How do I get the perfect lawn?
Firstly let me warn you. If you're starting from scratch then attaining the perfect lawn will take time, effort and patience. It won't be achieved in one season.
Maintaining your pristine lawn can be done in as little as 10 minutes per day.
Remember procrastination is a gardeners 2nd worse enemy...
Just in case you didn't guess, weeds are enemy #1.
TOP TIP :
If you have weeds or moss growing in your lawn but lack the time or skill to deal with them. This product is very effective, click here to get free delivery within the UK.
Get the basics right first.
The only way to get a perfect lawn and keep it that way is to get the basics right first.
Monitor & improve your soil.
A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. Below 7.0 is and your soil is too acidic, above it the soil is alkaline.
It may be worth getting your soil professionally tested. Add lime if it's below 6.0 or gardeners sulfur if its above 7.0.
There are simple home testing kits and many other manual ways to test your soil PH, I can't speak for their accuracy.
Choose a suitable grass.
There are hundreds of species of grass. Each vary in the type of climate, amount of water & conditions they prefer.
If you're unsure go ask your local garden center or turf merchant for some assistance.
If your using grass seeds be sure to check out our article on when to plant your grass seeds.
Mow regularly but not too short.
The number 1 mistake people make is to mow their grass too short.
Set your mower as high as it will go (3-4 inches).
Mowing it shorter so you don't have to cut it as often?
It will actually grow quicker, allowing weeds to proliferate. If the grass doesn't shade the weed, the weed will shade the grass. Sun is everything, don't buzz cut your grass.
Don't cut off more than 30% of the grass at any one time.
Water deeply but not too often.
There usually is no need to water grass at all. Only do so when your grass shows signs of drought or stress.
When you do water ensure it's thorough. Most healthy lawns require 1 inch of water per week. Sprinklers are the most common method but a watering can will work as well.
Water early in the morning that way less will be lost to evaporation.
Weeds, weeds, everywhere
The scourge of gardeners across the globe. Before you achieve perfection you will first have to eliminate the weeds.
To remove weeds; identify the weed, understand why it's growing then remove the weed.
How to identify your weeds
Why should you care which type of weed it is?
You just want them gone right?
You must identify what weed you have so you can choose the best way to eliminate and control it.
There are many aggressive species of weed that can become very difficult to control once matured.
Many lawn weeds are also indicators of underlying problems in your grass. For example nutsedge is usually indicative of over watering or drainage problems.
So before you go killing any weeds go take a look at them. Identify it and find the best method to eliminate and prevent the problem weed from regrowing.
Know your enemy is rule #1.
If you know the enemy, you need not fear the result of 100 battles. If you don't know the enemy you will succumb in every battle and suffer a heavy defeat.
Why do weeds grow in lawns?
The term weed is subjective of course. One mans weed infested lawn is another's beautiful wild meadow.
If you are creating a new lawn, preparation is key to success and a weed free future.
If your convinced you need to do battle with these plants then you need to learn about your enemy.
First you have to understand "why do weeds grow in my lawn" - there are many reasons why:
- Bare spots/soil: Weeds will quickly colonise bare soil or patches of mud.
- PH Levels: Your grass loves to grow in soil with a PH level above 6.0 and below 7.0. Get your soil tested. Add lime if it's below 6 or garden sulfur if above 7.
- Mowing too short: This is a battle for sunlight. The grass will only shade the weed if it is tall enough, mow as high as your mower will allow (3-4 inches).
- Too little top soil: Less than 4 inches of top soil and you will be struggling to get a perfect lawn. Stick a shovel in and see how deep it will go.
- Over watering: Grass that is over watered or has a lack of drainage will naturally attract weeds.
- Drought: Dry grass and soil will quickly become patchy and be ideal for bearing new weeds.
- Lack of nutrition: Your lawn needs nutrients to thrive. If it doesn't get the nutrients and care it requires the stronger weeds will win.
- Lack of care: Battling with lawn weeds is constant. Every year brings new weeds. There are many battles to be fought in this never ending war.
TOP TIP :
Spend 5 minutes each day looking over your lawn. Hand weed any you find right there and then.
Common lawn weeds.
There are literally thousands of different species and sub species of weed that could be growing in your lawn.
Do you want to spend all day finding out which is which?
No, I didn't think so.
Here are the most common weeds you'll find in your lawn.
Description: The most common lawn weed in the UK. It is a perennial weed that spreads with short underground runners.
Causes: The daisy is common to all types of grass. It can even survive close mowing and compaction.
How to kill: Hand weeding is best. Use a daisy picker or slash with a knife to weaken. They will eventually give up. This will also kill daisies.
Description: A recognizable and common turf weed. It flowers between May and October.
Causes: Over watering, poor drainage and bad mowing practices. Infestations can quickly spread and become severe..
How to kill: Localised plants can be hand weeded like daisies. In most cases a selective weed killer will be required. This works against clover too.
Description: The scourge of the perfect lawn. Dandelions are a common perennial which can grow upto 25 centimeters in length.
Causes: Poor PH management. Dandelions like a high PH soil, if they are thriving you have a problem.
How to kill: Manual weeding is best. You have to remove the root otherwise it will grow back. Bring your PH level back down to 7.0.
Description: A sure sign of a neglected lawn. They have deep roots and grow in a wide variety of soils.
Causes: Bare patches & lack of mowing
How to kill: Due to it's deep roots a small garden fork may be required. Regular mowing will help prevent regrowth. Spot kill using Triclopyr or glyphosate.
Description: It's flowers form in clusters and can be seen from June through to September.
Causes: Not usually a problem in established lawns. Often found in newly seeded lawns.
How to kill: Regular mowing will eventually kill it.
Description: Probably the most common and most frustrating lawn weed. It has a nasty habit of returning.
Causes: Poor surface drainage, nutrient deficiency, mowing to short, lack of sunlight, drought & poor PH management. Moss like acidic conditions.
How to kill: Small patches can be raked out.
Larger patches may need a herbicide (iron sulphate) or a mechanical scarifier. If you don't solve the underlying problems it will return.
The University of California Agriculture has a comprehensive weed identification gallery:
For visitors from the UK, LawnWeeds.co.uk:
Description: A member of the clover species also known as yellow suckling clover. It flowers from May to October and has 3 leaflets.
Causes: Thrives in nutrient deficient lawns.
How to kill: Take care to remove the whole plant if hand weeding. Ensure your lawn is well fertilized.
Description: Large broad leaves. It has a large root system and medicinal uses.
Causes: Common on compacted soils but found in a wide variety of soils and conditions.
How to kill: Manual weeding is best, take care to remove the whole plant and root or it will grow back.
Description: Distinctive yellow colour that is a common low growing perennial in lawns.
Causes: Thrives in heavy wet soils. Could be indicative of a drainage problem or over watering.
How to kill: Hand weed, remove the plant & the root. Improve your soil conditions to prevent future growth.
Description: Can grow very tall but more likely to grow straight along the surface suffocating grass.
Causes: Compacted soil, lawn neglect.
How to kill: Best to hand weed and aerate the soil discouraging it from regrowing. You can kill grass permanently but it will kill your other grass!
Description: Tough stems and bright yellow flowers that appear from June to October.
Causes: Common on so called "low maintenance" lawns, neglected lawns & grasslands.
How to kill: Hand weeding and regular mowing should be enough to kill & prevent future episodes.
Description: Also known as marestail. Can be virtually impossible to remove once it becomes established.
Causes: Lack of mowing, poor drainage or watering practices & lack of sunlight.
How to kill: Can be almost impossible to kill. Regular mowing will only cut off the top. Selective weed killers only kill the top too. Roots can grow up to 50cm.
The key to a weed free lawn is competition.
The trick is to make conditions favourable for your grass and unfavourable for the weeds.
Your grass will out compete the weeds and choke them out, naturally. It's that simple.
Kill weeds in your lawn naturally with no chemicals.
If you spot any weeds the best method to kill them is to pick them by hand ensuring you get the root as well. Try to pick them before they have had a chance to spread seed.
Be persistent, they may grow back, just pick them out again and again. They will eventually weaken and give up.
Garden Weasel have an all natural product. The active ingredient is cinnamon bark and it is used to kill crabgrass, chickweed and other similar weeds.
If you only have a few scattered broadleaf weeds such as plantain or dandelion, consider spot treating each weed with vinegar rather than applying a chemical herbicide.
Vinegar will kill you're grass too so only get it on the weeds.
Prevention is the best cure.
TOP TIP :
Corn gluten is a nitrogen rich, natural, organic lawn weed suppressant and feed, all in one.
Dr Nick Christians, a widely respected lawn care professional developed gluten meal as a pre-emergent lawn herbicide.
It kills weeds before they grow to adult size. Be warned you need roughly 10kg to treat 1000 square feet and it needs to be applied at the right time.
Apply in early spring 4 weeks before the weeds usually sprout to prevent them from doing so.
How to prevent weeds from growing in your lawn.
Keeping your grass healthy and long enough to shade out weeds is key to preventing them in the first place.
Weeds will fight with your grass for growing space, water, nutrients & sunlight. That last one is very important. Cut your grass too short and weeds will quickly shade your grass.
Mow often but don't take too much off. Ideally your lawn will be 3 inches. Let it grow an inch then take an inch off.
Mowing higher will prevent weeds:
- More shade to the soil means less watering.
- Longer, thicker grass leads to fewer weeds.
- Stronger roots means less watering.
- Slower growth = less mowing 🙂
Did you know?
Mowing too low will actually cause your grass to grow quicker & become weaker.
Grass needs it's blades to do photosynthesis (turn sunlight into sugar = growth)
When you cut it, it races quickly to grow more, depleting it's nutrient & energy reserves.
How to feed your lawn & make it grow healthily.
Grass loves nitrogen. Weeds such as clover and black medic can absorb nitrogen from the air. When you spot these weeds you know your soil is nitrogen poor.
Organic lawn feed
The easiest way to naturally fertilize your lawn is to leave the clippings on it. Each time it's done is equivalent to one application of unnatural fertilizer & it's free!
Set your mower to take an inch when the grass is 3 - 4 inches. The grass clippings will quickly breakdown and disappear from view enriching your soil with nitrogen.
Avoid chemical lawn feed. Nearly all of them are salt based.
Healthy soils contain bucket loads of microbial life. They help keep your grass healthy. These things don't like salt.
If you apply these year after year your soil will eventually become so poor it will no longer be capable of supporting a perfect, healthy lawn, forcing you to keep using it.
Corn gluten is an all natural lawn fertilizer rich in nitrogen and it has the added bonus of being a weed suppressant.
Commercial lawn feed and weed
If you must use commercial lawn fertilizer don't use a weed and feed product. The professionals don't, neither should you. Use a quality grass fertilizer then do the weeding.
Go for a slow release package, some will last up to 6 months from only one application. Corn gluten is cheaper, better and will stop weeds from sprouting.
Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions and remember to always read the label. Some fertilizers contain dangerous chemicals that can harm you & the environment.
How to maintain the perfect lawn & keep it that way.
So you've achieved perfection. Don't rest on your laurels, it won't stay that way for long. Now the hard work begins - maintaining that perfection.
If you've followed all the advice above and regularly weed your lawn you can keep it healthy & looking good in as little as 10 minutes per day.
Spend 10 minutes each day looking over your grass, remove and weeds and fill any bare patches with new seed.
How often should I cut my grass?
Cut regularly, don't cut too short. Leave the clippings for an all natural fertilizer. Make sure your mower blades are sharp.
The frequency with which you cut your grass is dependent on your environment. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain, you may want to cut your grass less often. If you live somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of rain, you may want to cut your grass more often. It’s all about personal preference. If you’re using a reel mower, cutting your grass too short can cause the blades to get clogged.
If you’re using a power mower, short grass is easier to cut but it doesn’t give the grass enough time to grow. Once every two or three days is ideal. If you water too frequently, the water doesn’t have a chance to soak in and can cause the roots to rot. If you wait too long, the grass will wilt.
How short should I cut my grass?
For the perfect lawn your grass should be about 3 inches. This is the ideal height for healthy green growth.
You should never cut your grass shorter than 1/3 of the grass length. If you cut it shorter than that, you’ll end up with bare patches in your lawn because you’ll be cutting off the grass’s ability to survive and grow.
How do I get rid of moss in grass?
Remove the moss in the autumn by vigorously raking it (scarifying). Larger moss infestations may require a scarifier.
There are natural moss killers that also fertilize your lawn. This one we can highly recommend, it is a 3 in 1 and one of the best lawn treatments available in the UK. It nourishes your lawn whilst eliminating moss & weeds.
Read how to get rid of moss on your lawn - click here to find out how!
How often should I water my grass?
Only water when your grass shows sign of stress or drought. In the UK it's rather rare for you water your grass, but in other countries it is common.
You shouldn’t water grass too much. It’s important to water it at the right time, in the right amounts, and with the right timing. If you water it too much, then you’ll waste water.
How often should I fertilize?
If you're leaving your grass clipping on the lawn & all other conditions are good. Apply an organic fertilizer in the spring and again in the autumn (dried seaweed works great!)
Enjoy your perfect lawn
Grass is for fun. I'd rather have weeds than have pristine grass that no-one was allowed to stand on.
Enjoy your perfection. If you have any questions or specific lawn problems please leave a comment below.
Where I live its a bit dodgy if I put down fresh grass or astro turf it will get pinched what’s the best grass seed to put down they can pinch that
Ha, depends on the purpose but can’t go wrong with a good hard wearing grass seed. People may not steal it but the birds will eat it!
I have learned a lot
I didn’t know about
salt or vinegar
I have used old carpet befor to cut
out light over winter
That works well
A lot of valuable tips in here, thanks!
I kept hearing about salt, but I had no idea you can use vinegar as a weed killer. I’ll have to give it a try, will let you know the results.
I was surprised to find no mention of aerating the lawn in your article. Some experts consider this to be a ‘vital’ process in annual maintenance.
I have used a Husqvarna commercial aerator for the past five years and it has certainly improved my large 40 year old lawn.
The mowing operation inevitably compresses the soil and my clay soil responded well to having ‘plugs’ removed by this aerator.
Unfortunately decent machines are expensive and very heavy: they have to be heavy to force the coring tines into the lawn surface.
Indeed, aerating helps a lot but as you say the right machines can be expensive. We will touch on this in a future article
I moved into a house with a lawn covered in goats head weed or sticker weed . Aside from burning the whole lot or handpicking until my fingers bleed what can I do- I’ve been told it’s a lost cause because my neighbors suffer the same affliction and obviously I cannot assume they would put in the care to attend the issue themselves alongside me.
Ruby that sounds terrible. Sadly if your neigbours aren’t taking care then it will likely be a recurrent problem, weed killers should still work though and be easier than burning / hand picking… Weedol for lawns works well
My son plays football in the garden and the grass is patchy and dry
Sadly this will always happen, best you can do is buy a hard wearing grass seed
How soon can I seed patches after using good grow shake no rake
Wait at least 4 weeks