For many people, a well-kept lawn is a source of great pride and satisfaction. However, maintaining a weed-free, lush lawn also can be a great deal of work unless you practice a few guidelines on a regular basis. Even if the blades on your lawn are a bit thin right now and/or the weeds are competing with the grass, with a little patience and dedication, you can revive your lawn naturally without the need for toxic herbicides and fertilizers.
How to get thicker grass
If you follow these suggestions, you can expect to see a more lush lawn beginning in a few months, depending on which part of the year you begin and where you live.
In the fall, aerate your lawn
Buy or borrow a hand-held core aerator. Before you set out on your mission, water your lawn thoroughly. Take the aerator and remove plugs from your lawn. This task increases the amount of oxygen as well as water and nutrients that reach the roots.
Apply grass seed
Purchase grass seed that is the same variety as the one already in your yard. If you are unsure, check with a lawn expert or your local agricultural cooperative. Apply the seed over your entire lawn and water thoroughly. If you are starting a lawn, be sure to choose a grass that is suitable for your climate that doesn’t need a lot of water.
Remove thatch regularly
An accumulation of thatch (dead grass, stems, and roots) can choke out healthy grass. If you have a small lawn, a hand thatch rake can do the trick. Otherwise, there are power rakes available.
Water is a precious commodity, so be conservative. Monitor the amount of water you are applying to your lawn. Too little will result in dead grass and thinning areas, while too much is a killer as well. Water early in the morning and never during the heat of the day. A general recommendation is to water at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week and to water deeply 2 to 3 times weekly and not daily. How do you know if you have watered enough? If you can’t push a 6-inch screwdriver into your lawn, you need more water.
It’s tempting to cut your grass real short so you won’t have to mow it as often, but short grass blades are vulnerable to insects, the weather, and a lack of sufficient nutrients. A general rule is to never cut more than one-third the length of the grass blades. For example, if your lawnmower is set at 2 inches, mow your grass when it reaches 3 inches or less.
Also practice grasscycling, in which you scatter your grass clippings back on your lawn. This will promote a thicker lawn by helping keep the moisture in the soil.
Apply lawn fertilizer regularly
Choose a fertilizer that is appropriate for the type of grass in your lawn. Generally it is best to fertilize more heavily in the spring and fall and less in the summer. You should fertilize the day after you have done a deep watering. Check with a lawn expert to determine the best fertilizer for your grass type and region. Use a broadcast spreader to fertilize and then water the lawn lightly to rinse off the blades.
How to get a weed-free lawn
Ridding your lawn of weeds doesn’t have to involve any type of toxic herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. Instead, you can eliminate them while also avoiding polluting the groundwater and surface water by trying any one or more of the following suggestions on how to get a weed-free lawn. Even though these are natural methods, they may still have a negative impact on adjacent grass (except for the first suggestion), so be sure to focus your efforts on the weeds and avoid the grass as much as possible.
If the weed situation is not too overwhelming, a great way to eliminate the pests is to pull them out by the roots. Use a weed hand tool and, if possible, get the entire family involved in the project!
Add boiling water
Killing unwanted weeds can be as simple as boiling water. Apply the boiling water to the stems and leaves of the offensive plants. This approach is best for weeds that are growing through cracks in the sidewalk or driveway, or a large area that you plan to replant once you have eliminated the weeds. If you use boiling water in your garden, be very careful to avoid your flowers and produce.
A solution containing common table salt, when applied to the leaves of weeds, can be very effective. The recipe calls for 1 part salt to 3 to 8 parts water (depending on how strong you want to make it) plus a teaspoon or so of liquid dish soap. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution. The secret is to avoid getting the solution into the soil (or just a minimal amount). You can tie back plants that may be around the offensive weeds so you can focus the application process. You may need to reapply the salt mixture after several days or especially after it rains.
A two-inch layer of mulch is a great way to keep away weeds in your garden (but obviously not a plan for your lawn). In fact, mulch will quickly kill your grass if you don’t keep it contained.
This suggestion obviously isn’t for everyone, but if you have been thinking about getting a pet (and your area allows for it), you might consider getting a goat or two. Goats not only feast on weeds; they also help aerate the soil with their hooves. Extra bonus: goat milk and cheese!
Douse with vinegar
You can use simple white vinegar (about 5% acetic acid), which should kill most weeds, or opt for the stronger (20% acetic acid) agricultural strength. This latter form can damage your skin and lungs, so wear gloves and avoid inhaling the fumes. You can apply either of the vinegars full strength directly on the leaves of weeds using a spray bottle. Avoid spraying on your grass or garden plants. You may improve the effectiveness of this method if you add a small amount of liquid dish detergent to the vinegar. Reapply the vinegar as needed, and especially after rain.
Use combo power
If one natural herbicide is good, why not two together? A mixture of 1 gallon of vinegar and 1 cup salt, with a little liquid dish soap if desired, can work wonders. Again, use a spray bottle and focus your spray.
Bring on the borax
This basic cleaning product can help clean out weeds from your yard. Combine 2.5 gallons of water and 10 ounces of powdered borax in a large spray container. In addition to keeping overspray away from your other plants, avoid contact with your skin.
One man’s weed is another man’s dinner. Many weeds are edible, including dandelions, chicory, and dock, and some are also medicinal. You might contact your local agricultural cooperative and explore which weeds are safe to harvest and consume in your area. Once you pick them, you can enjoy them in salads, omelettes, stir fry, or perhaps even smoothies.
Green Grass. How to water your lawn.
Markham D. 6 homemade herbicides: kill the weeds without killing the earth. TreeHugger 2014 July 15
Picard C, Yeager J. 13 homemade weed killers that work. Good Housekeeping 2017 April 28
SFGate. How to make your lawn thick and weedless.
SFGate. How to get a thin lawn thicker.