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Late summer tips for sprucing up your lawn

If your grass is looking shabby, a little bit of work now will ensure a thick, lower-maintenance lawn for years to come. In much of the country, the ideal time to renovate your lawn is late August through mid-September, so get cracking.


All the fertilizer in the world won't help your grass if your soil's pH is out of whack. The ideal range for growing turf grass should be between 6.3 and 6.8. While grass will grow in soil that's outside this range, it won't be able to soak up enough nutrients from the soil or fertilizers and will be more susceptible to weeds and disease. Ideally, you should test your soil first so that you know exactly how much lime to apply. Inexpensive test kits can be purchased at garden centers.


Oxygen is imperative for soil health, soil health is necessary for a healthy root system, and you can't have healthy grass without healthy roots. Use a core aerator (a power tool widely available for rent at garden centers) to pull 3-inch-long, ¾-inch-diameter plugs out of the soil. Leave them on the grass, where they'll break down in no time. You also can hire a landscaper to do this for you; it's not an expensive endeavor.


Spread a -inch layer of compost over the entire area. Don't worry if some falls into the aeration holes.


Select the right seed for your site and apply in two directions to ensure adequate coverage. Tall fescue is the most heat and drought tolerant of any of the cool-season grasses so it's ideal for dry sites in full sun. Kentucky bluegrass is another good choice in many regions. For dry shade, use fine fescue as long as it's not a high traffic area. You can combine all three, too.


Give the area a good, deep soaking — just this once — then sprinkle lightly twice a day until new growth is 2 inches high. This is not the time to go away, not even for a weekend. Begin mowing when grass is 4 inches high. Leave clippings on the lawn as a free source of nitrogen.


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