Mow higher (1-2 inches), mow regularly, and leave the clippings.
“Grasscycling” or leaving the clippings on the lawn doesn’t cause thatch build up. It makes lawns healthier. Soil organisms recycle the clippings into free fertilizer, and you save the work of bagging. Modern mulching lawn mowers make grasscycling even easier.
Use natural organic or slow release fertilizers.
Don’t try for a deep blue-green color – healthy lawns in our region are a lighter meadow green.
The best time to fertilize is September, when grass plants are building root reserves for the next year.
If you want to fertilize in spring, wait until May, when grass growth slows.
Water deeply, less frequently, and when less evaporation occurs
Let the soil dry between waterings to prevent lawn disease and save water. Lawns only need about one inch of water a week in summer, including rain, to stay green. Water in the evening or early morning when less evaporation occurs.
How much is one inch of water a week?
Scatter tuna cans or other straight-sided containers on your lawn, turn on the sprinkler, and check the time. When most cans have 1 inch of water in them, turn off the sprinkler and check how long it ran. Then you know how long to run your sprinkler each week in summer, if you want to keep your lawn green.
Or let lawns go brown and dormant – they’ll bounce back in fall!
You can let lawn areas that don’t get heavy wear go brown and dormant – just water once a month, and they’ll bounce back in the fall. If you end up with thin areas from wear, when it rains in the fall you can rake to expose the soil, then overseed (see below).
Use automatic irrigation systems efficiently
Automatic systems can waste lots of water, or be efficient, depending on how you set and maintain them.
Have a professional test, repair, and adjust your system annually.
Inspect the system while operating once a month – look for leaks or heads that are plugged or misdirected.
Install a rain shutoff device (ask your irrigation expert where to find them).
Adjust the watering schedule at least once a month through the season – plants need a lot less water in May and September than they do in July and August. Or install a WaterSense labeled timer that adjusts your runtimes according to the weather.
Improve poor lawns
Aerate in spring or fall to improve root development and water penetration.
Follow by overseeding thin areas with Northwest-adapted grass seed blends.
Then “top-dress” by raking in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost to cover the seed and improve the soil.
Repeat these steps annually as needed to improve poor lawns.
Choose grass species labeled by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance.