- Kelly Grummons
Ugly Lawn in Colorado
Our lawn has just gotten uglier every year. We’ve had it aerated most Springs but that isn’t helping much anymore. I don’t need it to be perfect, but I’d like it to look presentable. I don’t have the budget to get it replaced right now. What do you suggest?
A: I’m assuming you have a traditional lawn of Kentucky Bluegrass or a mixture of grass species. What you are experiencing is typical of older lawns. It’s easy to get into a syndrome of fertilizing, weed-killing, aerating, fertilizing again, applying fungicide, fertilizing again…when all the grass really needs is oxygen! Mechanical plug-aeration can only do so much.
Let us do something radical…and cheap! Borrow, rent, or hire a heavy-duty rototiller. Apply an inch of manure or compost over the lawn’s surface. Run the tiller over the lawn two times then even out the surface with a rake. The surface will look rough. This is fine. Apply a premium lawn seed that is a mixture of species to create a lawn that is adaptable to your soil-type and possibly more disease resistant. Water daily for 3 weeks then reduce to twice a week for the rest of the summer. Reduce watering to once a week in late August.
Apply a quality compost to the lawn every March and again in mid-October. This is my “Feed The Worms” program. They will be very excited by the fresh compost. Worms tunnel to the surface to feed on organic matter then move it downward through the soil profile. Their tunneling provides natural aeration that creates healthier grass roots and roots that can grow deeper. Deeper roots give drought resistance.
Ultimately, your budget will benefit from replacing the Kentucky Bluegrass lawn with a low-water species such as Buffalo Grass, Grama Grass, or African Dogtooth Grass. These types of turf only require irrigation a few times each summer, a FRACTION of what traditional turf varieties need. The tremendous water savings will rapidly offset the cost of replacing the existing lawn. Additionally, consider reducing the size of the lawn, replacing it with xeric shrubs and perennials. Water is becoming notably more precious and expensive.
Kelly Grummons owns the mail order businesses coldhardycactus.com & dogtuffgrass.com