Use Minimal Green To Keep Your Lawn From Yellowing

If you’ve got a lawn, you’re well aware of the eternal struggle to keep it looking like an idyllic pasture rather than a ragged, balding wasteland of neglected dreams. Your first instinct is to go crazy with watering and high-cost fertilizers, but those methods don’t always keep lawns looking pristine.

A wiseGEEK article suggests relatively low-cost ways to keep your grass alive:

* Don’t over-water. Thorough but infrequent watering tends to be more efficient. Aim for an inch of water every week during warm months, scaling back as it gets colder.

* Start with deeper soil. Plant your lawns on top of six to eight inches of rich soil to ensure the roots will be able to grow deep and strong. Cut a corner here, going with only a couple inches of soil, and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

* Don’t mow too low. It’s compelling to shoot for a putting green-like carpet, but setting your mower to cut the grass too low during summer months can stunt your lawn’s growth, leaving you with something that more closely resembles a sand trap.

Why is my lawn dying? [wiseGEEK]


Edit Your Comment

  1. wojonet says:

    I just need to get rid of the mud pit in my backyard I call a lawn.

    please help.

    • chizu says:

      Mud pit? As in your backyard tends to retain water? Or nothing grows there?

      If water if your problem, have you considered turning it into a rain garden? Rain gardens are somewhat labour intensive at the beginning when they are trying to established. But once they are established, maintenance would be relatively low. (It also depends on where you live.)

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If your problem is too much water retention, then you need to invest in landscaping methods that allow for proper draining of excess soil water. One example is using rock and proper grading to push excess water out of lawn, similar to how are designed to prevent flooding and general foundation damage from excess water.

      I can’t help you with specifics, but you’d absolutely need an engineer to determine the problem and solution.

    • KeithIrwin says:

      1) Lay down some mulch.
      2) Plant some water-tolerant plants, perhaps things which are recommended for rain gardens.
      3) Forget about the grass.

    • wojonet says:

      wow, thanks for the suggestions everyone, that was not expected but is much appreciated.

  2. Sarek says:

    I can never understand why people in my neighborhood need to mow their lawns 5 times a week (not to mention during rain or after dark.) There’s no way they can even tell which parts are mowed vs. unmowed. And they scalp their lawns, too. I fell like a slob because I let it go a couple of weeks and then don’t scrape it down to the earth.

    Also I NEVER EVER water my lawn, except for newly seeded patches. Let it fend for itself, it’ll do better in drought periods. Anyway, there never are drought periods here; mother nature does just fine on her own providing the water.
    (besides, weeds never turn brown :^{ )

  3. crispyduck13 says:

    “Plant your lawns on top of six to eight inches of rich soil…”

    Not low cost by any stretch of the imagination.

    • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

      That rather depends on your location, I suspect. I grew up about 90 minutes out of Chicago, and I would have been hard-pressed to find a spot that didn’t have a good 6 inches of soil. When I lived in Florida, however, I would see people planting seed and putting down sod that was really not meant for the sandy stuff they have as topsoil.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I guess I read it as a suggestion for filling your property with 6-8 inches of top soil. That would cost thousands of dollars for even a 1/2 acre lawn here.

  4. Cat says:

    Iron = green lawn.
    Proper watering – deeply, alternate days when hot.
    and this:

    One full can of regular pop (any kind-no diet soda)
    One full can of beer (no light beer) 12oz
    1/2 Cup of Liquid dishwashing soap (do NOT use anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid)
    1/2 Cup of household ammonia
    1/2 Cup of mouthwash (any brand)

    Pour into 10-gallon hose-end sprayer (other sizes will work too)
    In high heat, apply every three weeks

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I’m gonna go ahead and picture Carl Spackler sending this “secret recipe” to wisebread and then laughing his ass off as the “you killed my lawn!” comments roll in.

    • dangermike says:

      You’re way overcomplicating things. Nobody is more than half an hour and a case of krylon away from a beautiful, hunter green lawn.

  5. Dallas_shopper says:

    My lawn is dying probably due to the record-shattering heat and drought we had in Texas last summer.

