How you can accidentally harm your lawn

Not everyone tries to keep their lawn looking like a golf course, but few homeowners will actively try to destroy their grass. Yet a few bad habits can cause you to inadvertently harm your lawn.

It's helpful to know exactly what type of grass you have. Paul Tukey, writing for the advice publication Bottom Line, says different types of grasses will have different care needs. They'll also grow at different rates, so it can be difficult to keep a uniform grass height while mowing.

Bringing a sample to a garden center or other lawn care professional can help you identify the grass in your yard. Midwest Equity Mortgage, a company based in Oak Brook, Ill., says your lawn may consist of a couple of different grasses that work well together.

Watering your lawn can help it thrive, but you should be careful not to give it too much water or too little. Lawns generally need one to two inches of water per week. Natural rainfall may provide enough moisture during certain weeks, and you can use a hose or irrigation system to provide the difference during dry periods. It is also generally helpful to give the soil time to dry before the next watering so the grass develops strong roots.

Grass will appear brown and brittle when it doesn't receive enough water. Scott Sowers, writing for the National Association of Realtors' home improvement site HouseLogic, says you can use a shovel to check the soil at a depth of six inches after every 15 minutes of watering. This process can help you determine how long you should water the lawn to provide adequate moisture to the roots.

Too much water will cause the grass roots to become too weak and shallow, and can also make it more vulnerable during dry periods. The Experienced Gardener, a lawn care company in Visalia, Calif., says overwatering will fill porous spaces in the soil which would otherwise provide a needed source of oxygen for the grass. Tukey says daily watering can also wash fertilizer away from your lawn.

Soil moisture meters provide an easy way for you to check whether your lawn needs more water. Some irrigation systems will also come with sensors to provide water only when soil conditions require it.

Be judicious when applying fertilizer. Sowers says you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions, including using no more than the recommended amount of fertilizer. Applying too much fertilizer or concentrating it in certain areas can burn the lawn, resulting in bare spots or discoloration.

Similarly, weed killer is best used for spot killing unwanted plants instead of wider distribution. Using this spray too liberally can destroy your grass along with the dandelion and clover.

Leaving the weeds alone can also be harmful, though. The Experienced Gardener notes how any weeds in the lawn will be competing with your grass for available nutrients and moisture, increasing the possibility that nearby grass may die off.

The lawn should be mowed at least once a week. Tukey says taller blades of grass can shade shorter ones, depriving them of the sunlight they need to thrive. Mowing the lawn twice a week can yield even better results.

Don't cut off more than one-third of the grass height in a single mowing. Trimming the blades lower than two-and-a-half to three inches can make it harder for grass to collect energy from the sunlight, resulting in discoloration.

Many homeowners are used to bagging grass clippings, but it is easier and more beneficial to leave the clippings on the lawn. Once they are chopped small enough, clippings can provide nutrients to your lawn to keep it looking fresh. Make sure you have a mulching mower for this purpose.

Sharpen the lawn mower's blades at least once a year. If the blades are too dull, they can rip the grass instead of cutting it. Torn grass is more likely to be damaged by drought or disease.

Switch up your mowing pattern each week. Midwest Equity Mortgage notes how you'll wear ruts into the lawn if you follow the same path over and over again.

If you walk your dog in the lawn, be careful about where you allow the pooch to urinate. Sowers says you'll ideally be able to train your dog to relieve itself in an area without grass, since the pet's urine can damage grass and plants.

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