March 20 marks the beginning of spring, and with it, the annual lawn care revamp. Though homeowners often find themselves frustrated as they struggle to maintain a healthy lawn, there are a few simple ways to restore and maintain the health of a yard. To set the foundation for gardening season, consider the following tips.
Avoid overwatering. The tendency to overcompensate for Florida heat leads many homeowners to overwater their lawns without realizing its detrimental effects. Overwatering drowns the plant’s roots, and daily watering fills the porous spaces of soil beneath the grass with water instead of oxygen. If grass produces thatch, fungus or weeds, or if water collects in puddles or runs into the street, the lawn may be overwatered, hindering the growth of healthy and green grass.
Practice “water-wise” landscaping. Water-wise scaping isn’t just best practice for water conservation – proper lawn care includes choosing practical, site-appropriate vegetation and increasing areas of shade, in addition to avoiding the tendency to overwater. Opt for “groundcover” plants like holly ferns, creeping perennials and clover, or trees such as crapemyrtle and shumard oaks that provide shade for grass and flowers, reduce the tendency to overwater lawns and act as accents that aren’t out of place. It’s also best to choose vegetation native to the area, as exotic plants require a great deal more upkeep to survive in non-native climates.
Set the soil. Testing and making appropriate adjustments to the pH balance of a lawn’s soil can greatly impact the health of the plants that grow there. Soil that is too acidic or too alkaline will keep plants from absorbing key nutrients, effectively blocking the growth of healthy grass and gardens. The sweet spot for most lawns is around 6.5 on a pH scale of 0-14. Soil can be tested with small meters or test kits available at home improvement stores. For soil too acidic (with a pH balance between 0 and 6), sprinkle pellet-sized limestone or wood ash over soil and mix. For alkaline soil, sulfur, mulch and compost or acidifying fertilizers containing ammonia. Ask a lawn care specialist which mix is best.
Call a professional. When considering more specialized lawn or yard work, such as installing pavers, custom concrete curbing, or any other project requiring the use of heavy equipment or machinery, hire a professional. Jeremy Mann, owner of Jacksonville-based Infinity Curbing and Landscapes, urges homeowners to opt for materials that withstand the test of time in addition to average wear and tear, especially for seniors aging in place. “Always go for more durable materials like solid concrete,” he said. “Wood rots and metal rusts, so it’s best to choose things that will last.” Additionally, Mann said consumers should always leave work best done by a professional to someone who specializes in each area of landscaping. “It’s a highly specialized, niche-type service,” he said. “It can get costly to buy the materials, rent the equipment and end up causing damage to your lawn or home.”