There are few sights as satisfying as a lush backyard full of healthy green grass. But while spring still holds the promise of a picture-perfect patch of greenery, by mid-summer the reality for many of us is often far too clear: a frenzy of weeds, anemic growth and a blight of brown spots.
Keeping your lawn in line isn’t that complicated, and doesn’t have to require back-breaking labor. You just need the right tools and a little know-how. So here’s some great gear and useful tips to ensure a healthy, vibrant lawn this year.
Test the Soil
If your lawn seems like a terminal case, chronically succumbing to weeds and struggling to turn green each year, you probably have a soil problem. You’ll never get a lush, green yard if your soil’s pH is off, or if you lack the all-important nutrients that will help your lawn grow. To test, simply uproot a tuft of turf, dig out a bit of dirt, and grab yourself a test kit. Armed with the data, you can go into a local garden center and they should be able to direct you to the nutrients you need to repair your soil.
While soil test kits are fast and cheap, they aren’t always the most accurate. For more precise results, the agricultural departments of most universities offer soil-testing services. They might take a little longer to process, but they will give the best results, and, better yet, they will often walk you through the data, so you’re not left scratching your head, trying to figure out what the numbers all mean.
Improving the Soil
Good, healthy soil needs more than just the right pH and nutrients. Over time, the dead roots and stems of grass and weeds build up, creating a layer of thatch, which prevents the lawn from breathing and draining properly. You might be able to scrape this thatch away with a heavy rake, but this kind of work can be back-breaking. It’s much better to turn to a power tool, like Craftsman’s electric dethatcher, or, for bigger jobs, their lawn-tractor mounted dethatcher.
While too much thatch can cause trouble, hard compacted soil will also make it more difficult for your grass to grow. Aeration — opening up the soil to increase air circulation and drainage — helps ensure that your grass is getting all the nutrients it needs, while giving it more space to put down good strong roots.
For light aeration, strap on a pair of aerating shoes and just start walking around your lawn. For more compacted soil, use a coring aerator, like the one from Agri-Fab, which removes plugs of soil, dramatically increasing air flow and drainage.
Keeping it in Check
Once your lawn is growing like crazy, you’ll need some way to keep it trim and neat. While there’s no shortage of lawnmowers to choose from, there’s been some pretty cool advancements in lawnmower technology over the last few years, like the introduction of battery powered mowers, which are quieter and more environmentally friendly, as well as Roomba-like robo-mowers that do all the hard, sweaty work of mowing for you.
Husqvarna introduced its Automower a few years ago, and the company has recently updated the line with some new self-mowing machines. The Automower 305 is a pint-sized version of the company’s larger mowers, offering an option for people with smaller yards. The mower can handle up to 500 square meters on a single charge, and its more compact design means it can better maneuver around obstacles like flower beds or decks.
The company also now offers a solar hybrid version of their standard Automowers, which uses both a battery and the sun’s rays to help it gobble up to 2,220 square meter of grass.
For a more unusual mower, check out Toro’s HoverPro mower. Designed for professional greenskeepers, the Toro HoverPro floats on a cushion of air, making it ideal for lawns with steep slopes, streams or other obstacles that make traditional mowers cumbersome.
Keep Weeds At Bay
Mowing just lops the tops of the weeds, leaving them to thrive beneath the surface. To really stamp out weeds, you need to kill them all the way down to their roots.
Fiskars’ UpRoot weed remover takes the back strain out of weeding. Featuring a pole-mounted serrated claw that grips down on the weed from the root, the UpRoot allows you to do all your weeding from the standing position, so you’re not crawling around in the grass trying to put an and to weeds.
But sometimes when dealing with weeds, you need to fight fire with fire. The Red Dragon Weed Dragon is a propane torch that pumps out 10,000 BTUs of heat to fry weeds all the way down to the root. Slip the metal cup over top of the weed and let the flames fly. Your weeds have choked out their last blade of grass.