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Lawn care like a pro

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A lush green yard is one of the great joys of summer. But for many, it can also be one of the biggest headaches. If you’re tired of watching your yard go from green to brown every summer, here are some tips to step up your lawn care game.

Don’t Forget to Dethatch

A step that many overlook, dethatching involves removing the layer of dead roots and grass that builds up over time in the soil. This layer can strangle your grass, preventing water, air and nutrients from penetrating the soil. While you can use a stiff lawn rake to scrape up this layer, doing this job by hand can be pretty back-breaking. A power dethatcher can help you tackle this task a lot more quickly, but since you’ll probably only want to dethatch every three to four years, you’re better off renting this tool from a local garden supply store rather than buying one.

Fix Your pH

Over time, your soil’s pH level can start to acidify, hampering plant growth. A simple soil test kit can tell you whether your soil needs to be fixed. If the test indicates that your soil is too acidic, you can fix it by putting down a layer of garden lime, which also provides much-needed calcium to the lawn. While off-the-shelf test kits can give you an idea of your soil’s pH, they don’t do a great job testing for nutrient deficiencies. To get a more comprehensive test done, which can tell you whether you need to add fertilizer, contact a local co-operative extension.

Overseed

As the winter snows recede and your lawn begins to grow, those dreaded dead patches that didn’t survive the winter will begin to emerge. You can fix these dead zones with overseeding. Quicker and easier than reseeding, where you’d have to strip the turf down to the dirt, overseeding allows you to grow new grass right on top of the dead patches.

To overseed, trim the surrounding grass a little lower than usual -- about 1.5 to 2 inches -- and then spread a thin layer of topsoil on the brown, dead patches. Sprinkle the seed evenly over the new soil by hand or with a handheld seed spreader. If you have large areas that need overseeding, you might want to use a broadcast spreader to ensure that you spread the seed evenly. Water the newly-seeded area, though be careful not to wash the seed away by unleashing a flood upon it. Once the grass has sprouted, give it a light daily watering for the first few weeks.

Sharpen Your Blade

As your lawn mower blade dulls, it stops cutting the grass and just starts chewing it up, which can leave your lawn susceptible to disease.

As your lawn mower blade dulls, it stops cutting the grass and just starts chewing it up, which can leave your lawn susceptible to disease. To find out whether you need some mower maintenance, pluck a few blades of grass from around the yard. If they have rough, jagged ends, you’ll need to get it sharpened. However, for some lawn mower models, replacement blades are cheap enough that you might just consider getting new ones.

Know When to Water

Watering is one of the biggest challenges in maintaining a healthy lawn, a step that trips many people up. Forgetfulness and neglect can lead to a brown, wilted lawn in no time.  For a simple test, lightly step on a patch of grass to push it down. If it starts to bounce back quickly, you’ve watered it well. If, however, it stays down, your lawn needs some more sprinkler time.

Overwatering and inefficient watering are other common problems. In addition to being perpetually soggy, an overwatered lawn won’t develop deep, strong roots. In general, a lawn only needs about 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week, and you should try to water in the early morning hours, which will allow you to limit the amount of water lost to evaporation.

To take some of the guesswork out of watering, you could also set up an irrigation system. Coupled with a tool like the Toro Xtra Smart moisture sensor, you’ll only water your lawn when it needs it.

Weed Control

The best defense against weeds is a good offense. By dealing with weeds before they emerge, you can stop weeds in their tracks, saving you hours of weeding later in the year. A pre-emergent weed preventative, like Scotts’ Halts, can stop weeds from germinating. It’s important to get a layer of weed prevention down early. Most weeds begin to germinate when the temperature gets between 57 and 64 degree Fahrenheit. So once the weather starts to heat up, preventative measures will no longer work.