    Since we’re on stage 3 watering restrictions, a good deep soak is out of the question unless it comes from the sky.

    • chizu says:

      We had/have a project in Houston last year, my boss was down there a couple of times. He and our client drove around the City and he said it was really sad and distressing to see the number of dead mature trees. Not to mention the cost of having to remove all these mature trees because they were fire hazard.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        It’s partly because everyone and their damn grandmothers are moving here from other states. People think we have endless land to build on, and they have somewhat of a point…we do have a lot of wide open spaces. However, it takes more than land to support a growing population. Our water supply and electric infrastructure are totally inadequate to deal with our exploding population, and of course the noobs coming in all want HOAs with pools, jewel-green lawns, fountains, shit like that. And they waste a ton of water and power with their stupid 3000 sq ft houses.

        So yes, drought and zebra mussels are a problem. But so is our enormous population. We simply don’t have the water and power to support them.

        If anyone reading this is considering moving to north Texas, I beg you…please don’t.

  6. Chris says:

    It’s not likely you can do anything about the depth of your soil (unless you’re talking about excavating and backfilling which means $$$). The less frequent watering (not less water, but just applying that amount less often – say all in one shot once a week instead of smaller amounts every other day) and the raising the blades of the mower are sound though.

    Less frequent watering ensures that there will be ample water to the plants, but that they might have to grow deeper to find it. Deep roots = healthy plants. Watering too shallow means that grass roots will stay near the surface and dry out more quickly when the upper few inches of soil dries out in those summer months.

    Raising the blades also encourages deeper root growth. Think of grass blades as a mirror of what the root might look like beneath the soil. Tall grass = deeper roots, while short grass = shallow roots. Tall grass also helps to shade the soil beneath it helping to protect the soil from the sun and drying it out even further. It will also help in keeping the lawn free of weeds as weed seeds that hit the soil have less access to sunlight due to the long grass blades around it.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Excavating? It’s 6 inches. Put your back into it and don’t hire a crew for your lawn.

      Also, it can be a top-soil standard mix. You don’t necessarily need 100% top soil and it doesnt have to be the expensive stuff.

      And if the lawn is so huge it’s too big a task…. well, how can you afford the nice lawn to begin with? Probably bought too much house with too much lawn.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        You’ve been here long enough to know that /s tags are crucial.

      • Chris says:

        Given that a square cube of soil is estimated to weigh around 75 lbs, a 6″ depth of a 1/4 acre lawn (not huge by any means) would have you removing 408,375 lbs of soil.

        *You* might want to put your back into removing that soil, disposing that soil, and putting that much new topsoil back into the ground. I’m guessing most people would rather outsource lifting some 800,000 lbs of soil to machinery.

  7. humphrmi says:

    When I moved into our house, in the far back part of our yard there had been an above ground pool and they had dumped an inch or two of sand under it. They removed the pool, and we planned to reseed or resod the spot in a few years.

    The following year, without any intervention from me, the roughly 15′ diameter spot was completely covered with grass from the adjacent lawn.

    The lesson? Grass is a weed, if you let it go it will grow where it wants to. You don’t need six to eight inches of expensive topsoil.

    One suggestion I do agree with is “Don’t mow too low”. When grass starts growing in the spring, if you let it go, it will actually reach a point where it starts sprouting seeds. Then the wind blows the seeds all over, creating a natural overseed. Don’t cut it at all until you see seeeds, and then start to see them disappear. Like I said, grass is a weed, and if you leave it alone it’ll grow everywhere.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      My hubs does this. We’re the neighbors I’m assuming the people around us hate because grass cutting does not start on our lawn until late April, and it gets to lookin a bit scraggly by then. Every spring all the people around us with apparently nothing better to do go about decapitating their grass on the first 70 degree spring Saturday. In March. Then it’s twice a week even though their grass does not appear any taller.

      He also does not cut it very short and leaves the clippings out. Our grass is the last to turn brown during a drought.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Also, the last few mows should be done without the bag, to allow the grass to be absorbed back into the ground, thus adding nutrients to the soil.

