Lovable Lawns
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How to Loe Your Lawn!
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TLC - Tender Lawn Care

Timing Lawn Care

Early spring is the best time for total lawn renovation, but fall is an excellent time for repairing and rejuvenating damaged or tired lawns.  Let's start with some basics on routine lawn maintenance, then get into the beauty-makovers.  Treat your lawn right, and she'll always be the one!

The Lowdown on Mowing

Never cut more than 1/3rd of the grass height off at one mowing.  The corollary to this is to never let the lawn grow higher than half-again as much as the height you normally keep it.  This might mean you have to mow twice a week or more in spring and fall, especially if there is a lot of rain.

Cuttings heights for different grasses vary.  Here are some for the most popular types of grasses:


Perennial Ryegrass

Tall Fescue

Fine Fescue



1.5 - 3 inches 

1.5 - 3 inches 

1.5 - 3 inches

1.5 - 3 inches 

.75 - 1.5 inches

1 - 2 inches 

You can let the lawn grow 1/2 inch higher than the recommended heights in shady areas, or if the lawn is under attack from drought or insects.  Leave cuttings on the lawn as they decompose quickly, and provide a slow release fertilizing to your lawn.

Keep your mower blades sharp to avoid "shredding" the tips of the grass which turn brown and look just plain bad, as well as leaving the grass more vulnerable to pests and diseases.  Make your final mowing as soon as the grass stops growing, and cut it to about 1 inch high (1/2 inch for Bermuda).

Out-wit Weeds

The the best way to outwit weeds is to grow a thick lawn.  This gives weed seeds nowhere to pullweed.gif (72x100 -- 2091 bytes)set down roots.  If one manages to sneak through, the thick lawn shades it out.  

Existing perennial weeds (usually the ones with the deep taproots or the fibrous types like creeping charlie) can be dug out with a long v-tipped weed-digger, or pried out of moist soil.  

Spot treating with a spray-on or paint-on systemic weed killer is effective when nothing else will work, or when there are too many weeds to hand-dig.

Tease Your Lawn

Yes, there often comes a time in the life of a lawn where a severe 'teasing' or 'back-combing' is required.  This is called "dethatching".

dethatch.jpg (100x70 -- 2068 bytes)Thatch is the layer of decaying matter that builds up between the grass blades on top of the soil.  More than 1/2 inch is a problem.  Water can't penetrate, but weeds love to grow in it.

For thick mats of thatch, you will need to rent a power dethatcher, or hire someone with the machine to do it for you.

Thinner layers can be removed with a regular garden rake, or one made especially for this task called a dethatching rake.  Give the lawn a good 'back-combing' to loosen the thatch and add it to the compost pile.

Lawn Day at the Spa

To rejuvenate a neglected lawn, you will have to combine all of the activities above.  Spring is best, but late summer-early fall is also good timing.  Here are the steps involved:

  • Remove all weeds

  • Mow the lawn very short - almost "scalp" it.

  • Dethatch

  • Aerate

  • If you will be overseeding, rake the lawn well to create grooves in the soil to hold the seed.

  • Topdress, working in the cores left from the aeration

  • Patch holes with sod or by raking well and seeding them thickly; firm the sod or the seed into place well with the back of a rake.

  • Overseed - here are the rates for different types of grass seed:

Bluegrass 1-plus pounds per 1,000 square feet at a spreader setting of 3-plus. 
Tall Fescue 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet at a spreader setting of 7.
Perennial Ryegrass 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet with the spreader set at 7
Fine Fescue 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet at a spreader setting of 6
Rough Bluegrass 1 1/2 pounds per 1,000 square feet at a setting of 3 1/4.
  • Fertilize and apply a weed suppressant or grub control, etc. if required - note do NOT apply any weed'n'feed or weed supressants if you will be over-seeding

  • Press the seed gently but firmly into the soil with the flat side of a rake.  Water in well with a light, thorough misting - keep evenly moist until the grass has sprouted and is long enough to cut

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