Follow these steps and your grass will always stay green and thick!
There’s nothing better than a lush, green lawn—especially when you’re equipped with the know-how for how to get it there.
We’re happy to let you in on a few secrets for how to make your grass green. It starts with knowing your grass, but continues with using fertilizer and addressing any damage as it comes.
We spoke to our landscaping pros who have combined over 50 years of keeping grass looking green and healthy and they boiled everything down to 4 essential points that we unpack in this article.
1. Know Your Grass (and How to Support It)
Different kinds of grass
For most of us grass is just, well… grass. But it’s important to realize that there are around a dozen different types of turf grasses —and what you’re looking at in your backyard might actually be a combination of two (or more) types of grass.
Best grasses for different climates
Turf grass generally falls into two distinct categories: grasses that do well in warm climates (like the southern and southeast regions of the U.S.), as well as grasses that are better suited for areas of the country that experience winter and significant seasonal temperature fluctuations (the north, northeast, most of the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest).
Here are a few types of those grasses :
Warm Season Grasses:
These grow best in midsummer temperatures that reach 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit (will generally turn brown when temperatures drop below 55 degrees).
- Bahiagrass Pensacola
- Bahiagrass Argentine
- St. Augustine
Cool Season Grasses:
These flourish in temperatures around 65 to 80 degrees and peak growth normally takes place in early spring and fall.
- Tall Fescue
- Creeping Red Fescue
- Ryegrass (Annual)
- Ryegrass (Perennial)
Transition Zone: For those of us who live in the middle ground between the north and the south, we may be able to grow either type of grass, but there are some that do better than others :
Winter-Hardy Warm Season Grasses:
Drought-Tolerant Cool Season Grasses:
So, where does that leave us in South Shore Massachusetts? Well, if you remember from our blog about hardiness zones, South Shore MA is in hardiness zone 6b. This means that the warm season grasses are generally out, but we still have several of the cool season grasses to work with.
Here are a few that we’d recommend :
- Kentucky Bluegrass (dark green color, fine-to-medium leaf texture)
- Perennial Ryegrass (medium leaf texture, dark green color, germinates and establishes quickly)
- Tall Fescues (fine texture, dark green color, heat and drought tolerant)
- Fine Fescues, like creeping red fescue, chewings fescue, and hard fescue (narrow leaf texture, medium green color, ideal for low-maintenance situations)
Other kinds of grass that grow in Massachusetts
Because we live in a coastal region, there are also several other grasses that grow in our area . In fact, many coastal grasses are absolutely essential for preventing dune erosion and supporting unique ecosystems.
While you likely won’t find these in your lawn, you can expect to see these types of grass in Massachusetts:
- American beachgrass
- American dunegrass
- Big bluestem
- Coastal panic grass
- Indian grass
- Little bluestem
- Poverty dropseed
- Purple lovegrass
- Saltmarsh cordgrass
- Saltmeadow cordgrass
- Wavy hairgrass
How to select grass?
Beyond selecting a grass that will grow well giving your climatic conditions, there are some other things to consider like pH, fertility, soil moisture, and environmental stresses.
Some grasses will be more shade tolerant than others (like fine and tall fescues), while others are better at forming sod (like Kentucky bluegrass). Additionally, some grasses are better suited for very specific activities—like bentgrass being used for a putting green or a croquet court.
When to plant grass can be found in our gardening guide!
What are some grass growing tips?
- Use a mix or blend of different species of grasses. Using a seed mix (made up of two or more types of grass) will help your lawn better adapt to the conditions of your site (i.e. sun, moisture, etc.).
- Most grasses require around four hours of daily direct sunlight to thrive. If you have an area of lawn that won’t get that, use a species that can handle dappled light (fine and tall fescues).
- Sowing seeds is easier with a spreader (it ensures uniform growth).
- When it comes to reseeding, cool-season grasses will do better in the late summer or fall.
- Be careful to not over-mow or over-water your lawn.
How to deal with grass in summer heat?
The dog days of summer are a constant worry for homeowners, as just a few days without rain can really impact a once-lush lawn. Then there’s the heat to contend with!
We can’t give you any tips for how to stay cool yourself in the summer heat, but we can provide some recommendations to help support your grass:
- Use appropriate mowing techniques. Longer grass will help to shade the roots and prevent any harmful exposure to the sun. This will also help the roots of the grass grow deeper, thus outcompeting weeds and creating a denser turf. That said, use a blade height of about four inches in summer, mow less frequently, and mow earlier in the day.
