Most can agree that there are certainly some basics to really providing visible improvement in lawns, from color, to density, or reduced weeds. If there was an overall wish list for lawn treatments, a list which highlighted the best of the best, the hardest working, the biggest bang for your buck; would you be interested? I thought so.
Without question, fertilizer is at the top of the list for several reasons. First, grass appreciates the additional nutrient supply in order to improve color and increase growth both above and below ground. You can serve up your fertilizer varying from slow release, all organic, a natural blend, or a conventional fast release product. Each type of fertilizer has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon how fast you are trying to improve your lawn, your proximity to surface water/wells, or disposition for organic things in life. The underlying focus of fertilizer is simple; give the lawn a boost to make it healthier by growing better than surrounding weeds. This is where fertilizer needs some additional help in our wish list for the most beneficial lawn treatments for your money.
It may go without saying, but lime is not what your grandfather used to use back in the day. In fact, lime has been formulated to address more than just a simple pH adjustment. Since grass appreciates a slightly acidic pH (6.5 to 6.7) for maximum health, what else can lime do that you may not know? I prefer a high calcium lime, pelletized for easy application and loaded with calcium to help improve the cation exchange in the soil. Cation what you say? Well, simply put – a high calcium lime actually helps soften soils, it’s a natural material to improve soil structure and this in turns makes growing roots a lot easier. More roots, better lawn, thicker lawn! Lime and fertilizer go together like peanut butter and jelly; they are good friends and do a lot for the dollar spent.
The third lawn application that is underrated but is more valuable than people realize is core aeration. Yes, core aeration is a form of dethatching so don’t get too excited. Core aeration is probably the single most beneficial non-chemical, all organic treatment you can do for your lawn. I’m not talking about sweet little metal stars that you pull and rotate with your home lawn tractor. I’m not talking about shoes with spikes in them where you walk around and believe in your deepest heart that this is the best form of aeration since color TV. No, real core aeration physically pulls a 1” or so diameter core with hollow tines which goes down several inches and deposits a plug on the surface of the lawn. The result is a grid of small holes in the lawn which then allows in air, lime, fertilizer, water, and a place to seed into! Wow, I can feel the difference just writing about it. Core aeration should be an annual, or every other year process to keep even a healthy lawn in check. There is a good reason golf courses aerate all the time, it works! Do yourself a favor in 2013, have your lawn aerated! You’ll sleep better at night.
Sea kelp or Compost tea don’t normally come up at the dinner table when folks think about improving their lawns or when reviewing a conventional turf contract for the spring. In fact, I’m sure every man would fall over if his wife or girlfriend turned to him at dinner and said, “Hey honey, why don’t we try sea kelp this year on the lawn? I hear it is full of organic matter, amino acids, and good stuff like that!” I myself might even shed a tear at such a revelation but most others would be petrified. The fact remains, she is right – compost tea and sea kelp are super at providing micro-organisms like fungi and bacteria, exactly what most lawns lack from abuse or low organic matter after the house was built. Poor soil is one of the leading causes of nasty looking lawns and no matter how much fertilizer and lime is applied, your lawn will only rise to a mediocre level at best. Adding compost tea and/or sea kelp is a great way to build up a healthier lawn from the soil up. A great house must be built on a solid foundation, so must a lawn be grown from soil that is better than sand, gravel, back-fill, or compacted clay. If you have never considered compost tea or sea kelp, give it some serious thought because whoever brings it up first at the dinner table wins!
The last treatment which ends this blog post and ends up coming in at the number five position is insect control. I mean grubs below ground or chinch bugs on the surface. Nothing will destroy your lawn without you noticing until the damage is done like insects. Weeds cannot damage or kill a lawn like a grub infestation can. While the hot, dry weather of 2012 behind us, the pests remain and will continue to wreak havoc in NH and VT lawns well into the early summer of 2013. Please don’t waste your money on milky spore either, a product designed for use down south, not to mention it only works on one type of beetle under ideal conditions. We have over a half dozen grub beetles in our growing area, so save the coin and have a treatment done professionally. There are good organic products available for all of these pests as well as great newer treatments in a more conventional mode. If you had insect problems in 2012 resulting in skunks digging and crows tearing up and tossing turf, get some help!