Grass Saving Guide for New Homeowners
Buying a new home is an exciting time. However, buying a new place often means updating or fixing things that the previous owners neglected – like the lawn.
Although research by The Lawn Institute reveals that a well-maintained lawn can add about 15-20 percent to the value of a home, many home sellers simply don’t put resources into their lawns before selling. That means that you, as the new buyer, may be left with a yard full of weeds, pests and other problems.
This doesn’t always mean that you need to start over. With some time and effort, and this guide on how to grow grass, you can turn that sad backyard into an oasis of lush, green grass that’s the envy of the neighborhood.
Start with the Basics
The first step to rescuing your lawn is to figure out what you are dealing with. Unless you know your grass type, the condition of your soil and the type of weeds that are present, you’re likely to waste time and money on products and fixes that don’t really work. Brown areas, for example, can be due to insect and/or disease damage. Treating for the wrong issue won’t make your grass any greener and could do more harm than good.
Therefore, your first step to restoring your lawn is to inspect the grass for issues and test your soil pH. A lawn that is diseased or stressed isn’t going to respond to fertilizer, and any seeding you do isn’t going to take as well as you hope. You can have your soil professionally tested, but there are some DIY kits available that will tell you whether your soil is acidic or alkaline and what to do to balance the pH. When you know what the soil needs, you can add the proper amendments (such as lime or sulfur) to create a healthier foundation for your fertilizer and seed.
In addition to balancing the soil, a lot of what you do for your lawn depends on the time of year you purchased your home. If you move in during the summer, for example, it doesn’t make sense to fertilize or aerate your lawn, as that will harm an already stressed lawn. At this point, the best thing to do is keep watering and mowing and start your restoration efforts in the fall, once the hottest days have passed and weeds are less likely to be spread.
A spring move in is the ideal time to start rehabbing the lawn. If you notice a lot of weeds, applying pre-emergent weed control will prevent new weed seeds from germinating and making the problem worse. A good rule of thumb for weed control is to look at how much of the lawn is covered with weeds. If the yard is more than half grass or if there are large patches of healthy grass with only a few areas of weeds, you can focus on getting rid of the weeds using a targeted weed removal product and some elbow grease to pull the weeds out of the soil. If more than half of the yard is weeds or you have a lot of thin or bare patches, it’s typically better to start over entirely. This means killing the weeds with an herbicide and either tilling the topsoil or bringing in a fresh layer of topsoil to reseed. Although the spring is the best time to fertilize your grass, you shouldn’t fertilize until the weeds are under control. Otherwise, you’re only feeding the undesirable plants and encouraging their growth.
Whether you take a more measured approach or opt to start over, it’s still important to test the soil and add the right amendments before you re-seed and fertilize.
Growing New Grass
Once the weed problem is taken care of and the soil is prepared, it’s time to focus on filling in the bare spots and getting thicker, healthier grass. This means re-seeding or overseeding.
Successfully re-seeding grass begins with choosing the right types of grass for your area. In the southern part of the U.S., your best bet is to sod or plug the areas you want to renovate as it is difficult to grow bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and St. Augustine from seed. These grasses are most adapted to southern U.S. states from the Carolinas to Tennessee and southward to the Gulf of Mexico. For northern climates, you are better off using cool season grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye and Turf type tall fescue.
Knowing when to plant grass seed is also important. Generally speaking, fall is the best time to plant new grass because it provides excellent growing conditions for germination and growth. If you are sodding or plugging your lawn, you can do it during the warmer months for warm season grasses.
Planting in the fall is also a good idea because fall is typically the best time to aerate your lawn. Aerating pulls out small plugs of dirt, allowing the roots of existing grass to grow more deeply, as well as increasing the amount of oxygen, water and nutrients reaching the roots of the grass. Raking over the lawn after aerating causes the plugs of dirt to break down, creating nice loose soil for new grass seeds to germinate in. Ideally, your new grass will have time to grow before winter and will be strong and healthy come spring. Don’t forget to water daily for at least three weeks. A good rule of thumb is to continue watering until the new growth becomes noticeable.
Watering, Disease, and Pets
In some cases, you might have a yard full of grass, but you could be wondering how to make your lawn green again. If that’s the case, chances are your lawn may be in need of regular watering to promote green up. Once the grass is back to health, aerating and overseeding will ensure that the grass stays healthy over the winter and comes back in the spring, when you can fertilize to support healthy new growth.
However, brown or dying patches can indicate a problem, such as grubs. Grubs, or beetle larvae, live under the surface of the soil and eat the roots of the grass. Check for grubs by digging up a handful of grass.
Discolored or small brown patches may also indicate disease which is caused by a fungus. Fungus is usually easy to spot because it doesn’t overtake the entire lawn, rather it appears in patches. If this is the case in your yard, you’ll need to treat with a fungicide before you do anything else.
Getting your grass green and healthy in your new home isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require some knowledge about how to grow grass. If you follow these steps and are diligent about watering and weed control, you can revive your yard, increasing both the curb appeal of your home and its value.