- Avoid watering in the heat of the day, choose early morning or late evening instead. Keep in mind that your lawn will need about one inch of water a week—but it can tolerate about half an inch every 14-days, depending on water restrictions in your area (always listen to those first!).
How to keep grass green in a drought?
If you’re starting from scratch, you’re in luck. It’s easy to find drought-resistant and fast-growing grass seeds, especially like the fescues we mentioned earlier. These grasses establish themselves quickly, don’t require a lot in the way of maintenance, and are one of our best bets for having a green lawn—even in periods of drought.
If you’re not starting out with a new lawn, however, there are still some things you can do to keep your grass green during drought :
- Prepare for summer early. Consider planning for periods with little rain in the spring and your proactivity and hard work will pay off. Starting with the first cut of the year, consider using a mulching mower to help correct bare patches and keep some grass clippings (mulch) to better hydrate your lawn.
- Avoid damaging it even more. If your lawn is drought-stressed, avoid heavy foot traffic and pet-damage. Don’t add stress to an already-stressed lawn!
- Toss out any thatch. Heavy thatch will intensify any damage that your lawn becomes exposed to. It will also suck up all of the water, meaning that your lawn will dry up quicker (even after rain). Contact us to have your thatch professionally removed.
- Don’t be too scared of a brown lawn. If your lawn is well-maintained (even if it doesn’t look like it!), it should spring back as soon as the rain returns.
How to make grass thicker?
In addition to choosing the right grass in the first place and regularly aerating your lawn, you can do a few additional things to make your grass thicker
- Address diseases. Avoid mowing when the lawn is wet (as this can cause problems) and check for signs of disease or fungal infection. This may appear as powdery residue or colored patches or spots. Also, check for indications of pest damage (and apply an insecticide if necessary).
- Ensure that your soil is healthy. Check for your local extension field office (listed here for Massachusetts residents) and obtain a soil-testing kit. It will alert you to nutrient deficiencies that may be responsible for your thinning lawn.
- Water regularly and apply a nitrogen fertilizer. Don’t worry, we’ll discuss more about this below.
How to make grass grow green and healthy?
This brings us to our next consideration: when and how often to water grass for optimal greenery?
The advice that we’re about to give you should be taken as just that, advice. One of the best things that you can do for your lawn is to get to know it.
Take some time observing how it looks each day, in the morning and in the evening. Try to become aware of all of the different elements that affect it (sun, wind, water, people, animals, chemicals) and how these fluctuate throughout the day. The better understanding you have of your lawn and your specific microclimate, the better you’ll be able to take care of it.
Then, you can consider the following :
- Watering in the morning is the best because temperatures are cooler and winds are normally calmer. If possible, water before 10 a.m. so that all of the moisture can be absorbed before the heat of the day kicks in and evaporates all the water away.
- If you have no option but to water in the evening, try to do so before nightfall (between 4 and 6 p.m.).
- When watering, you want the top six to eight inches of soil to be wet—which equates to around one inch of water per week. This can be done as a single watering or two waterings this every week.
How to keep grass green naturally?
Want to support your lush green grass, but do so without chemicals? Here are a few tips for supporting healthy and natural grass growth:
- Apply a thin layer of compost on top of your lawn at the beginning of spring to give it a quick nutrition boost. This can also be done again throughout the spring and summer seasons, just be sure to avoid making too thick a layer.
- Manually remove weeds as you spot them as they’ll compete for any available sunlight, moisture, and nutrients and will ultimately impact the greenery you want.
- If you want something a little easier, but still natural, you can add corn gluten meal to naturally kill weeds and also fertilize your lawn.
- Minimize the amount of pet urine that ends up in your lawn. Over time, it can cause the grass to turn yellow and even die. Make a designated “toilet” spot for your dog.
- Regularly aerate your lawn and remove compacted areas or any build-up of thatch.
2. Use Fertilizer
What is grass fertilizer?
For those of us who aren’t familiar with fertilizers, they are chemical substances that are typically applied to crops and plants to improve productivity, enhance water retention, and support healthy growth.
What’s in grass fertilizer?
While fertilizers vary depending on specific needs, most contain essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
What are the different kinds of grass fertilizer?
It’s commonly thought that there are six different types of fertilizers . These include:
- Nitrogen fertilizer
- Phosphorus fertilizer
- Agricultural waste
- Livestock waste
- Industrial waste
- Municipal sludge
How to match fertilizer with grass styles?