    • malraux says:

      Every mowing should be without the bag; clippings don’t contribute to thatch,

      • Bibliovore says:

        True, but if you’ve let it get too long between mowings and you don’t have a mulching mower, the clippings can block light from getting to some of the living grass.

  9. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I get that henbit all over the backyard (it’s already started, thanks to the warm February temps) and have to mow it twice the first time to get rid of it. I usually wait as long as I can, though, because I also have violets and I hate mowing over those. Sometimes I mow around them, especially this one big patch in the back. I tried making candied violets one time–they are never sprayed with chemicals ever–but it didn’t work too well because I didn’t have any of the very fine caster sugar.

    The rest of the summer I mow it once a week, unless I can’t for some reason and then I’ll pay someone to do it. I usually scalp the backyard and when it’s really hot and dry it doesn’t grow and I can skip a week. My backyard is ridiculously fertile. I’ve given up trying to keep the grass out of my pathetic attempt at flowerbeds, so I’m letting them go back to just yard.

  10. Portlandia says:

    Wow, a List…from Phil, how new and unexpected.

  11. Boiled for your sins says:

    I find that so long as I keep my weeds mowed, I have a nice lawn.

  12. polishhillbilly says:

    But keeping my lawn 1/2 tall keeps the fire ants away, which is more

  13. Elizabeth B says:

    Husband put a mulching blade on in the middle of last summer. He hasn’t used a bag since, and we haven’t had any issue with grass sticking to shoes or feet.

    We also purchased timers so that we could water at 4am. We just move the sprinklers during the day, and everything gets a good soak one irreparable times a week.

  14. fredmertz says:

    An inch of water a week if it doesn’t rain = dead lawn in most temperate climates.

    • KeithIrwin says:

      I did that in Austin, Texas for the couple of summers I was renting a house down there. I put out a container to check the water depth so I was sure I was getting a whole inch every time and I only ever watered at night so that I wasn’t losing much to evaporation. I mowed it down to two inches (no lower), and gave it a good inch of water once a week and it did fine. The roots grew deeper and it never went brown at all through both Texas summers (and it certainly didn’t die). When you say “temperate” climate, I’m assuming you probably mean somewhere even less hot and dry than Texas is, and if so, you’re wrong unless you’ve planted some crazy variety which is super-duper water hungry.

      If you’re saying “temperate” and you mean someplace like Arizona or New Mexico or Death Valley, then you don’t know what temperate means. So either way, you’re wrong. An inch is plenty unless you live in the extreme desert and if you do live in the extreme desert, you shouldn’t be trying to grow grass to begin with.

  15. KeithIrwin says:

    What I really want to know is why isn’t my lawn dying? We’ve been neglecting it for three years now and it keeps thriving and trying to overgrow our other landscaping. I wish this stupid invasive weed would die off.

  16. gabrewer says:

    I got over worrying too much about my lawn early on as a homeowner, as I found that watering — even a little bit — tended to shoot my water bill through the roof. I generally will just do one application of weed-n-feed in the spring but otherwise don’t expend too much time and effort on it. My area has had droughts on and off for many years now, so I tend to cut at a higher height, which does appear to help some. I found that the best thing do with places where grass doesn’t grow is just “go with the flow” — that is put in some type of ground cover or shade tolerant plants that will do better there.

    I’m of the opinion that 90% of a good looking lawn is just keeping it fairly well trimmed and mowed to a reasonable height. That way, even weeds and other trash — at least from a distance — have a nice green, uniform appearance.

  17. Mr. Bill says:

    I love the color brown it means no mowing.

  18. Clevelandchick says:

    Most people cut their law way too short, longer grass shades the roots and new grass, cut it too short and when it gets hot in July/ dry out the soil and burn new grass trying to grow and the roots. You don’t need to buy fertilizer, use a mulching mower and leave the grass clippings where they fall, they feed the soil. And don’t need pesticides, put up a bird feeder..they come for the seed but stay for the juicy grubs and insects in your lawn. Their poop is good fertilizer too.