Lawns surrounding old houses often have the same repair and maintenance issues as the houses themselves. If previous owners did not tend the dry rot in the floor joists or repair cracks in the plaster, chances are good that they were not vigilant about preventing soil compaction or reseeding bare areas, either. As you work to improve, update, and restore your house, don't forget to turn your attention to the lawn as well.
Soil Compaction Hurts Lawns
One of the most common problems in older lawns is soil compaction, especially in areas of the country where the soil tends to be clay-heavy. Compacted soil makes it hard for your lawn's roots to grow deep in the soil, making the lawn more susceptible to drying out during times of drought. Also, water often cannot permeate compacted soils, making it even harder for lawns' roots to get the moisture they need.
To loosen up compacted soil, you either rent an aerator or hire a lawn service to use one on your lawn. Aerating over an established lawn will not damage it. Make sure that the aerator removes plugs of soil rather than just punching holes in it. The plugs of soil on the surface of your lawn might look unseemly for a few days, but they will soon be incorporated back into the lawn.
Reseeding Your Lawn the Right Way
Once your soil is aerated, you are ready to start transforming your patchy plot of grass into a healthy green lawn. Consider using a slit-seeder in the lawn's sparse places. Slit-seeders cut small holes in the soil and drop lawn seed into them. They are especially effective for establishing lawns from seed because grass seed must have good contact with the soil in order to germinate. Alternatively, you can rough up the soil a bit using a gardening fork before sowing your seeds.
Once the seeds have been planted, water your new grass frequently to ensure that the soil stays moist. It might seem counterintuitive, but lawns with plantings of new grass should still be mowed. Though mowing can cause some damage to fragile new grass, it is the best option. If you do not mow, the established grass will grow tall, choking out sunlight that the new grass needs. In fact, many lawn care experts recommend that you mow your lawn shorter than usual while the new grass gets established. All this hard work will be worth it in the end. With a little patience and dedication, you will soon have a lawn that will be the envy of the neighborhood.
About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.
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