When it comes to choosing the right fertilizer for you and your lawn, it’s important to not only consider what type of grass you have, but also your goals. After you’ve done a soil test, you’ll know what sort of nutrients (if any) are lacking, and from that you can choose a fertilizer that’s higher in one or a few of the essential components (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K)).
Beyond that, there are specific fertilizers for well-established lawns (“weed and feed”), as well as those that have just been seeded (“starter” or “slow-release”). There are also fertilizers that contain additional herbicides to prevent weeds, as well as those that are phosphorus-free (due to issues with phosphorus runoff and pollution).
When to fertilize your lawn?
In Massachusetts, it’s recommended that you either fertilize in May, or the fall before . Just be sure that the soil is warm enough for the fertilizer to penetrate and choose a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer if available.
What about seasonal fertilizer in summer?
Feeding your lawn in the early summer can help to better prepare it for the heat and drought conditions that may follow. Slow-release fertilizer is a good idea for most grass types.
However, avoid applying fertilizer in the middle of the summer because it can end up burning a lawn. Additionally, don’t fall in the trap of applying too much fertilizer because that may do more harm than good.
How much is too much?
Adequate nitrogen is crucial for lush, healthy, green grass. However, there can be too much of a good thing. The general rule of thumb is this: you should apply no more than one pound of nitrogen for every thousand square feet of lawn, and you should do so no more than twice per year .
So, say you’re using a fertilizer with 5% nitrogen, you should use 20 pounds maximum.
What to do when you’ve applied too much?
Many of us have experienced a phenomenon called fertilizer burn, where we used too much fertilizer and our grass ends up with yellow and brown stripes, or patches of dying or dead grass.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to correct this:
- Leach excess fertilizer. Use a sprinkler head and a garden hose to fully saturate the overfertilized area. The water will drain through the soil, bringing the fertilizer with it. Apply about an inch of water and repeat this every day for a week.
- Remove dead grass. Use a rake to remove the fertilizer-burned areas, add to a compost pile or trash can.
- Plant new grass seed. When spring arrives, plant new grass seeds.
Why is nitrogen important for a green lawn?
Grass can’t grow without nitrogen. In fact, it’s the most important nutrient to support your lawn. Nitrogen works by encouraging new green growth above the soil line. For anyone who remembers middle school biology, this is where the photosynthesis takes place, which helps generate enough energy so that the roots grow healthy and the grass can ward off any pests or diseases.
Perhaps even more important for you and your lawn, nitrogen is also an essential component of chlorophyll, which is what the plants use to feed themselves—and also what gives them their beautiful green pigment. Without nitrogen and all of the things that it supports, you may notice grass blades that are shorter, brittle, dull in color, and more susceptible to stress and disease .
3. Consider Using Ironite
This brings us to a very specific fertilizer: Ironite. Unlike the usual NPK combination found in most traditional fertilizers, Ironite contains iron and, as you guessed it, is perfect for an iron-deficient lawn.
Supplementing your lawn with iron is great for another reason too: it makes it greener. Just like nitrogen, iron (along with some other micronutrients) helps support the process of photosynthesis, giving you long-lasting greenery!
Unfortunately, there are some considerations to make so that you don’t end up with Ironite burn. Like with other fertilizers, the nitrogen in Ironite can be dangerous for those blades of grass. Some of its other ingredients (like muriate of potash) can do the same. So, never use more Ironite than suggested and always water it in immediately.
4. Address Damage
One of the best things you can do to support a lawn full of thick, green grass is to regularly check for damage—and address it quickly. Growing healthy and green grass isn’t difficult, but it does require you to check in on your lawn and provide support when necessary. One of the most common types of damage is bare spots.
How to fix dirt patches in lawn?
Say you’ve overfertilized (oops) or have become the target of some pesky dandelions. Whatever the reason, tending to a dirt patch is easy and will have your lawn looking lush and green in no time.
- Start by breaking up the dirt whatever hand tool you’re comfortable with.
- If you’re working with very clay-y soil, you can add some top soil.
- Add your combination of grass seeds, considering shade and other factors to determine the best mix. Cover the dirt patch completely
- Add a good starter fertilizer and spread so that the fertilizer, soil, and seeds are mixed.
- Water immediately and continue providing light water up to three times a day for 7-10 days. Once the grass starts to emerge, you can cut the watering down to just once a day.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Your Lawn Green
If this seems like a lot—don’t stress it. We’re here to help. Feel free to give us a call at any time to talk about how to make your neighbors green with envy because of a lawn that’s just as green! Also, if you have any other tried and tested tips for supporting healthy grass, let us know in the comments!