To say we had the worst yard on the block would be quite accurate. All last summer, this house was vacant and the lawn wasn’t cared for either. We tried our best when we moved in at the tail end of summer/beginning of fall to give it attention and honestly, it was looking alright–but the lack of care last summer must have come back with a vengeance this year. Six weeks ago, our lawn looked like this.
I wanted to cry. I thought we needed to start all over–rip it all out and plant new grass. For a couple weeks, while we were still figuring out our game plan, we just mowed and hoped our neighbors wouldn’t notice. During our research phase, one neighbor did come over and make small chat and eventually asked us to please treat the dandelions because his house was down wind and they were popping up over there. That was six weeks ago. And, hey, we figured it out! Our yard now looks like this:
Here’s the opposite direction six weeks ago:
We’re thrilled with the progress. Before I go into how we got here, I will say, we did use chemicals. I know some people prefer to treat their lawns naturally–but desperate times call for desparate measures, we say. We made sure Charly and Greta steered clear of the treated areas for a few days. Here’s what we did:
1. Kill the dandelions. Because we had so many weeds, we were a bit skeptical about spraying them. I don’t know why, it just didn’t seem like anything short of dousing the hole thing in gasoline and torching it would do the job. And if we did kill the dandelions–would there be any grass left? We picked up a sprayer (one of those backpack ones) and a bottle of concentrated weed killer, and sprayed every single one. The product we used is called Weed Free Zone.
After a couple days, some wilted, but the weeds didn’t really die. They just mutated into these gnarly, super weeds that looked like they were straight out of a scene from The Little Shop of Horrors. We read this could happen and decided to spray them again. It took about a week after that, but the dandelions all shriveled up and began disappearing more and more as we continued mowing the lawn and working on the grass.
2. Replaced and adjusted sprinklers. We had a few sprinklers that weren’t doing their job. For some reason, our yard has the type of sprinklers you see at golf courses – you know, the ones that spray like 20 feet but can’t seem to get the grass immediately surrounding them. So we replaced a couple of those with short-range RainBird heads and it made a huge difference in bringing back to life those that were once dead. The thicker and healthier your grass is, the less weeds will come through. Some people actually recommend spreading grass seed as a way to choke out the weeds, but we opted to try to grow the grass we currently had–just better.
3. Adjusted the watering start time, duration and frequency.Each zone on our lawn was set to water for 10 minutes, every day, right in the middle of the day. The problem with that is the sun is out so it evaporates the water for the first several minutes, so essentially our lawn was receiving hardly any water at all and thus our grass wasn’t getting the nutrients it needed to be strong and healthy. Instead we set each zone to water for 45 minutes every day beginning at 2am. This way the water doesn’t evaporate. We kept it going every day for about 2 weeks, to improve the health of the ground, then decreased the frequency to 3 or 4 times a week, depending on the weather.
4. Adjusted the mower blade height. A lot of people like to cut their grass really short, because it looks nice. And I agree, it does look really nice. The problem with that is moisture can escape from the ground easier. By raising the mower blades a couple clicks so we’re cutting about 2.5 inches, it keeps it looking trim and clean, but is long enough to hold onto the moisture for as long as possible after watering.
5. Weed & Feed. (We used the Ace Brand, but have used Scott’s in the past and it works just the same) This is another chemical, and it was a game changer. We’ve always been leery about it, but after using it on one side of the yard and not the other (to test), we saw a major, major difference. It comes in big 50lb bags, and is just little pellets. So we used our fertilizer spreader and put it all over the yard. It blocks weeds from coming in and really allows the grass to flourish. The Weed & Feed was what really drove the dandelions out completely. They just disappeared into the grass and are no more.
It feels amazing to not be embarrassed of our lawn anymore–to have it on our side instead of what felt like battling it! It’s definitely an ongoing job, but now that things are under control, fertilizing twice a year and keeping up on care should be easy going from here on out. Dandelions. Conquered.