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How to Bring Your Dying Lawn Back to Life

Have you noticed that your lawn isn’t as beautiful as it used to be, or would you love to improve its appeal? There are several things you can do. These things include:

Get rid of the moles.

Even if you didn’t grow up playing Whack-A-Mole at the county fair, you’re probably aware of how much of a pain these burrowing creatures can be regarding lawn care.

Moles can overrun a lawn in endless rows of little tunnels that disrupt the grass and leave mounds of soil everywhere on their never-ending daily hunt for insects to keep their bellies full.

Prevention is essential in mole control, but if you’ve already got a molehill in your backyard, don’t despair; you can do lots to get your lawn back on track.

The first strategy is ensuring you have nothing to eat on your lawn. This calls for you to use insecticides to kill grubs.

How can you tell that you have a mole problem? You can do this by digging a few inches beneath a dead spot of grass and looking for them.

Grubs are white, about an inch long, and curl up like small clams. A few grubs here and there should not be a problem, but if you have an infestation, you must take action since they can attract moles and cause significant harm to your lawn.

Choosing an efficient insecticide is more complicated than going to the garden center and picking anything off the shelf. To buy the right one, consider the time of year and the stage of life of the grubs.

Some pesticides prevent grubs, while others tackle an existing problem, and others lack the chemical formulation to manage grubs effectively.

It’s always a good idea to seek expert advice from your local extension agency.

Once you’ve determined that you have the correct product for the job, put on some boots and gloves, gently apply the chemicals to the grass, and then water it to allow the chemicals to seep into the soil and do their job.

Another way to get rid of the moles is by using ultrasonic gadgets that irritate moles with unpleasant noises and nontoxic castor oil sprays or granules.

You might also try burying a row of pebbles they can’t penetrate or planting a garden full of plants they don’t like to keep out of specific places.

Alliums naturally repel many pests and moles, in particular, are known to avoid marigolds and daffodils.

Feed your lawn with compost.

When you think of amending the soil in your garden, you probably picture yourself digging out all the weeds and breaking up the top few inches of soil with a hoe or rake to mix everything thoroughly.

Of course, that would be impossible with your lawn due to the damage it would do. This is where topdressing comes into play.

Topdressing is the application of compost to the top of your lawn to improve the soil conditions beneath it over time. You’re feeding it from above.

You’ll need to use enough organic matter to make a difference in the soil’s health without overdoing it. Too much compost will obstruct oxygen and sunshine, suffocating rather than benefiting the grass underneath.

Spread compost as evenly as possible throughout the yard with a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Then, gently rake it out, allowing the compost to mix with the soil and any healthy blades of grass to pop up above it and be exposed to sunlight.

Remember to water your lawn once you finish the treatment.

Feed your lawn with enough water.

The internet is rife with tips on how and when to water your grass. When it gets hot for an extended period of time during the summer, you should turn on the sprinklers more frequently.

Unlike humans, that need to drink more water when it’s hot, you should water your grass less frequently but with a larger volume of water each time you do it.

A daily shallow spritz covers the grass in the wetness that might contribute to illness, and much of that water evaporates during the day, wasting it before it can be absorbed.

Instead, give your grass a long, deep drink to allow water to penetrate into the soil and reach the roots.

The soil should be equally moist, 4 to 6 inches below the surface. This will appear to be a lot of water the first time you do it, but it will even out as you turn on the sprinklers less frequently.

Mow at a higher setting.

There are numerous mistakes that many people commit when mowing, one of which is cutting too close to the soil.

Your blade height should always be set at its maximum, so modify it once and forget about it. This will assist each blade of grass in establishing a deeper and stronger root system.

As you mow this way, the grass gets more drought and grub resistant. As each blade grows larger, it begins to shade the earth, inhibiting weeds and crabgrass.

To be on the safe side, aim for a blade height of 2 to 4 inches, but check your lawn after you’ve finished a pass.

Lower the blade if it’s falling or lying over on its side and looks dirty. Even 12 inches can make a significant difference in the look.

Overseed the bare patches.

If you have been having a severe problem with your lawn, such as a persistent fungal disease or a mole family that refuses to leave, your grass may be weary and old.

If you recently purchased a new home and the previous owners ignored the grass, or you recently spotted bare patches, overseeding may be all you need to revive the lawn.

Overseeding is covering your entire lawn with fresh grass seed near the end of the season and allowing it to sprout over the winter.

You can incorporate several types of turfgrass depending on your climate zone. Check with your local garden center to learn which types of grass grow best in your location and learn about improved grasses that have recently hit the market and will perform better than what has been available for decades.

