To put it bluntly, the best way to reduce your lawn maintenance chores is to modify your ideas about what makes a good lawn: if you’re absolutely set on a plush, dark green carpet that’s completely free of weeds, insects, and disease, there aren’t many shortcuts. But if you don’t mind living with the occasional dandelion, bare spot, or Japanese beetle, you can get by on a slim lawn-care workload.
That being said, there are 10 concrete things you can do to reduce the time you spend on lawn maintenance:
1. Monitor pH: Get your soil tested, and adjust the pH so that it’s slightly acidic (a pH of 6.0 to 7.0).
2. Aerate: Aerate the soil once a year with a rented power aerator.
3. Dethatch: Dethatch your lawn once a year with a rented power dethatcher.
4. Fertilize annually: Fertilize only once a year, based on your soil test recommendations. Buy a complete fertilizer that has nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) in the percentages you need. Choose a water-insoluble fertilizer because of its slow- release characteristics.
5. Water only when necessary: Water your lawn only when it needs it. If you walk on the grass and the blades don’t spring back, the lawn needs watering. A good rule of thumb is 1″ of water a week during dry spells. Water in the morning while the dew is still on the grass.
6. Mow high: Cut the grass high with a sharp mower blade. For most grasses, high is considered to be 3″.
7. Leave grass clippings after you mow: Leave your grass clippings on the lawn, do not collect and remove them. These clippings do not promote thatch but do act as a thin mulch to keep moisture in the soil. And once they decompose, they work as a high-nitrogen content fertilizer.
8. Stop fighting pests: Decide that lawn pests aren’t worth fighting. If you improve your soil and the health of your lawn, harmful pests will start to disappear without you lifting a hand.
9. Reduce the size of your lawn: Consider replacing some sections of grass with ground covers (such as English ivy) or ornamental grasses (such as fountain grass). Neither of these plant types responds well to wear, but they’re good alternatives for no-traffic areas. Just be sure to select the plants carefully: you have to match the plants to your property’s soil, climate, and amount of sun and shade as well as the amount of care the plants require.
10. Use a rain gauge: Take into consideration the amount of rainfall your lawn receives so you won’t overwater it. Place a rain gauge in an open area to measure how much rain you get each week.