Five tips for creating a stadium-style lawn in your own backyard

Chicago Home Inspection, Home Inspector Chicago With summer on the horizon, families will be heading to backyards across the country for picnics, sports games and to simply soak up the sun. A lush green lawn is the perfect setting for these activities and will be the envy of the neighborhood. How does one achieve that well-manicured, stadium-style lawn?
Many homeowners think a professional-looking lawn requires a stringent water and fertilizer regimen. While both water and fertilizer play their part, neither is the stand-alone key to a perfect lawn. The following five tips offer homeowners simple solutions to achieving a great yard.

* Know your region. Grass seed is not one size fits all. Select the right grass seed or sod based on where you live. It’s also important to consider how you plan to use your lawn. Do you have children and pets that will be playing on it regularly, or will the purpose be primarily curb appeal? To determine the right grass, talk to your local garden center or contact the turf grass specialist at your state agriculture school.

* Only feed as needed. According to Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers, many homeowners over water their lawns, which does more harm than good. A simple trick to determine whether your lawn needs watering is to stick a screwdriver into the grass. If it enters the dirt easily, your lawn has plenty of water already. If you have trouble getting the screwdriver into the ground, it is time to give the grass a drink. It is also recommended to fertilize your lawn at least once a year. However, putting your lawn on a quarterly schedule will help achieve optimal health.

* Break out the ruler. The maintenance crews for professional sports fields are meticulous about the height of their grass because it ensures a uniform look. Grass Seed USA recommends maintaining a lawn height of about 2 inches. It’s important not to cut more than one-third of the grass height at a time to minimize damage, so aim to mow when your lawn is about 3 inches in height.

* Arm yourself with the right tools. The proper equipment can take a lawn from looking well-manicured to professional. When selecting a mower, don’t jump straight to those that pick up the grass clippings. Allowing the clippings to decompose in the lawn will add to the overall health of your yard, and when you mow often, the shavings are small and less noticeable. Adding an edger to your arsenal is another great trick for cleaning up the lines and defining your yard.

* Replenish as necessary. Grass is a natural carpet that cleans and repairs itself. It’s equipped to withstand a number of elements yet is impacted over time. If you’ve noticed that your lawn is sparse in areas, or not as full and lush as you’d like, it may be time to add more seed. The best time to plant new seed is in the fall when the temperatures are more temperate. But reseeding may be done throughout the year. The important thing is to avoid drastic temperature changes and water regularly, yet moderately, to give the seed time to absorb moisture and build roots.

Growing and maintaining a lush green lawn doesn’t have to come with a backache. Basic planning and these five quick tips will have you well on your way to a backyard prime for the summer season.

How To Protect Your Landscaping During The Snow Season

You work hard on your lawn and landscaping during the spring and summer. Now it’s fall, and time to get ready for winter. You know the drill – move houseplants indoors, make sure your plants are well-watered before the ground freezes, clean up the beds and remove annuals, cut back perennials, put down mulch.

But when winter actually gets here, what can you do to keep your landscaping healthy and attractive when the wind is howling, the ground is frozen, and snow and ice blanket your lawn and garden?

While natural snowfall or windblown snow seldom harm plants, Jamie Hancock with the Kansas State Research and Extension service notes that damage can occur when snow is dumped on plants by snow plows or shovels as walks and pathways are cleared. Cleared snow is generally heavier because it’s compacted, and that can mean damage to small branches and plants.

Another tip from the experts is to clear sidewalks with a deicing product that is friendly to your plants, such as one of the newer deicing products that contain magnesium chloride. A naturally occurring mineral, magnesium chloride melts ice in temperatures as low as minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and remains effective longer than many other ice melters, so it can keep walks safe even in extreme circumstances.

According to Jerry Poe, an expert in magnesium chloride and other salts, magnesium chloride is a superior ice melter and provides additional benefits to plants. Poe is director of research and development for North American Salt Company, which offers a pure magnesium chloride ice melter, Safe Step Extreme 8300. It is available at most hardware stores.

“Magnesium is a necessary nutrient, and magnesium chloride is used in agriculture – for example, in wheat farming – to provide necessary levels for complete plant nutrition,” Poe says. “So using magnesium chloride deicers to clear your walks in winter protects your plants and helps to fertilize them year round.”

And because magnesium chloride’s low melting temperature helps minimize the number of freeze/thaw cycles, it is friendly to concrete – a great feature if your landscaping includes decorative walkways or pavers. “Freeze/thaw cycles are the cause of concrete damage,” Poe says. “When ice melts, the resulting liquid works its way into cracks in the concrete. When the liquid refreezes, it expands and causes further cracking or spalling.”

To further reduce the possibility of damage, Poe recommends removing the slush and brine that results from using an ice melt product before it has a chance to refreeze.

One final thought for those days when snow blankets your landscaping: Snow can be your friend. Snow on the ground helps protect roots by insulating them from extreme cold, according to the University of Vermont Extension service. And it’s a self-regulating source of water; plants need water in the winter, and snow on the ground automatically provides moisture when there’s a thaw, even if temperatures get barely above freezing.

So, for the homeowner, the bottom line is this: Don’t throw heavy snow on delicate plants, and when you buy an ice melter, choose a product with magnesium chloride that can keep your walks clear while protecting your plants and landscaping.