Answer: For a lush, green lawn, you want to provide a rich, weed-free environment. What you do to achieve that depends on the size of the area, what you hope to achieve, and how much you want to spend. Basically, as mentioned above, lawns appreciate rich soil with little/no weeds. Amending your soil with organic material such as compost, leaf mold, composted cow manure, etc., is always appreciated by plant life. Also, there are many commercial preparations available to fertilize your lawn and keep it in tip-top condition. Gardens Alive! sells two products that I believe have very good results. One is called WOW! Plus. It is a pre-emergent weed control and balanced organic lawn fertilizer in an all-in-one mix. The other product is Organic Lawns Alive! It is a fertilizer only and does not contain any preparation to kill weeds (though as your lawn gets healthier, it also gets more dense and can crowd out weeds). Both are available from Gardens Alive! at (812) 537-5108 or, write them at 5100 Schenley Place, Lawrenceburg, IN 47025.
Usually, the secret to a good lawn is in the soil preparation, but can also depend on the timing of the seeding. (Spring or Fall are the best times to start a new lawn.) It can also have to do with the grass variety planted. (Some grow best in shady, others in full sunshine - your choice will depend upon the growing conditions) For a systematic approach to analyzing your site and making the best possible decisions, you might want to take a look at a good book on lawns. One I particularly recommend is "Lawn Care for Dummies" by Lance Walheim, Dummy Press, ISBN 0-7645-5077-2. In addition to the basics, it also includes detailed troubleshooting advice.
To maintain a thick, lush lawn, you'll need to water, mow and fertilize regularly (use a 3-1-2 ratio, and apply one pound of actual Nitrogen per 1000 sq.ft., in April, June, September and late November or early December). Along with that, lawns might need aeration if they're subject to heavy foot traffic which will compact the soil. Finally, thatching is important every few years. Dig a small square of turf and look at the blades, stems, stolons and roots. If you find more than 1/2"-3/4" of thatch built up over the soil surface, de-thatch your lawn. Then rake out the old stolons and other dead matter, reseed the bare spots and water well. New grass will appear in 7-14 days. While it's a lot of work to keep a lawn lush and thick, the rewards are great. And, a thick lawn will crowd out any weed seeds that try to germinate.
Finally, the best way to discourage birds from gobbling up newly sown grass seed is to cover the seed with a thin layer of peat moss. This will protect the seed from birds and will help the seedbed retain moisture through the germination process.
Good luck with your new lawn!
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