Summer is winding down and many homeowners wished their lawns and/or yard looked better. The good news is it is not too late. While some results may not be seen until next spring, others can have a quicker impact. A quick answer would be to spend more time or money on your yard. While that might help, that is not the purpose of this article. The purpose of this article is for those homeowners performing lawn care in Cedar City to have some industry tips or tricks to having a greener/thicker lawn while really not adding anything to their regular regimen.
Mistake #1: Always mowing in the same direction/pattern
While this may be easy and routine, it isn’t healthy for the grass. Over time the blades lay down instead of standing up. This blocks sun, nutrients, and water. Mowing in the same pattern will also dig ruts into the soil as the mower wheels run in the same tracks over and over again. Mix it up and do some diagonals or some back-and-forth stripes north to south or east to west. This may cause you to turn around a few extra times, but your lawn will thank you for the extra effort. It will also look a lot better too!
Mistake #2: Thinking a “weed-n-feed” will kill existing dandelions or other weeds
We live in the age of marketing. While it would be nice if a single granular fertilizer could give the lawn the nutrients it needs while removing any other plants at the same time, it just isn’t reality. Most “weed-n-feed” fertilizers are low in nutrients and contain a pre-emergent. (Pre-emergents don’t kill anything, they only assist in hindering the growth of new seeds. For more on pre-emergents click here.
Some do contain a weed killer, but a spray will always do better than a granular. Instead of buying the more expensive “weed-n-feed” just buy regular fertilizer and then a bottle of spot spray for weeds. Your cost will be about the same, the results will be significantly better. Here’s (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Spectracide-1-33-Gal-Weed-Stop-for-Lawns-with-Accushot-Sprayer-Ready-To-Use-Lawn-Weed-Killer-HG-96544/307431023#overlay) an option available at Home Depot.
Mistake #3: Trimming bushes/shrubs at the wrong time of year
Is it a good time to trim roses while they are in full bloom? No. You will obviously lose the flower if you cut it off. The best time to prune roses in in late winter or early spring. It won’t take any more effort to trim bushes at the right time of year. In many cases it may even be easier because you won’t be fighting with leaves and foliage during trimming and you’ll have less of a mess to clean up. For specifics on your plants do some research. Two local options are Ladybug Nursery (https://ladybugnursery.com/) or the USU Extension (https://extension.usu.edu/iron/) As a broad guide, trim evergreen plants in early spring or mid-summer, for perennials trim at the end of the plant’s growing season, and for flowering shrubs do a heavy pruning in late winter or early spring.
Mistake #4: Not applying an insecticide
Insects are one of the most prevalent causes of lawn damage that we see in Cedar City. Often when spots in a lawn start to look brown or dry, the go to is more water. While water absorption is generally the problem, the cause is often not insufficient water but bugs. Insecticides are cheap, much cheaper than extra watering. Pick up an insecticide like this (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Spectracide-20-lbs-Triazicide-Lawn-Insect-Killer-Granules-HG-83961-5/202056480#overlay) at Home Depot or IFA and apply it in April and August. It will both kill any current infestations as well as prevent against future ones.
Mistake #5: Letting the grass get too long before mowing
Mowing long grass is terrible. It clogs the mower, kills the engine, and requires you to dump the bag non-stop. Not only does it take a lot more effort, but it is bad for the grass. You should never cut more than 1/3 of the length of each blade off. That means if your lawn is 4” long, you should only cut about 1” off. If you let your lawn, get to 6 or 7 inches long and then cut it down to 3 or 4 inches, it won’t only look bad but it will harm your grass. While it may seem like a hassle to mow your lawn every 5-7 days, it will actually save you time as compared to mowing every 10-14 days and won’t be such a dreaded project.
Mistake #6: Not adjusting sprinkler watering based on weather/what you are seeing
Humans are creatures of ease. We like when someone tells us exactly how to do something. (Hence this article, right?) We want to have someone tell us to water our lawn 3x/week for 15 minutes and our lawn to look great. Watering recommendations are just a best guess average. Your soil type, slope, sun/shade ratio, mowing height, and other factors will make your water setting unique. Temperature will also change things. Even in the summer, a period of temperatures 10 degrees higher or lower will change how much water your lawn requires. How to make it simple, if your lawn looks dry it needs more water, if it feels like a sponge, it needs less water. It may need to be adjusted weekly. It will save you water, prevent disease, and give your lawn a great look.
Mistake #7: Not fertilizing often enough (and sometimes overdoing it to try and make up)
Living organisms need nutrients in manageable quantities on a regular basis. A nutrient loaded over-application of fertilizer in the spring will not give your lawn what it needs all summer. You need at minimum 4 applications. Instead of doing it all at once, just spread it out. IFA has a good 4-step fertilizer program (https://ifacountrystores.com/2017/lawncare/beautiful-lawn-four-easy-steps/). Slow and steady wins the fertilizer race.
Mistake #8: Thinking all dry spots are due to watering or grubs
Grubs are RARE, like extremely rare. Grubs eat the roots of grass and allow you to peel back the grass and see actual grubs, little whitish worms. If that is not the case the problem is NOT grubs. If the grass is not intact and able to roll up, it isn’t grubs. We’ve somewhat touched on the water subject already but it’s worth driving the point home as it is a very common mistake. Dry spots are generally caused due to lack of water ABSORPTION. This could be lack of water applied, or it could be because the water is not actually making it to the plant. It could be running off due to slope or soil compaction, it could be bugs (like chinch bugs) that have eaten the grass and prevented it from up taking water, or a number of other factors. The best possible solution is a little TLC of all sorts. Spot water to make sure water is penetrating at least 6” into the soil. An aeration or power raking could aide in this. Apply an insecticide. Apply a fungicide if it is possible that you have been overwatering as fungus is often the result of too much water. Watch it day by day and adjust your efforts as you see it changing.
Mistake #9: Not power raking frequently enough (or ever)
Power raking may not be the do-or-die ultimatum when it comes to a lawn living or dying, but it is a requirement for a thick green lawn. Time, fertilizers, and mowing, especially if you mulch, will lead to a buildup of thatch. 1/2” of thatch is desired. Any more than this and you will block sun, nutrients, and water and provide an excellent breeding ground for bugs. If you want great grass in July and August, a power raking (also called de-thatching) is required in March or April.
Mistake #10: Being lazy and not doing much more than mowing
This may seem harsh, but it’s true. You don’t have to have a great looking lawn in Cedar City, but if a thick green lush lawn is your desire, then it will take some effort. You can’t read or YouTube your way to a great lawn without any effort. You will have to go to the store and get out in the yard. Or, if you’d prefer, Everything Exterior (https://everythingexterior.com) can do it all for you.
With no more cost, and no more time, if you make these adjustments you will be well on your way to a better looking yard. Fall is a great time to begin for next year!