1. Build up the low yellow spots.
The makers and sellers of pest and fungustreatments would love you to believethat every yellow or dead spot is theresult of a sinister invader that can beeliminated with frequent use of theirexpensive products. But some yellowspots are simply the result of low spotsin your lawn, especially if they appearafter heavy rain. Grass can suffocate orrot in standing water. Try spreading alayer of compost over the yellow spot toraise it up to the level of the surroundingground. Within a week or two, newgrass will likely sprout to fill the patch.
2. Quit bagging up grass trimmings.
If you have the kind of mower thatshreds grass and drops it right backonto the lawn, you can reduce the recommendedamount of lawn fertilizer byat least a third-and possibly even half.The salespeople at your garden centerwould tear their hair out if they knewyou were onto this secret, but amulching mower will save you having tospread pounds and pounds of chemicalfertilizer every year.
3. Save a bundle on lawn aeration.
It seems that every year a swarm ofeager workers roam around the neighborhoodposting handbills and ringingdoorbells, insisting that you need to aerateyour lawn-right now! If you don’tkeep track, you might do it three or fourtimes a year. Relax. Most lawns onlyneed aerating once a year to improve thedrainage and breathability of soil, andit’s important to do it at the right timefor your area and grass type. Some grasses do better with aeration at thebeginning of the growing season, andsome prefer it at the end.
You don’t have to pay someone else anarm and a leg to do your aeration. It’snot rocket science, and it’s no morestrenuous than mowing a lawn. Just besure to mark your sprinkler heads andany buried cables first. Ask several ofyour neighbors if they’d like to go in onan aeration party, then chip in to rent amachine. You can hire the machines athardware stores for half a day for aboutthe same amount that you’d pay to havea single lawn aerated. You can taketurns using the machine on each of yourown lawns, or pay a strapping teenagerto do them all in a morning. Either way,you’ll come out ahead.
4. Treat your lawn to a healthy tonic.
You don’t have to pay big bucks to thefertilizer makers to spruce up your lawnwith a shot of healthy nutrients. Manyhomeowners have had great successwith homemade lawn “tonics” madefrom simple products that might alreadybe on your pantry shelves. The recipesvary, but most share these commoningredients:
1 can non-light beer
1 can non-diet soda pop
1 cup ammonia
1 cup liquid dish soap
1 cup molasses or corn syrup
1/2 cup mouthwash
What do these ingredients have to dowith promoting a healthy lawn? Thebeer, soda, and molasses stimulate beneficialmicrobes. The ammonia is a sourceof nitrates, the main ingredient in mostfertilizers. The soap helps spread the solution evenly and bind it to the bladesof grass. And the alcohol in mouthwashdeters some pests. Mix these ingredientsin the reservoir of a 10- or 20-gallon(38- or 76-liter) hose-end sprayer, andapply it to your lawn every three weeksor so. Water well after application. Yourlawn will be lusher and need less water,and the big oil companies that supply theraw materials for many fertilizers willhave lost another customer.
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5. Deter lawn-damaging raccoons.
Ifyou wake up in the morning to discoversmall round holes in your lawn or evenlarge patches of turf mysteriously rolledup, it is probably the work of raccoonsor skunks, who visit at night and dig insearch of worms, grubs, or other insectsthat live in your lawn. They are especiallylikely to show up after a rain, whenthe water forces their prey close to thesurface. Some pest control expertswould have you believe that the only viable solutions to this problem areexpensive ones: installing a secure orelectrified fence, setting out traps, orundertaking an elaborate grub-eliminationprogram with toxic insecticides. Butthe solution is quite simple. Just go tothe store and buy a couple of boxes ofmoth crystals and sprinkle them overyour lawn. This will help persuade theraccoons, who have very sensitive noses,to dine elsewhere. Also, to avoid attractingthem, make sure your garbage cans can’t be knocked over and have lids thatare securely closed, with a bungee cordif necessary.
6. Dogged by yellow-spotted grass?
If you have a dog and your lawn is coveredwith yellow or brown circles, thedog’s urine may be the culprit. In seriouscases, the spots may require reseeding ornew sod. The problem is the nitrogen inthe urine: Although nitrogen is a keyingredient in most fertilizers, the concentrationin undiluted urine is too high forthe grass, and it dies from the stress of itsown growth. It’s a myth that femalecanine urine contains some substancethat causes the die-off. The likely reasonfemale dogs cause more problems is thatthey tend to urinate all at once on a flatsurface, rather than marking as malesdo, thus concentrating their impact inone spot.
What to do? Some books and websitesclaim that changing the pH in a dog’surine by altering its diet will reduce thedamaging effect of the urine.Veterinarians say, “Hogwash!” Changingthe pH content of dog urine has notbeen shown to affect its impact on grass,and making a dog’s food more acidic oralkaline in an effort to change pH canbe dangerous, possibly leading to bladderstones or infections. The only way toremedy the problem is to dilute thedog’s urine, and there are two ways to dothat. The most effective is to pour wateron the spot on the grass within 8 hoursof a dog urinating on it. Less effectivebut also helpful is adding water to thedog’s diet, through feeding it wet food ormoistening dry food with water. Thedog will relieve itself more often, but theconcentration of nitrogen in the urinewill be lower.