When you look at your neighbor’s yard, perhaps you say to yourself, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Well, don’t despair. If you check for excessive thatch, give your lawn enough water, and learn how to mow and use lawn fertilizers properly, the grass will be greener on both sides of the fence (and maybe even a little greener on your side).

Deal With Thatch

Thatch is a naturally occurring layer of primarily dead grass the lies on top of the soil of your lawn. It is made up of undecomposed stems, stolons, hizomes, and roots. If the thatch layer gets to be more than about 1/2 inch thick, it can be unhealthy for your grass and should be removed through a process called dethatching.

If your lawn’s thatch buildup is right around 1/2 inch, you have a minor lawn thatch problem that is fairly easy to deal with. A thick layer (say, 3/4 inch or more) calls for the use of a core aerator or a vertical mower. Both can be rented from your local rental center.

Give It Enough Water

What’s the yearly rainfall to be expected in your region? In dry climates, installing an irrigation system is necessary for growing grass successfully. But, in the misty Pacific Northwest, it is understandable that many choose to let Mother Nature do the watering. For most of the rest of us, the decision of whether or not to have an irrigation system for watering lawns will not be so clear-cut. Cost is often the primary factor, but keep in mind that in the long run, an irrigation system may save you money because it is more efficient than other ways of watering.

Whichever method you choose, your grass must have enough water on a consistent schedule to remain green and healthy. While overwatering can lead to its own problems, an under-watered lawn lacks the vigor and resilience to compete with weeds and diseases, not to mention staying green.

Feed to Control Weeds

We know we have to fertilize the tomato plants in our gardens or the houseplants on our window sills. But it’s easy to overlook the necessity of spreading fertilizers over our grass. Perhaps it is because the individual grass plants work in unison, together forming something we know as “the lawn.” But it’s more accurate to think of a lawn as millions of individual plants that need to be fed on a regular basis.

Fertilizing your lawn goes hand-in-hand with lawn weed control. As your grass takes in the fertilizer’s nutrients, its root system will expand and begin to cover any bare spots. Weed seeds count on those bare spots to take hold. When you remove those spots, you’re hitting weeds where it really hurts. Ideally, thanks to your fertilizing and other maintenance efforts, you’ll get to a point where your grass is so healthy that it crowds out most weeds.

The best way to satisfy your turf plants’ hunger is with slow-release fertilizers, which extend the feeding period and are less likely to burn grass than other formulas. You may also opt to feed your grass and control weeds at the same time, using a “weed and feed” fertilizer, which is essentially food for grass and poison for weeds. Keep in mind that these fertilizers are not organic and can be applied only twice a year, typically.