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Lawns. The Basics

The real keys to maintaining a nice lawn are making sure it's well fed, watered correctly and weed free. If you fertilize regularly and keep an eye out for disease, dryness or other problems, you can do it without working on it every day. A few laps with the spreader, weed sprayer and some irrigation are all it takes. 

As far as fertilization, the more you do it, the greener your grass will be. However, that means it will also grow faster and stronger, making it a little more work. There are some ways to maximize your fertilization. First, don't fall behind. A lawn that's underfed is prone to disease and other distress. Most turf responds well if fertilized every six to eight weeks. You can certainly fertilize every three of four weeks, but your lawn will demand more water and maintenance. Also, be careful not to overdo it. Too much fertilizer can burn your lawn. Follow directions for the fertilizer you're using. 

Use the weather to your advantage. If you usually get a month or two of solid rain, it's not a good time to fertilize. Wait until it's not such a chore to mow the wet grass. Your lawn will need water with its fertilizer, though. How would you like to sit down to a rich meal and have nothing to drink? 

When it comes to watering the lawn, there are a few basic rules: water in the early morning or at night when the water won't evaporate; give a good soaking and try to break up watering times. Instead of over-soaking a lawn and watering the street and the sidewalk, two waterings with the same amount of water would be better. Irrigation systems that use spray heads should run 7-10 minutes twice a day on turf in usual, dry weather. Rotary heads should be run for 20-30 minutes. These times are just guidelines as you must monitor what areas need more or less water. If you're hand watering, keep the same things in mind: a good, even soaking a couple of times a day. This routine is required every two to three days, depending on weather. 

Controlling weeds can be accomplished by a number of means. Nothing beats good old-fashioned hands and knees weeding, but it's not always practical. An easy alternative is spot spraying a selective herbicide. It will kill the weeds, spare the grass and it's available at most lawn care and hardware stores. Another method is to use a weed-and-feed combination that fertilizes the lawn and kills and prevents weeds. 

With less light in the winter, a lawn needs less fertilizer and less food. One or two fertilizations during the winter should suffice. There's also no need for irrigation when it's raining, the days and nights are cooler and the sun's a little more scarce. 

There's nothing wrong with letting a lawn go dormant by not watering it. It's a more Earth-friendly approach and your lawn will be as green as ever when it gets wet again. Wait until it starts growing back on its own before jumpstarting it with fertilizer. 

Keeping a nice lawn is also a matter of getting to know it. After a year or two of seeing what areas need water, don't get light, etc., you'll know exactly how to keep it green.