Want An Iconic American Lawn? Use These Tips Your Father Never Taught You

June 10, 2014
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The idealistic image of the American dream includes a charming little house with a white picket fence, a close-knit family, and apple pie. How does apple pie fit into that list? I have no idea, but it’s always included. It’s hard to say no to apple pie, though. That’s probably why we keep it.

Even though it’s become fashionable to say that “the American Dream is dead,” elements of it are still very important to us. We want a house we can call our own, one that looks good and that we can take pride in. And it’s not enough to just have the paint and the plantings and the walkway with the built-in lights. We want the pride of ownership, but also the pride of accomplishment. That is why people put so much stock in lush, green lawns.

Getting the Greenest Lawn You Can

A luxuriously thick and even lawn is a point of pride. It says, “I have the skill and ability to bring this quarter-acre of ground to heel and have it perform to my exacting specifications.” It might be old-fashioned, but it’s a classic for a reason. Like taking pride in perfectly shined shoes, it demonstrates discipline and an attention to detail.

Getting a lawn in tip-top shape means doing more than the bare minimum. But if you want the trophy, you have to put in the effort. There are three main aspects to focus on: Mowing, Watering, and Soil Health.

Mowing Tips

A great-looking lawn requires both less and more mowing than is strictly necessary. You can begin mowing weekly in the spring once the grass greens up, but keep it on its highest setting until it requires mowing more than once a week. Gradually lower the blades as full growth becomes established.

Use a mulching mower or bag the clippings. The clippings will smother the grass, but mulch will feed the soil somewhat, reducing reliance on fertilizer.

Watering Tips

More water is not better. Only newly seeded lawns require a lot of moisture. Watering once per week (about an inch of water) is necessary only when the rain does not supply the moisture.

Grass also goes dormant during periods of high heat. Let it. Stop watering, and stop mowing. It will not be green during this period, but a short period of yellow lawn will have strong roots and abundant growth when the heat breaks.

Soil Health

Apply liquid or granular fertilizer at least once a year. Spring fertilizer stimulates leaf growth, fall fertilizer does the same for root growth. Overfeeding of either will result in fungal problems and weak growth, so don’t assume more is better.

Do a pH test of the soil in the winter. Acidic lawns are more prone to weed growth, so correcting the pH before you spend a fortune on weed killer makes more sense. Organic gardeners can tackle weeds with a sharp blade, but it requires diligence.

It will take a few seasons to get your lawn in tip-top condition, but some things are worth the extra effort.