Most homeowners would like to have a thick, green lawn that is free of weeds, diseases, and bare spots. The good news is that it is possible to have a very attractive lawn without spending a fortune on a lawn care service and without using a lot of potentially harmful chemicals. But you do need to understand the basics, pay attention to what’s going on with your turf, and occasionally spend some time to have a good looking lawn.
Lawns are broadly categorized as consisting of cool-season or warm-season grasses. Cool season grasses are those that thrive in areas that have colder winters. Cool season grasses have two major growing periods: spring and fall. They tend to have slower growth in the summer. Cool season grasses spread by their underground root system (the rhizomes) creating additional grass plants. Many cool season grasses will stay green year ’round, even when dormant in the winter. On the other hand, warm season grasses, like Bermuda grass, are best grown in the southern portion of the country. Warm season grasses spread by both underground rhizome growth and above ground stolen growth. These grasses turn brown when the weather cools.
Like all plants, grass needs air, water, and food to survive, grow, and reproduce. And, like all plants, grasses can be attacked by insects and diseases (not to mention dogs, deer, and other animals!)
Most lawns (and all golf courses and sports fields) get some degree of foot traffic, and some vehicle traffic (golf carts, riding mowers, etc) which can also be stressful to their survival, and can compact the soil in which the plants are growing.
Aerating and Dethatching
You can do two good things to ensure that the grass plants that make up your lawn have the best possible environment to use available water and nutrients: aerating and dethatching.
Thatch is a brown layer of dead grass, living and dead roots, and other lawn debris that accumulates on top of the soil at the base of the grass plants. In ideal conditions, microorganisms in the soil will break down this organic material and return it to the soil as natural fertilizer. But conditions are rarely ideal, and the amount of dead grass can quickly overwhelm the microorganisms in the soil, especially as the weather turns cooler and the little bugs become less active.
Thatch build up significantly reduces water and fertilizer absorption, causing grass plants to become weaker and lawns to become thin. Excessive thatch can eventually cause bare spots in the lawn and can also cause a lawn to be more susceptible to diseases.
If you see thatch build up when you look directly down at your lawn, you probably need to remove the thatch. The process of removing thatch is called dethatching. Thankfully, the Mantis Dethatcher makes this job easy. For simple step-by-step tips, read more on removing thatch from your lawn.
If your lawn has a lot of bare spots, or if the soil is compacted from a lot of foot traffic, you may need to aerate the soil. Aeration “opens up” the turf, and allows air, water, and nutrients to more easily reach the roots of your grass plants. For easy step-by-step tips on aeration, see How and When to Aerate Your Lawn.
NOTE: If you’ve determined that you need to dethatch and aerate your lawn, you should dethatch the lawn first.