The second week of April means homeowners are thinking about lawn care.

Here in Western Washington, the care of lawns is unique. Local water districts will be hosting free classes to help homeowners lower their water bills and still have a lovely landscape.

Here are some tips for going “naked” or natural and still get your lawn in shape with lower water bills:

How to renovate the lawn this spring. Rake to remove debris, then aerate the lawn. Don’t use heavy equipment if your soil is still damp or soft. The machinery could compact the soil and tear up the lawn. You can use a core aerator that uses foot power to poke holes into the lawn. This tool is sold at home center stores and can be used even on damp soil.

After aerating, apply a slow release lawn fertilizer. Take the time to put on your glasses and read the instructions so you’ll use the recommended amount. Next, rake a thin, half-inch layer of top soil or screened compost on top of your old lawn. The raking will push the new soil into the holes to help nourish the grass roots.

Now you can reseed right on top of the old lawn and new topsoil. Use a mix of grass seed varieties made for Northwest lawns. New lawn varieties are slower growing and more drought tolerant than ever before, so reseeding an old lawn pays off. Buy the expensive lawn seed. The added price is worth it because these new grass varieties are paying a royalty to the scientist that came up with something new and improved. Again, read and follow the instructions on the grass seed package.

How to fertilize. Western Washington lawns love to be fertilized in September with a slow release lawn food. Then the winter rains can wash the food down into the root zone of the grass before spring growth. The month of May is the second best time to fertilize with a slow release lawn food.

Use a mulching mower and leave the grass clippings on the lawn. Up to one third of the nitrogen will go back into the soil.

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Too much lawn food or fertilizer that is high in fast release nitrogen ends up as pollution in our ground water. Too much lawn food also encourages lawn diseases and insect damage due to fast, soft and succulent growth. You want a lawn that is lean and green. This makes it a better disease fighting machine.

How to water. Cool season lawns in our area thrive on 1 inch of water a week. If you have a sprinkler, you can measure how much water it delivers by setting out a tuna can and watching how long it takes to fill with one inch of water. Do not water every day or even every other day (unless you have just over-seeded.) Over-watering encourages moles, crane fly, grass diseases, buttercup and moss — not to mention high water bills.

Tip: To encourage deep rooted, drought resistant grass, turn on the sprinkler for 10 minutes. Then turn off for an hour to allow the water to sink into ground. Then turn on the sprinkler for another 10 minutes. The capillary action of the moisture in the soil will pull the second wave of water down deeper to the roots. Deep roots mean a drought resistant lawn that can also find food so you won’t have to fertilize.

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