Many are on the hunt for the answer to how to get a thicker, greener lawn – and it isn’t always just to keep up appearances with the neighbors. A thick, lush lawn, though it may sound like extra work, requires much less maintenance than a sparse lawn. Thin grass leaves room for unwanted guests, such as weeds and pests, that can often take several seasons and many chemical treatments to get rid of. Growing the thickest lawn possible is in your best interest and will save you money and effort down the road.
|In order to grow a thicker lawn, it is important to pay careful attention to the soil and make sure the grassroots are getting the nutrients they need. Once properly fed, watered, and maintained, a thin lawn will benefit from a thorough dethatching followed by aeration and overseeding.|
This article will take you step by step through six ways to ensure growing a thicker lawn. Whether you have recently laid down seed or sod or you’ve been battling thin grass for years, these methods are proven the most popular when looking for that green, carpet-like lawn.
1. Soil & Fertilization: The Key to Growing a Thicker Lawn
The very first place to start is, logically enough, the root. A healthy grass root system – and a quality home to grow in – will often result in healthy grass. The soil is fundamentally important to the growth of lawn grass. The soil conditions, the soil’s pH (or acidity level), and the best fertilizer mix are essential when looking to grow a thicker lawn – although they may differ depending on the variety of grass.
If already struggling with a sparsely growing lawn, it may be necessary to reevaluate the grass variety in accordance with the soil type. For example, sandy soils require a deeply rooted grass such as Tall Fescue, Bermuda, or Zoysia. If the lawn is seeded with St. Augustine, it needs to have very good drainage. Read more about soils that are best for your grass variety here. If the grass is not thriving due to excessive heat, rain, or other environmental factors out of your hands, consider switching over to a more appropriate variety. Alternatively, a very sandy soil that struggles to retain water can benefit from an addition of organic mix.
Now it is possible that a lawn has the correct grass type, but the grass is not growing optimally to due a pH imbalance. This can be an easy fix. Here is a step by step guide on how to test your soil’s pH level.
- First, you will need to check the soil pH. Soil pH testing kits can be purchased at your local hardware store or online. Lawn soil should have a pH of about 6.5 – on the slightly acidic side of neutral.
- In order to raise the pH (or decrease the acidity), treat the lawn once with lime either in the fall or early spring.
- In order to lower the pH (or increase the acidity), apply a sulfur treatment. Be careful as sulfur is slow-acting, and too much at once can result in burnt grass. Consider incorporating it into the soil if you haven’t seeded yet.
- After applying the appropriate treatment, water well and allow the treatment to soak into the soil.
- You can test the pH a few months after treatment to make sure it gave the desired effect.
Lawn fertilizers come in many forms and all of them will tell you they are the best for growing a green carpet-like lawn. Finding the correct fertilizer for your lawn will make all the difference. For long term effects and consistent growth, slow-release fertilizer is the best choice for lawn grass. Fast release fertilizers tend to permeate deeper into the soil than the roots can reach, resulting in wasted minerals.
Ever wondered what the three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent? The three main nutrients that plants need to grow are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) also called “NPK”. This ratio can make the difference between a lush, green lawn, and a thin one. Each nutrient has a separate benefit for growing grass:
- Nitrogen (N): Aids in the production of lush, green leaves.
- Phosphorus (P): Stimulates roots and helps development.
- Potassium (K): Protects against disease.
In order to thicken an established lawn, a fertilizer highest in nitrogen will give the best results. If starting a new lawn from seed or sod, the right fertilizer will have a higher emphasis on root development, containing a higher amount of phosphorus. Check the ratio of your fertilizer and make sure it has the appropriate nutrients for your lawn’s soil.
Organic vs Non-organic
If spraying your lawn using chemical fertilizer, you may want to consider the effects. Many feel more comfortable not using chemical treatments on the lawn where their children and pets play. Here is a comparison of traditional and alternative options.
2. Mowing, Dethatching, & Aeration for a Lush & Thick lawn
Let it Grow
As a general rule, most grass root growth parallels the grass height. Taller grass tends to have a deeper and healthier root system. By keeping your lawn clipped short, you may be discouraging root growth. This growth is vital to establishing a thicker, carpet-like lawn. This is not to discourage you from mowing your lawn often – just cut it at a higher level. Depending on the variety, lawn grass can easily be maintained at about three or four inches. There are of course some exceptions. Cutting your lawn grass at the correct height is an easy way to ensure proper and consistent growth. An often overlooked tip for keeping your lawn looking lush is making sure your mower has high quality, sharp blades. Keeping the blades sharp will ensure the grass tips do not ‘fray’ and turn yellow or white. A clean, precise cut will keep your lawn looking its greenest.
The ‘thatch’ on a lawn is the matted material sitting just on top of the soil. It is made up of dead grass leaves, roots, stolons, and other grass components. Dethatching is essentially getting rid of this layer so the grass can breathe and have room to grow thicker. This removal method is recommended prior to aerating, but can also be a good idea in order to prevent fungal diseases or pest infestations.
Dethatching should be done when the grass is in its most active growth period – and only on a well-established lawn. It is important to rid the lawn of all debris and weeds before starting. If necessary, spray a herbicide three to four weeks beforehand to kill any broadleaf weeds. A few days before, give the lawn a good soaking. This will help bring the thatch and debris to the surface. Depending on the size of your lawn and the thickness of the thatch, dethatching can be done by hand with a sharp, deep-pronged rake. It can be labor-intensive and some say it is not as effective as using a power thatcher.
Now the lawn will look like a mess, but don’t worry – it is just part of the process, and soon you will be well on your way to a thicker, greener lawn.
