Tips & Techniques
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How to Grow a Healthy Lawn

Lawn & Yard Care

By Marty Ross

Healthy lawns never have serious problems. If you’re taking proper care of your turf, it will tolerate drought, resist pests and weeds and survive extreme weather.


Water for Better Lawn Health

Good watering practices sustain a lush, green lawn. But too much water is as bad as too little (not to mention wasteful). Temperature, wind, humidity and sunlight all affect the amount of water a lawn needs. Check the grass (and the soil), not the calendar. If it has rained recently or if the grass springs back when you walk across the lawn, you don’t need to water. To check soil moisture levels a little deeper down, poke a screwdriver into the earth 6-8” deep and see if the soil feels damp to your fingertip.

Overwatering saturates the soil, leading to deprivation of oxygen to grass, loss of nutrients, and promotion of fungal diseases in the turf. So, when you overwater, you’re weakening your grass’s roots and increasing your lawn’s need for fertilizer.


To avoid overwatering, use a timer. Gilmour’s Electronic Water Timer can be set to water your lawn early in the morning when conditions are best, and to water for a limited period of time. Start with about 30 minutes. The timer also lets you delay preset watering times with the press of a button. For example, if your area has a good, soaking rain, you can skip a programmed watering session without resetting the timer.


An adjustable sprinkler, such as Gilmour’s Adjustable Width and Length Pattern Master Rectangular Sprinkler, will help make sure you water the lawn without wasting water on the sidewalk or driveway. You can adjust both the length and width of the spray, and water up to 4,000 square feet of lawn.

Remember that it’s best to water deeply and infrequently, as doing so encourages deeper roots. If you water a little bit every day through the hot summer, you may think you are helping your lawn when you’re actually encouraging shallow roots and creating a needy lawn.

Practice Good Mowing Habits

Proper watering will not make up for bad mowing habits. Because taller grass can have correspondingly deep roots to tap moisture and nutrients in the soil, the rule of thumb suggested by turf experts is to mow high. Bonus: Tall grass also shades out weeds.


Scalping the lawn is a bad idea. Why? When blades of grass are too short, there’s not enough leaf surface available for proper photosynthesis. Weeds and invasive plants will also seize the opportunity of reduced competition from the grass to establish themselves.


If you bag lawn clippings and remove them, the nutrients in the clippings are lost for good. Instead, return grass clippings to the soil when you mow. Grass clippings decompose quickly and don’t contribute to a buildup of thatch.


Go Beyond Grass

A healthy lawn isn’t necessarily 100 percent turfgrass. A little bit of clover is actually very good for a lawn. A natural fertilizer, it grows well in compacted soil, doesn’t require a lot of mowing (but tolerates it) and fixes nitrogen in the soil.


Growing violets isn’t necessarily a nuisance. Where violets grow, it’s likely to be too shady for a really dense turf anyway. And not only do they not mind being mowed, they’re also just pretty.

Take good care of your lawn, but learn to take a step back too. Don’t overwater or mow the grass too short, and don’t overreact to a few violets or a patch of clover in the lawn. They both look just as green as turf, and if you take a moment to look closely, you just might find a four-leaf clover. Then you’d really be in luck.


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