How to Properly Care and Manage Your Lawn
Knowing what’s in your yard is an important element in properly caring for and managing your lawn aesthetics. Until you know the consistency and contents of your soil like PH and nutrients, you can’t fix the problem and create a healthy lawn. Learn more about what’s in your yard and what you can do about it.
|photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc|
Understanding soil consistency
The type of soil you have in your yard has an impact on what can or cannot grow, and how healthily it grows. An ideal lawn is loamy, a combination of silt and sand with small amounts of clay. Loam soil allows plenty of room for roots to take hold while providing the water supply they need to grow. Below are the three soil types and tips on what you can do to prepare them for planting. To find out what type of soil is in your yard, perform a soil test by taking a sample and sending it to your local USDA extension agent to be tested.
· Sandy soil is coarse and doesn’t hold water or nutrients well. It also doesn’t stick together, which means roots can’t take hold. If your soil test reveals you have sandy soil, add compost, straw and other organic material. This will help retain water, add nutrients and aid drainage.
· Silt is gritty, light and finer than sand. A small amount of silt in your soil is fine, but if it’s the dominant consistency you may face issues with erosion.
· Clay makes your soil heavier and hard when dry, making it difficult for plant roots to push through. Good bacteria needed for plant growth also has a hard time surviving in clay-rich soil as there is less oxygen. However, you want some clay in your soil as it gives off minerals and absorbs acids. To reduce your clay content for a healthier lawn, plant cover crops like alfalfa and winter rye in the fall. In the spring, use your garden tiller to turn them over before planting.
Testing soil PH
When you do a soil test you’ll also learn about the PH of the soil. An ideal lawn would have a balanced PH, but most are acidic or basic depending on the environment. If your soil test reveals you have a low PH, use lime pellets made of ground limestone throughout the yard. Rake them into the soil, water thoroughly and let them sit throughout the winter. If your soil test shows a high PH, use aluminum sulfate or cottonseed meal to bring it into balance. This will make your hydrangea bloom a brighter blue too!
Making sure your soil has the right nutrients
The final element of a soil test is a measurement of the nutrient levels. Proper nutrients are essential to a healthy lawn, and when you know which ones are missing, it’s easy to make adjustments. If you need to add Nitrogen to your lawn, spread compost or other organic matter like grass clippings over the lawn. When trying to add Phosphorous, aged manure, rock phosphate and bone meal are the additives of choice. And finally, if you need to increase Potash levels, spread seaweed, manure, hardwood ashes or granite dust in the spring before planting. Adding these nutrients to your soil will help foster grass growth which will choke out unwanted weeds.
Identifying and managing backyard weeds
Every lawn has some pesky invaders, but if you mow your lawn high and often, leaving the clippings behind, you can create a landscape inhospitable to nasty backyard weeds. When you mow, make sure your lawn mower blades are sharp so the grass can grow back quickly and healthily. Of course, some weeds will still sneak in. Learn what to look for in your yard, how to discourage backyard weed growth and how to remove the ones that took root anyway.
· Crabgrass: This grassy annual can grow to be quite large if not controlled, and it will take root in nearly any type of soil it can get its roots in. Spreading corn gluten meal on your lawn can stop the seeds from taking root and spraying the leaves with vinegar or hand-picking can be used once it’s begun to grow.
· Plantain: A broad leaf perennial, plains have large, flat leaves around a low rosette. Because of the broad leaf structure, vinegar will work well to kill off this backyard weed.
· Poison ivy: You don’t want this nasty weed in your yard, especially if you have kids who will get into anything. You’ve probably heard the adage “leaves of three, let it be.” You can dig this up but make sure you’re properly protected and throw away or bleach the clothing you wore to remove the oils. This may be one plant you just want to spray away.
· Nightshade: This bushy, climbing plant is poisonous if ingested. It has white and purple flowers and purple or red fruits. If you have children, you may want to remove the plant as its berries could be tempting. Make sure your kids know what it looks like if any grows back.
· Clover: This is one backyard weed you might want to leave. Clover adds Nitrogen to the soil, and if you find a four-leaf one it could add some luck too!
· Nettles: The saw tooth leaves and yellowish flowers help this weed stand out. Make sure you wear gloves when you remove it as contact with the stinging hairs will cause irritation and a rash. These can be a beneficial plant because of their Nitrogen content as well, just be careful not to get stung.
Perform yearly maintenance
To maintain a healthy lawn, make sure you follow the proper steps above each fall and spring. If your soil PH or nutrient levels dip you’ll have trouble producing the lawn and garden you want. You should perform soil tests every other season or so to determine what treatment is needed for your soil. Talk to your local extension agent to learn what’s in your yard and better understand the maintenance needed. Adjusting soil contents to create a lush, green lawn may end up being a yearly chore, but you’ll reap the benefits each spring.
Post is sponsored by MTD.