A thicker, healthier and lush lawn really stands out in a neighborhood. In fact, achieving a thick, healthy lawn isn’t all that difficult—a few maintenance alterations can easily lead to a beautiful home landscape. The first step you have to take is finding out why your lawn isn’t as thick as it could be. If you have a thin lawn, there’s usually a reason why. These reasons can vary depending on climate, environment and other issues home lawns may be encountering. Perhaps your lawn isn’t necessarily thin, but it could still be thicker than it is at present. In either scenario, Sod University puts together a list of tips that will help your lawn thrive to its full potential.
Manage Your Soil Properly
Believe it or not, managing your soil’s overall health can make a really significant change in your turfgrass’s appearance. Your grass’s health largely depends on the soil in which it grows in. Working from the bottom up is a great way to ensure total success in a lawn’s health. Start by collecting and submitting a soil analysis to see the exact amount of nutrients that are currently in your lawn as well as which particular nutrients your soil really needs. A soil analysis will also inform you of your soil’s pH balance. To read more about soil management and soil types, read Soil Management for Lawns and Gardens.
All plants need nutrients to survive and flourish—including your lawn! A regular fertilizer regimen throughout the active growing seasons for both warm and cool season grasses really contributes to your grass’s performance. Sod University recommends the Lawnifi® fertilizer program and Lawnifi Foundation. Lawnifi is a fertilizer powered by Catalyst TechnologyTM that nano-sizes the nutrients. Nano-sizing your fertilizer makes the nutrients readily available to your lawn so that grass and other plants don’t have to waste energy breaking them down before absorption.
Your lawn’s nutritional needs also vary by each season as temperatures and soil conditions change. The Lawnifi liquid fertilizer program is broken down into three fertilizer boxes for each of the active growing seasons: spring, summer and fall. Each seasonal box contains three bottles of liquid fertilizer to spray on your lawn. Sod University has a few related articles for more information on Lawnifi including Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?, Get Your Lawn Drinking Its Nutrients and Lawnifi’s Most FAQs.
On average, most warm and cool season lawns need about one inch of water per week including rainfall during the active growing season. Like all living things, lawns have to have water so that they don’t experience drought. However, overwatering can often lead to disease. It can be a little difficult to know how much water your lawn is receiving when you are watering it with a hose or a sprinkler. Conducting an irrigation audit is an inexpensive, helpful way to measure how much water your lawn is receiving. It will also help you determine which parts of your lawn are receiving water in comparison to other parts of your lawn. For more information on lawn irrigation, click here.
As mentioned in our Lawn Mowing Guide, regular mowing with a reel or rotary lawn mower promotes vertical growth and lateral density. This contributes to a thicker, fuller lawn. Each grass type requires a different mowing height depending on its growing pattern. For example, St. Augustine is usually mowed around two to four inches in height whereas zoysia is usually mowed around 0.5–1.5 inches in height. These heights can vary depending on the specific cultivar of zoysia, St. Augustine or other grass you have. Palmetto® St. Augustine, for example, should be mowed at 1.5–2.5 inches and EMPIRE® Zoysia performs better at a mowing height of one to two inches. Mowing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade off of your grass will cause unnecessary stress and may result in thin areas of your lawn.
Aerating your lawn can seem like a big project, but it is actually more important and less daunting than you think. Aerating will make a huge difference in your lawn’s density. Aeration is especially valuable in those places with hard, compacted or heavy clay soil types. These kinds of soils often prevent the proper amount of nutrients, water and oxygen from getting down to the roots where they are needed most. Aeration helps break up those soils, penetrating down to a level where those beneficial plant growth supplements and H2O can work at increased efficiency. If you have a highly trafficked lawn thanks to kids or pets or see water standing for long periods of time in areas of your lawn, aeration is for you. Learn more in Does Your Lawn Need Aeration?.
Overseed or Plant Grass Plugs
A good way to help your lawn develop a dense, thick carpet over your soil is by helping it fill in by overseeding or planting grass plugs in the bare spots. The grass plugs or grass seed will begin to fill in these bare areas over time and connect with your already established sod so that it forms one unified canopy. Overseeding or planting grass plugs is also an inexpensive method that doesn’t take up much time or effort. Learn more in our Grass Seed Planting Guide or our Grass Plugs Installation Guide.
Lawnifi Santee Centipede Seed$77.95 – $749.95
EMPIRE® Zoysia Grass Plugs$64.99
64 Pack Palmetto® St. Augustine SodPods™ – Covers 80 Square Feet$109.95
If your lawn is thin in areas that don’t receive a lot of sunlight, it may be because of a shade problem. When your grass doesn’t receive sunlight, it doesn’t photosynthesize properly and could result in thin, bare areas. The three major factors to consider when managing shady landscapes are 1) the kind of shade challenge the lawn is facing, 2) the shade tolerant grass options available in the region and 3) fungal disease in shady landscapes. Managing filtered sunlight caused by trees, for example, is easier than managing zero sunlight caused by a building or other large, permanent object. You can always thin or remove trees or tree limbs whereas building cannot be altered. Check out our blog on Choosing the Right Grass for Shade to find out which grass varieties perform best in shade. You can then use grass plugs to test for shade tolerance in your lawn and let them grow in the shady, bare areas.
Prevent and Control Weeds
When you have weeds, they will compete with your grass for sunlight and nutrients. They also take up space in your lawn. When you have a thick, lush lawn, it becomes easier for your grass to outcompete weeds. Preventing and controlling weeds will help your lawn become more thick and robust. Weeds are more likely to sprout up in bare or thin spots of your lawn, so choking them out with grass, seed or grass plugs is recommended. This prevents more weeds from spreading. The thicker your lawn’s canopy, the less likely weeds will be capable of growing.
Frequent mowing, hand picking weeds and the use of herbicides will help you decrease the amount of weeds your lawn will experience. It should be noted that a pre-emergent herbicide is used preventatively to keep weeds from popping up in the first place. A post-emergent herbicide is used after a weed has already established itself in your lawn. Learn more in our Weed Control in Your Lawn & Garden blog.
Prevent and Treat Disease
Another issue that may damage your lawn and impact its density is turfgrass disease. Disease loves wet areas that may be caused by overwatering or shady areas that don’t receive a lot of sunlight. For fungus to spread and be present, there needs to be three main factors:
a) a host, living or dead organic matter (thatch and leaves),
b) the right environmental conditions, such as shaded, moist areas to grow in,
c) and the pathogen.
These three factors are also known as the disease triangle. All three must be present for the fungus to grow and spread. If a fungus is present in your lawn, it will present itself in circular or irregular patterns of damage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, preventive application rates are significantly less than curative application rates for lawn disease. Since you will apply more fungicide at a curative application rate, you will also spend more money. If you play it safe and apply fungicide at preventive rates, the likelihood of experiencing lawn disease in the first place is less—plus, you apply at smaller application rates and therefore save more money. Learn more in our Lawn Disease Control blog.
Prevent and Control Insects
Similarly to weeds and lawn disease, preventing or controlling lawn insects will keep damage from occuring so that your lawn doesn’t have to work as hard to repair itself and grow over damaged, bare areas. Insects like chinch bugs, sod webworms, fall armyworms or grub worms love to eat grass and grass roots. Overtime, this can cause significant damage and result in bare, patchy spots of your lawn. Applying a broad-spectrum insecticide helps keeps insects away. If you’ve noticed insects in your lawn already, find out which kind of insect you are seeing and treat it with a broad-spectrum insecticide labeled to treat that specific insect. Learn more in our Insect Identification blog.