By Tami Moore
1) Keep pulling the weeds. You’re going to get new ones every year (sorry, but if your neighbors aren’t weeding, you’ll get weed seeds) but the more you weed, the healthier your grass will be because the weeds won’t be stealing the nutrients.
2) Saturate the soil. If you don’t want your yard to look like a cornfield, you won’t go all the way to tilling (if you don’t care, it WILL help), but you can cheat and go somewhere in the middle. You can either buy or rig together some shoes that have sharp nail-like bottoms. Your feet are safe, but every step should stab lovely holes into your turf. This is good for any soil, but especially for dry, brittle dirt (like we had in Texas). If you don’t have a big yard and you have a very small budget you can run around with a pencil, stabbing your lawn. Bonus points if combat curious neighbor stares with shrill giggling or yelling about evil gnomes.
3) If you have a clay soil…well, you probably wouldn’t have any lawn at all, so we’ll skip this one and assume you don’t.
4) Seed. Seeding is very important if you’re dealing with sparse grass. If you are in a neighborhood where you can get away with it, your grass will seed itself for free (especially now that you’ve weeded! Well done!). Just don’t mow it for a while. Once the seed heads appear, they’ll dry out, puff up, then start to release if shaken. After that, you can mow, and the next lawn will be fuller than the previous one. Alternately, buy a bag of seed from the store of your choosing (make sure it’s a kind of grass that doesn’t need heavy fertilization and that does well in your area and shade/sun levels). DO seed when it’s going to rain. DO water your freshly-seeded yard if it’s not going to rain. DO NOT seed if it’s a particularly blustery day. Unless you’re trying to seed the neighborhood, then go right ahead. =]
5) Fertilization is rarely necessary (unless you have a particularly finicky breed of grass, and I am looking at YOU, St. Augustine) and it’s kind of terrible for the environment and water supply (for humans as well as fishes). It DOES work … but sometimes it works all too well and you end up mowing four times as much as your neighbors.
6) Be prepared for it to take a year or two to REALLY get going. My mom seeded our Texas backyard and religiously picked up sticker plants by hand for two years before the grass looked “pretty” instead of “patchy”. By the time four years had passed, everyone in the neighborhood asked her how she did it.
7) I sound like more of an expert than I am, so I DO recommend doing your own research and ignoring anything I said that doesn’t sound right.
8) Worms are your buddies. If you can get a light, moist, dark soil full of worms, you’re set.
9) One of the best places to ask around would be at a local native plant store, if you’ve got one. Not a big box greenhouse, but someone who knows what grass in the area you live in is supposed to look like and behave like. Bonus: native plants NATURALLY grow in your area, which means you need to do almost nothing in order to maintain them. They don’t need babysitting or fertilizing or extra watering or anything.
10) If you live in a winter/snow climate and has trees (not pine trees) mulch/chop those leaves up or leave their autumn leaves on the lawn over the winter, they’d be doing their lawn a HUGE favor. Those dead leaves are nutrient city for the lawn, plus the extra ground cover helps protect against frosts. It’s not very pretty to just leave it instead of mulching it up, though.