If you want to spruce up your unsightly lawn this summer, knowing how to make grass greener can make all the difference. Most forget that keeping your lawn well-maintained is as much about the health of the grass as it is about mowing it regularly. While your yard may appear even, the grass can quickly fade in color and ruin the appeal.
You can also learn how to stripe your lawn to make it look bigger. But you need to know more than how to plant grass seed to make your grass greener and how to lay sod to upgrade your lawn, but the good news is small changes can make a big difference to the tone of your yard. Whether you’re a keen gardener or you’re just starting out, everyone can follow these tips. Here, we will take you through what you need to do to get your lawn looking luscious again.
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How to make grass greener
Soil test kit
Grass seed (optional)
1. Get to know your grass. First of all, not all grass is the same. Just like plants, there’s all sorts of varieties that can be found in different regions. And each has its own preference in terms of nutrients, exposure to sunlight and even height. Find out what type of grass you have before anything; this will help you understand what it needs to get greener.
Generally speaking, you will find cool-season grasses in the northern states of the U.S. While warm-season grasses can be found in the south. This should help you create a shortlist of potentials. If you’re still unsure, ask your local garden store for guidance.
2. Test your soil. The next step is to figure out what properties your soil has. This, combined with your grass type, can help you determine what’s missing for the best growth. Soil test kits are widely available, we recommend Luster Leaf 1602 Soil Test Kit ($15.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)).
The ideal soil will ultimately depend on your grass type, but as a rule of thumb you want a slightly acidic pH level of 6-7, as well as an abundance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Bear in mind that cool-season grasses prefer the pH to be slightly higher than warm-season grasses. You should aim to test your soil yearly to make sure the minerals are sufficient.
3. Break out the fertilizer. Now you know what’s missing, you can buy the best fertilizer to suit your yard. Most fertilizers contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, however, the ingredients and proportions vary to suit different needs. That means when you pick out your fertilizer, look for one which will balance out your mineral levels. Some fertilizers also feature useful additions such as iron supplements to encourage greener growth, while others contain weed killer.
When you should fertilize depends on your grass type. If you’ve got cool-season grass, look to fertilize in the early spring and fall. Whereas, you should apply fertilizer to warm-season grass more often throughout the summer. Be sure to follow the instructions on your specific fertilizer in terms of dosage and application. Too much fertilizer can actually cause damage and leave scorch marks so be careful.
There are natural alternatives available as well if you don’t want to use chemicals in your yard. Spreading a thin layer of compost over the grass in early spring can add valuable nutrition to your soil for instance. You can also purchase organic lawn fertilizers.
4. Water your grass regularly — You must water your lawn regularly, particularly through the heat of summer. Your grass will need about an inch of water per week for guidance and you’ll want to do this first thing in the morning so the sun doesn’t evaporate your efforts. Set your irrigation system on a schedule to accommodate this and take advantage of the rain when you can to save water.
If you’ve planted fresh grass seeds, then those will need more attention when it comes to watering. The ground should be kept moist at first, getting watered 1-2 times per day and then less regularly once the grass reaches 1-2 inches in height.
5. Get the most from your mower — Mowing is important to keep your grass looking even and healthy, but be careful not to over-cut. Long grass leaves will actually shield the roots from sun damage and it can encourage root growth too. The height you should cut to depends on the grass type. Cool-season grasses prefer to be short, while warm-season grasses should be tall. Try not to cut more than 1/3 off the grass in total. It sounds crazy, but the optimum height will encourage green growth.
It’s also important to check on the condition of your mower blades. These will naturally dull over time and end up tearing the grass rather than cutting it. The jagged tops of the leaves can then turn brown or white and, combined with the messy finish, will ruin the look of your lawn. Sharpen your blades when necessary or replace for a fresh start. Check out our guide on how to sharpen lawn mower blades for more info.
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6. Keep on top of weeds — Don’t let weeds get in the way of achieving the greenest yard in the neighborhood. Dig out any weeds as they appear with a spade — just make sure you pull up the roots. If you prefer not to get your hands dirty, you can also treat singular weeds with a dedicated weed killer which can be found in most garden stores. Choose one suited to your weed-type and make sure you wear adequate protection.
If weeds are a real problem and keep coming back, you can also switch to a fertilizer which contains weed-killer to deter them. If you don’t want to use chemicals on your lawn, but still have a weed problem, corn gluten meal is a natural alternative which both kills weeds and fertilizes.
7. Fill in any gaps — If you’ve been learning how to get rid of moles, or your lawn has a few brown patches, don’t worry. You can easily fill in any gaps with fresh grass seed. First, make sure your seed matches the grass in your lawn. Next, remove any dead grass from the spot you intend to fill and till the top ¼ inch of soil. Now you can distribute your grass seed by hand, cover over with a thin layer of soil and water regularly.
You can alternatively overseed your entire lawn if it’s looking a little tired. After you’ve cut down the existing grass, spread a thin layer (¼ inch) of soil over your lawn with a rake. You’re then ready to sew fresh grass seed with a spreader — make sure you distribute them evenly. Once the seeds are down, they can be fertilized and watered. You can also cover the seeds with mulch or compost to help protect them from the elements.
8. Aerate the soil — Lastly, you should aerate your soil every so often if you want green grass. Over time, with heavy footfall, the soil in your yard will compact. This makes it difficult for any roots to receive oxygen and water, causing strain on the grass. By aerating the soil, your lawn will be able to breathe better and will thrive as a result.
You should use an aerator to aerate your lawn, but when and how often depends on your grass seed type. Cool-season grass should be aerated in the early spring or fall, while it’s best to aerate warm-season grass in the late spring or early summer. Aerate once a year if your lawn is struggling or it experiences high footfall. If your lawn is fairly vibrant, once every 2-3 years is enough.
You can purchase or rent aerators, and you push them along much like mowers. You’d be surprised by the difference this can make.
We've also got a separate guide to how to aerate a lawn and when you should do it, for more detail on this step.
If you follow these tips, your neighbors will soon reflect your lawn and be green with envy. Just remember that ongoing maintenance is key to keeping a lawn healthy, so repeat the above steps for continuous results. You can read our top tips on how to water your lawn in a heat wave, 7 signs that you are cutting your grass too short that could be damaging your lawn's health and here's how to remove grass stains from your clothes.
For more planting tips, tricks, and how-tos, check out our guides on how to plant sunflower seeds (opens in new tab) and when to do it, how to plant potatoes and how to grow tomatoes in pots. You'll also want to read how to prune hydrangeas, how to care for an orchid, and how to care for air plants.