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  1. Tune your sprinklers.  There’s really no point in doing anything to improve your lawn unless your sprinklers are working properly.  This includes making sure you have the proper coverage for your lawn, that there are no blockages in your system, and that all of your sprinkler heads are functioning properly.  If you’re not up to tinkering with it yourself, it’s worth it to have a professional check your system.
  2. Water at the right frequency.   In a dry climate, most lawns require about an inch of water per week.  The hard part is determining how long your sprinker system takes to disperse an inch of water.  This is where rain gauges come in.  Once you know how about how long you need to water, determine the frequency.  Water an inch once a week or 1/2 inch twice a week, depending on how quickly your lawn dries out.  This will encourage your grass roots to grow deeper in order to seek moisture well below the surface, resulting in a well established and drought resistant root system.
  3. Leave your lawn long.  For cool season grass, leave blades about 3 inches long.   Root length is proportional to blade length, so longer grass means longer, healthier roots.  Longer grass also shades the ground to help retain moisture.  Yes, this means that you’ll need to mow twice a week instead of just once, but no one said having a beautiful lawn would be easy.
  4. Skip bagging your lawn clippings.  Mulching you lawn clippings returns the nutrients from the grass back into lawn.  Some experts say this is equivalent to one one fertilizer treatment each year.  If you’re leaving your grass long and mowing frequently, the layer of clippings should be light enough to blend into your lawn and not be unsightly.
  5. Aerate once or twice a year, in the Spring and/or Fall.  Aeration is another key to a healthy root system since it reduces soil compaction to allow grass roots to expand and enhances water absorption.  We’ve found it most cost and time effective to hire someone to machine aerate our lawn since it takes about 20 minutes and costs around $20 for our average-sized front/back lawn.  Alternatively, you can also aerate manually using a coring hand aerator, which is also handy for spot aerating hard to reach areas or high traffic areas where the soil is especially compacted
  6. Overseed and top dress.  After aerating, overseed by spreading grass seed over your entire lawn with a spreader.  Scott’s Turf Builder Grass Seed with WaterSmart Plus is an excellent choice because it absorbs twice the water of regular seed.  Once you’ve overseeded, top dress by spreading about 1/2 inch of organic compost over your lawn.  Aeration combined with overseeding and top dressing will drive seeds and organic matter deeper into the soil, filling in bare spots and bringing new growth to existing lawns.
  7. Fertilize regularly.  Be smart about what type of fertilizer your choose and adhere to the proper schedule for applying it.  Choose a high-quality fertilizer, such as Milorganite, and keep in mind that you’ll need about 30 lbs per 2,500 square feet of lawn.  When you fertilize will depend on what part of the country you live in.  Northern, cool-season varieties of grass should be fertilized four times per year (around Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving), with the last application as late in the season as possible.  Southern, warm-season varieties also need to be fertilized four times per year (around Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and in early October), but not too late in the Fall when the grass is trying to go dormant.
  8. Invest in a lawn roller.  I thought my husband was crazy when he ordered a Toro Lawn Striping System to attach to the back of our mower, but the end result was worth it.  Neighbors always admire our beautifully striped front lawn and it’s a look easy to achieve with a small investment in the right equipment.  Toro’s system is easy to use and compatible with other brands of mowers as well.
  9. Sharpen your mower blade.  A dull blade tears the edges of grass, weakening the plant and making it more vulnerable to disease.  It also impacts your mower’s ability to much well.  Sharpen your blade one to two times per season by removing it and sharpening it with a file or grinder.  You might also want to consider purchasing a second blade so that you always have a sharp one ready to go.
  10. Treat disease.  Lawn fungal disease generally develops in an improperly cared for lawn and can be treated by simply following the recommended practices above.  But if your lawn is being plagued by a stubborn fungus, you may need a fungicide to get it under control. You’ll first need to determine what type of fungus you’re dealing with.  Common types include brown patch, fusarium blight, and dollar spot – bring a sample of your grass and a picture to your local garden center for help identifying the culprit.  Knowing your grass type and weather conditions can also help you narrow down the possibilities.  Next, find a fungicide rated for your specific type of fungus and keep in mind that fungicides won’t help your grass regrow, but will get the fungal spores under control so that it will respond to treatment.
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