Looking for tips on how to improve your lawn? Yes, we know, if you look up DIY tips for how to improve your lawn, everyone is already telling you to aerate and fertilize (great advice – but you’ve already heard it). Likewise, if you search for small backyard landscaping ideas, you’ll find one thousand pages on building a fire pit. We’re not here to give you more of the same. Instead, here are a few ideas you might not have thought of that can greatly improve your lawn.
As we mentioned above, you’ve likely already been told to aerate and fertilize. But did you know you probably need to stop cutting your grass so short? The roots of a grass plant tend to grow about as deep as the blades are high. So, in order to maintain a healthy root system, simply raise your lawn mower’s cutting height. Make sure not mow your lawn shorter than about 2 inches, and for even more drought resistance (and to help shade out weed seeds), consider raising your mower even higher. The longer grass length and corresponding root depth make for a lawn that can resist heat and drought.
Different grass species have different optimum cutting heights, but 2 - 2.5” is within the recommended range for nearly all of them. (Tall Fescue and St. Augustine even recommend up to 3” cutting heights.) Bermuda and Zoysia are the only exceptions, with a recommended max 1” cutting height.
Water Less Frequently
Turning your sprinkler on for a few minutes, a few days a week, actually doesn’t do much to improve your lawn. To create a better, healthier lawn, learn to water your grass more thoroughly, less often. By watering less frequently, and more deeply, you encourage the roots of your grass to grow deeper into the soil. The result is healthier grass that will stay green, even during periods of extreme heat or drought.
To be fair, it’s also important to not over-water your grass. This is not a “set it and forget it” situation. Experts generally recommend that you water your grass with 1 inch of water, once a week. (Your soil type, grass species, and local climate will impact this, but it’s a good starting point.) A simple way to check how much you’re watering is to place several shallow containers throughout your yard while running your sprinklers, note how long it takes for an inch of water to collect in most of the containers. (This can also help you see if your sprinkler setup is covering your grass evenly. If the amount of water in the containers is wildly inconsistent – or even empty in some places – it’s time to adjust the sprinkler setup.)
If dead, or crowded, tree limbs are within reach of a pole saw (with your feet on the ground!), go ahead and remove them. This is good tree maintenance, and it does wonders for your yard’s aesthetic. (Always remember to protect your head and eyes from other branches that may be a falling hazard.) NEVER use a ladder for DIY tree or limb removal. If you can’t reach it with your pole saw while your feet are planted firmly on the ground, then it’s time to call in a pro.
Fresh mulch makes an immediate visual impact in your front, or backyard, landscaping – but mulch does much more than just look nice. Mulch prevents weeds, retains moisture, and insulates the soil from extreme heat and cold. These are all great reasons to use mulch in your flowerbeds and around young trees. And with liberal use of an edge trimmer, it will give your lawn a tidy feel.
Mulch packs a big punch for a very small investment. Many communities offer free mulch to local residents, or you can even make your own. After dead wooding your tree limbs, use a wood chipper to turn small branches and twigs into your own garden mulch!
Whether you need low maintenance front yard landscaping or small backyard landscaping ideas, you can always create greater visual impact by using a variety of textures and heights. Don’t overthink it, simply layer plant heights with big plants in the back and small in front. Incorporate different textures by layering flowers with low-growing ground cover or greenery. Remember that edging with a good string trimmer is key, especially for small front lawns or small backyard landscaping, it helps keep lines crisp and tidy.
If you have a small yard, you likely have close neighbors. Consider adding privacy by defining your space using small trees or shrubs. In addition to privacy, incorporating hedges into your landscape creates a manicured look, that provides both structure and coziness – think English cottage garden vibes. (You may be surprised to see sculpted shrubs as a low-maintenance idea for how to improve your lawn, but hedge trimmers can easily keep shrubs like boxwood or juniper looking great with just an occasional trim.)
DIY home and lawn improvement doesn’t have to be complicated. Hopefully one of these ideas, along with the right tools, will have you well on your way to the lawn of your dreams.