Plan to overseed the lawn in the fall and consider aerating it first.

Enrich your lawn with Epsom salts.

No, it’s not time for a lengthy soak in the tub; it’s time to help your tired lawn come back to life.

Epsom salts, also known as magnesium sulfate, were discovered in 1618 in the English town of Epsom when a farmer noted that his cows were swiftly mending from small wounds after wading through saline water that they refused to drink.

Can Epsom salts be as beneficial to your lawn as they are to aching muscles? Maybe.

Test your soil for magnesium and sulfur deficits to ensure Epsom salts help your lawn. These are the two nutrients that the salts will increase.

Epsom salts, in turn, can increase soil quality and give your lawn a good, even, bright green tint. They are lawn fertilizers; apply in the spring by combining 2 teaspoons of salt with 1 gallon of water.

Alternatively, use a spreader to apply the salt straight to the lawn at three pounds per 1,250 square feet (as recommended by the Epsom Salt Council), then turn on your sprinkler system and let it dissolve.

Lay new sod

If you have too many dead areas and don’t have time to wait for seeds to germinate or pesticides to do their work, you should think about laying down huge swaths of pre-grown sod.

This is a project in and of itself, requiring some planning to ensure the sod grows effectively. It’s not quite the quick fix many people believe, but you’ll have it done in a weekend and be happy with the results.

To ensure effective sod installation, use a rototiller on the soil to remove rocks and introduce organic materials. Then, using a rake, smooth off the surface.

The installation of the rolls will be comparable to that of laminate flooring or vinyl planks. To avoid gaping seams, stagger the edges of each piece and squeeze them together so there is no room between them.

You’ll need a sharp knife to cut edges where you meet a tree trunk and a lawn roller to pack everything tight, encouraging the sod’s young roots to grow into the existing soil.

Get rid of the thatch.

Thatch is the debris cover that develops between grass blades and the soil beneath. Rainwater will pool above the surface if it becomes too thick, transforming your grass into a soggy mess.

This results in shallow roots, grass that cannot withstand drought, and problems with fungal diseases and pests.

A high covering of thatch will also prevent fertilizer from reaching the roots and may choke otherwise healthy grass.

Proper mowing, aeration, and mulching of grass clippings should keep thatch at bay, but if you already have a lot of it, you’ll want to get rid of it.

Dethatching, also known as power raking, uses a power rake that looks similar to a lawn mower but has rake tines underneath it instead of rotating mower blades.

You should adjust the height of the rake tines depending on how far into the grass you need to go to remove the built-up thatch.

You can do power raking both in the spring and in the fall. The machine will drag up the debris, which you must collect and discard by hand.

It doesn’t mean all is lost if you don’t have a power rake, as you can always use a manual rake to dethatch your lawn.

Aerate your lawn

Some people confuse aerating with dethatching, but it is a completely different operation.

Yards with a high activity level can get compacted; soil compaction makes it impossible for water, air, and nutrients to pass easily to the grass root systems, causing them to suffocate.

Aeration tackles soil compaction below the surface by ripping up plugs and allowing it to release, whereas dethatching focuses on build-up above the soil.

There are two types of aerators: plug (or core) aerators and spike aerators. Your budget and the size of your lawn will influence your decision.

A spike aerator is adequate for a small yard; it will punch holes in the grass rather than pulling up and removing plugs, but that should be sufficient for small spaces.

A plug aerator is the way to go for very compact soils and larger lawns. Water the grass before you start, and plan on applying fertilizer and/or grass seed when you finish.

Let experts see your lawn.

A DIY weekend dealing with common yard concerns is often enough to bring a dying lawn back to life, but it’s also important to know that there’s a laundry list of dangerous diseases that homeowners may not be able to fight on their own.

Have you ever come across gray snow mold or necrotic ring spots? Consider crown rot anthracnose and microdochium patch.

This isn’t so much a pop quiz to check how much you’ve studied as it is a reminder that even when you do all you were meant to do, you can still end up with bare patches and unhappy grass.

Identifying whether bacteria or fungus is damaging your lawn may be best left to professionals, who will conduct an evaluation and collect samples for testing.

They’ll know how to uncover potential symptoms and be better prepared to administer the appropriate treatment.

When working with professionals, ensure they are experienced and know what they are doing. You don’t want to spend money on someone that causes more havoc than there already is.

On my 15th birthday, I became the designated gardener in my home.

Now at 32, I have a small garden and every day I'm out trying different plants and seeing how they grow. I grow guavas, peaches, onions, and many others. Want to know more about me? Read it here.

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