June 16, 2015
By Michelle Sordi
The first sign of spring can awaken the gardening enthusiast in many homeowners. Warmer weather brings with it the anticipation of barbecues with friends and lounging by the pool, all while admiring the beauty of your backyard. But what if you don’t have the green thumb to create the ultimate oasis for you and your guests to enjoy? Lawn and yard maintenance can be frustrating for some homeowners, but it doesn’t have to be. Anyone can achieve a healthy looking lawn with a little bit of time, along with the rights tools and materials. The following are a few tips to help you prep and maintain your yard this season.
Check your soil quality before you start any other work—grass grows best in a moist and fertile bed. Soils affected by adverse conditions, such as winter, may become compacted and lose their structure. The little pockets of air beneath the surface are squeezed together, preventing water and nutrients from moving freely throughout the soil. This makes it more difficult for roots to grow and harder for plants and grass to flourish. To improve the soil, homeowners should aerate their lawns in the spring and fall to ensure essential nutrients can reach deep within the earth. An aerator is designed to alleviate soil compaction, which prevents proper circulation of air and nutrients. Homeowners should look for machines that are self-propelled and feature free-wheeling outer tires for better manoeuvrability around corners and tight areas. And before you get started, be sure to moisten the soil—aerating is best done a day after watering or a rainfall. Aerating your lawn also helps break up thatch, which is the interwoven layer of living and dead tissue that helps to improve lawn health. Thatch of more than half an inch, however, harbours disease.
Grass growth starts to slow just before winter sets in. You will need to reignite the process to promote a healthy lawn throughout the spring and summer seasons. Be sure to examine the condition of your grass once the snow melts. If there is any winter damage, you may need to topdress with soil and overseed with new grass seed. Compost can be used for topdressing, as it helps improve the soil’s quality, while also combatting lawn diseases. Follow this with overseeding to repair patches and renew overall growth. A rule of thumb is to use roughly 0.9 kg to 1.8 kg per 93 m2 (2 lb to 4 lb per 1000 sf) for overseeding, but do feel free to double this amount if your lawn has undergone a difficult winter. Depending on the size of your lawn, you may need a machine to help distribute the new seed. Otherwise, it can easily be done by hand.
Regularly watering your lawn is one of the key factors in promoting its healthy growth. Establishing a watering schedule early on helps keep the soil moist for proper maintenance, especially throughout the summer months. Be sure to let the grass dry out before the dew falls, since extended moisture invites disease. The best time to water is pre-dawn or early morning. Watering this often can be costly, so consider adding a rain barrel to your home, as it is an easy way to capture water for watering lawns, yards, and gardens. Be sure to put a screen on top of your barrel to keep out unwanted debris and creatures.
Choosing the right mower makes all the difference in maintaining your lawn. For starters, the type of mower you need is directly related to the size of your yard. For smaller yards, a manual mower is a great choice; it’s also free from emissions and won’t disturb your neighbours with any noise. If your yard is average to large in size, a propelled mower is your best option to help get the job done quickly. Look for one with all-wheel drive features for better balance and power on hilly, uneven terrain and other tough mowing conditions. If you’re cutting an area larger than 3000 m2, look into ride-on varieties that will make the big job more manageable and reduce the time you spend working on the yard.
If you love a tidy lawn or have springtime allergies, a lawnmower with a collection system is ideal. It neatly collects the clippings as you work, making cleanup hassle-free. These types of mowers are also great if you are working near a pool. Alternatively, you can mow so the cutting deck is aimed away from the pool and have someone use a leaf blower to direct the clippings away from the water.
Really making your lawn flourish takes a little more than just revving up the mower and running it across the yard. The height at which you set the cutting deck, as well as how often you mow, play a key role in maintaining a healthy lawn. For the spring, you don’t want to start cutting until the lawn has actively started growing again. Choosing the right mower height depends on your species of grass and climate; however, a general rule is to mow slightly lower in the spring and fall, and higher in the summer.
Many homeowners are tempted to cut their grass low, as it reduces the number of times you have to mow, but cutting your grass too short is harmful to your lawn in the long run. Commonly referred to as scalping, chopping off the majority of the grass blade reduces the amount of energy the roots receive, which makes for a weak lawn that is more susceptible to stress, insects, and disease. Scalping also encourages weed growth, since without the dense grass blades to block light, weeds can quickly dominate and ruin your lawn. Also, in some climates the exposed stems of scalped lawns can be damaged by a sudden spring frost or heat wave, as without the blade’s shade, the soil loses water more quickly.
Before you start cutting, be sure your mower blades are sharp and cutting cleanly. A sharp, balanced blade cuts faster and cleaner, so you’ll have an even cut and reduced mowing time. A clean cut also results in a healthier lawn, as mowing with a dull blade tears and rips the grass apart, leaving it more susceptible to disease. To combat this, get your blades sharpened at your local dealer before the gardening season kicks off and also have them checked to ensure everything is in tune for the season.
Ever wondered how groundskeepers keep golf courses so nicely groomed? Try mowing in the opposite direction of your last cut. Mowing in the same direction every time takes a toll on your lawn and forces the grass to grow in one direction. If you really want your lawn to stand out, you can stripe it as you mow. Stripes are created when grass leaf blades reflect sunlight as you mow rows into the lawn in opposite directions. You’ll notice this mostly done on sports fields where the grass blades that are bent in the direction you are mowing appear as light green stripes and the blades bent toward you appear to be a darker shade of green.
Homeowners should look for a lightweight trimmer that is easy to start and manoeuvre. A trimmer with a curved shaft is often used for easy trimming around lawns and flower beds, whereas machines with straight shafts and bevel gears are designed for more demanding jobs. These also make it easier to reach under hedges and bushes. If you want a trimmer to master even more garden tasks, consider one with a detachable shaft. Besides being easy to store, they are true multi-purpose machines that can be fitted with several attachments, such as hedge trimmer, blower, edger, pole saw, and sweeper.
When using the trimmer, the head should be at an angle just above the ground to feed more cord. For efficient grass cutting, the cord length should be close to the maximum length and a high rotational speed should be maintained while cutting. Trimmers with a rotational head make it easier to direct the aim of the grass clippings so you can avoid a large mess while working.
It all comes down to the right tools and a few techniques when creating the ultimate yard. Investing in the right mower can make lawn maintenance more manageable, and with the help of a trimmer, you can create those clean lines around corners, edges, walls, and decks. Always remember to review your safety manual before starting up any machines.
Michelle Sordi is director of marketing for the Husqvarna’s dealer division. She leads brand and product marketing initiatives for North America and is based in North Carolina. Sordi can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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