is the fact that you’ll need to choose a fertilizer and fertilizing schedule based on the type of grass you have. Warm-season grasses grow the most during the summer and go dormant during cold weather. Cool-season grasses thrive during the cool temperatures of spring and fall but struggle during the summer heat.
If you have warm-season grass, fertilize with nitrogen-rich, slow-release fertilizer in the spring when it first emerges from dormancy. If you don’t have a winter dormancy period in your region, fertilize your warm-season grass in April. Use a granular broadcast spreader to avoid damaging your lawn.
If you have cool-season grasses, fertilize them in spring, before high summer temperatures set in. Fertilize again in the fall, about six weeks before the first frost, using a high-nitrogen fertilizer so your grass can store the nutrients it will need to bounce back in spring.
Water Your Lawn
Grass needs to grow deep roots in order to withstand summer heat. Water your grass about an inch a week during its peak growing season — all summer long for warm season grasses, or spring and fall for cool season grasses. Use a rain gauge to make sure you’re giving your lawn the right amount of water, and cut back on watering during weeks when your lawn gets the inch of water it needs from rainfall. It’s best to water your lawn all at once, instead of in spurts, so if you do turn on your sprinklers, leave them on until your lawn has gotten its full inch of water.
Establish a Mowing Schedule
Cutting your grass correctly is crucial to its health and vitality, but it’s easy to damage your lawn by mowing it the wrong way. You should never remove more than one-third of the grass blade in a single mow, which for most lawns, means mowing once a week. If you have cool season grass, you can cut back to mowing every other week during the hottest weeks when your grass isn’t actively growing.
Frequent mowing during the spring strengthens your lawn’s roots, but as the thermometer climbs, your mower deck should go up, too. Leaving your grass longer shades the soil, keeping the roots moist and helping your lawn withstand high temperatures and drought conditions. If you need to overseed bare patches, do so during your grass type’s peak growing season. Loosen the soil with a hand tiller, or a power tiller if the spot is large; spread the seed evenly, fertilize with a standard fertilizer; and water the area normally. Feed with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer once the seed has germinated.
With just a little TLC, you can get your backyard ready for everything you and your family throw at it this summer, and more.