Right after dethatching and thorough watering is the perfect time to aerate. Aeration is the process of making small holes throughout the lawn, so the soil is exposed. It can be done by simply using a large garden fork, but for larger areas, push a spike aerator over the entire yard.
For best results, core aeration will actually remove three to four-inch plugs of soil, making even more room for freshly fertilized soil to reach the grassroots. A core aerator is worth renting or purchasing if you want to really get deep into the soil. Depending on the grass variety, you might want to core aerate in the fall, allowing time for the plugs to decompose back into the lawn.
With the soil now exposed, the lawn is ready for the most popular method for establishing a thick and lush lawn – overseeding.
3. Overseeding for a Thicker Lawn
It’s only logical – a thicker lawn requires more grass. Overseeding can make all the difference, so long as the lawn has been properly prepared. Once the soil has been tested, the grass dethatched, and the lawn aerated, you are ready to overseed.
Keep in mind that timing is everything – the right time to overseed will depend on your variety of grass.
|Cool-season Grass||Wait until early fall to overseed. This is grass’ most active growing season, and the warm soil from the summer months creates an ideal environment for germination.|
|Warm-season Grass||When growing grass in a warmer climate, wait until later in the fall or even early winter. Make sure there are 45 days before the first frost.|
When choosing your seed, you do not necessarily have to choose the exact same seed as your current lawn. As long as the new seed will work well with the existing lawn, is non-invasive, and the right variety for your environment, it will do. As the entire process of overseeding can take some time and effort, be sure to invest in a top-quality seed and get it right the first time.
Spreading seed is made easy with the help of an inexpensive lawn spreader. Spread the seed according to the instructions on the seed package. Mixing the seed with sawdust will ensure more even distribution. Different varieties of seed will require different ratios. You can check out the seeding rate per 1000 square feet in the picture below.
4. Follow up maintenance and Care for a Lush, Full Lawn
Caring properly for your lawn is possibly the best change you can make to achieve a fuller lawn. You may be asking yourself,
‘Why is my grass so thin? How do I achieve that green, carpet-like look?’
The root of the problem may lie in a few simple bad habits or neglected routines. Lawn grass needs care and attention just as much, if not more than other garden plants.
Overseeding, as described above, should help take care of any dead patches or areas where the first seeding didn’t take. In order to prevent these areas, avoid storing furniture or other items on your lawn for prolonged periods at a time. Consider seeding a highly durable grass, such as Bermuda, if your lawn has a lot of foot traffic. Unsightly dry patches may also be due to irregular watering, so consider setting up an irrigation system that ensures each square foot of grass gets the same attention.
Paying regular attention to the state of your lawn can save you a lot of work down the road. If treated or removed early on, weeds are less likely to become a bigger, more expensive problem. Our favorite way to easy nip pesky weeds in the bud is with a WeedBlaster.
A perfect lawn of grass will almost never happen without a regular schedule of proper fertilization. As we previously discussed, there are certain balances of NPK most suitable for specific stages of growth. Generally, a nitrogen-rich fertilization two to four times a year will help thicken a lawn that is thin due to lack of nutrients. Applying organic matter at the end of the growing season will also deepen and improve root growth.
5. Pinpointing and Treating Pests and Diseases
If you have gone through the four previous steps and are still struggling to pinpoint the reason for a thin, unhealthy lawn, it could be that your grass has a disease or infestation. Remember, weather extremes can also play a factor and can’t be helped – consider if this could be the culprit before spraying your lawn unnecessarily.
Diseased Lawn Grass
Be careful not to encourage an overly wet environment for your lawn. A lawn that is too moist can sometimes encourage a fungal infection. Fungal diseases can be detected by telltale signs such as powdery spots in white or black. There are many sprays available that will treat a fungus, but many say safer remedies such as spreading cornmeal or spraying milk will do the trick.
When a lawn is showing other signs of distress, such as brown, dry, or dead spots, it can be difficult to identify the culprit. It is possible the area was simply under or overwatered. Just in case, here is a list of general good practices to help keep your lawn disease-free.
- Collect your lawn clippings – if there is a chance your lawn has an infection, it is easy to avoid spreading it by bagging your clippings as you mow, and disposing of them elsewhere.
- Start out level – level your lawn to avoid any high or low patches, to keep watering consistently.
- Clean your equipment – keep your lawnmower blades clean to avoid spreading disease.
- Water in the morning – give your lawn the day to evaporate any excess water.
Infested Lawn Grass
Lawn pest infestations will often result in patchy, thin, and untidy lawns. In order to achieve a thick, lush carpet of grass, the lawn needs to be free of all pests. Lawn pests come in all shapes and sizes. Grubs, chinch bugs, webworms, and armyworms are some of the most common. Some warm weather grasses, such as St. Augustine or Bermuda, are hardier towards pests, but if your grass variety is susceptible to infestations there are measures you can take to prevent and treat.
The previous steps in this article give you a good head start. Dethatching and aerating are two of the best things you can do to prevent an infestation. Remember, critters thrive in enclosed, dark, compost-rich areas, so it is important to keep the air flowing around the base of your lawn. If this sounds counteractive to a thicker lawn, don’t worry – the closer together the blades of grass grow, the less room there is for thatch and other build-up. This is what you can do when treating an infestation with insecticide.
- Firstly, always read the label and follow the instructions.
- Choose a dry weather window, as rain will just wash your pesticide away.
- Spray a second time about a week later in order to break the life cycle of any hatchlings.
The journey to a thicker lawn may require some physical effort and a little extra attention, but it will be worth it in the end. A thick, carpet-like lawn not only looks better, but is healthier, more weed-resistant, and easier to maintain. While proper daily care and planting the right grass variety are essential to a regular healthy lawn, a thorough dethatching, aeration, and overseeding will ensure a lawn that is extra thick and lush.
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