Take care of your lawn
Before firing up the mower, keep these tips in mind.
By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If long summer days have you dreaming of a lush rolling lawn, 5 Tips is going to tell you what you need to know to keep your grass growing gorgeously.

1: Get the forecast

It's not going to be a good lawn season for most parts of the country, according to meterologist Gerald Mohler. From the Plains States down toward Texas and the Southwest, there will be dryer than expected weather.

In fact, some parts of the Southwest have conditions bordering on draught. But, if you live in the Great Lake States, like Wisconsin, Michigan or Western Virginia and North Carolina, you'll be seeing more rain than usual.

2: Be sprinkler savvy

One of the most common mistakes people make is over-watering, according to Peter Sawchuk of "Consumer Reports." You need to water your lawn 3 times a week. All you need is an inch of water. That's about 20 minutes for most folks.

If you want to make sure you've watered your lawn the right amount, put a few empty tuna fish cans around your lawn when your sprinkler is on and make sure the tins aren't overflowing.

You also want to water early in the morning rather than late at night. "If you water your lawn at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., water sits overnight and that promotes fungus and mold," says Sawchuk. And not only is fungus devastating to your grass, but it can spread to other lawns very easily.

3: Curb your mowing instincts

Don't cut your grass too short. Don't take off more than one-third of the grass blade's height at once. You want your grass to be 2 .5 to 3.5 inches high. Taking off too much grass makes roots more vulnerable to the sun.

And when it's really hot out, you want to leave the grass at least a half an inch higher so that the higher grass shades the roots even more.

Of course your mower blade should be sharpened to avoid shredding the ends of the grass blades.

4: Get plain vanilla fertilizer

When you're deciding what fertilizer to pick up, go for the generic brand. There is little difference between brands. Some fertilizers come with crabgrass, weed or bug killers in them. But according to Sawchuk, you're better off getting those pest repellents separately in the form of a spray or a granular. You'll also be saving yourself about $15.

Plus, if you buy fertilizer with crab grass and weed killer, you won't be able to plant any grass seed down during the season, since the chemicals will attack any new grass growth.

5: Other lawn tonics

Theories and myths have long been a part of the lawn-care tradition. But here are some mixtures that may just hold their weight.

Had a big barbeque the night before with a lot of left over beer? Put it to work. The nutrients in beer may nourish your lawn, says Sawchuk.

To make your fertilizer last longer, add some Epsom salts to the mixture, recommends Sawchuk.

And if you're looking for a natural bug deterrent, get some tobacco and mix it with water to distribute on your lawn.


Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send e-mails to 5tips@cnn.com or click here - each week, we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.  Top of page

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