10 Ways to Make Yard Work Fun For Kids
Your lawn probably isn’t the first thing on your mind in the winter, particularly if it’s covered in a blanket of snow. But you do want a beautiful swath of green to appear as the days get longer again and warming weather beckons you outside. Sitting there all bundled up with the kids, it might sound like wishful thinking, but spring will be here before you know it, and your lawn will be ready for reviving.
Your children probably aren’t too interested in what it takes to get the lawn in shape as long as they can run and play on it, but there are a few things they can help with. And it’s never too soon to involve them in the wonder of growing living plants from tiny seeds. Planting flowers is fun, too, but knowing that you helped grow all that wonderful grass? Wow.
When to plant grass seed and when to start mowing after winter depends upon where you live, but you’ll know it when you feel it. And then get to it! You want to give the new seedlings as much time as possible to establish themselves before the sun gets too high in the sky and fries them.
In an established lawn, you actually want to do more than seed just the bare spots. You want to overseed the whole area to improve its density and enhance its vibrant color.
Study up now, so that you and your helpers are ready when the first signs of spring appear. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Choose the Right Grass Seed
With so many varieties of turfgrass, it’s best to consult a professional to help you make the right choice. There are now special blends of improved grass species that work to enhance your lawn’s overall color and appearance, and increase its resistance to disease, insects, and weeds.
2. Mow and Then Rake the Lawn
You want the new seeds to sift down through the current grass to reach the ground and have as much sunlight as possible, so mow your existing lawn to a height of 1 to 1-1/2 inches. (A great job for an older child.)
Younger kids can help you rake up the clippings but you should apply extra pressure with your rake to remove thatch, that tangled layer of roots, and other organic matter that develops under the grass.
3. Loosen up the Ground
If the soil is badly compacted after the winter, you’ll want to rent a roto-tiller or aerator at your local garden center. (Adults only for this one, please.) Don’t disturb more than the top 1 or 2 inches of the ground, though, because breaking the soil up too much will disturb the root structure of the current grass and give weeds room to settle in.
4. Check and Correct the Soil’s pH
Give your kids’ chemistry lessons a real-life try out by getting a pH test kit at a garden center, or using one of the home-style methods described in this WikiHow article. Grass likes neutral pH and may require an application of lime (for acidic soil) or sulphur (for alkaline soil.) If you’re not experienced with the products and process, consult with your local garden center before you do more harm than good.
5. Add Compost
Top-dressing the soil with compost helps the seeds germinate and gives the seedlings a nutrient boost. The kids can help, but make sure you help them apply a very thin layer of compost to avoid burying your existing grass.
6. Spread the Seeds
Here’s the fun part that kids will like. To spread the seed evenly over the whole lawn, use one of a variety of reasonably priced seed spreaders, one on wheels for a large area or a hand-held type for a smaller one.
7. Back to the Rake
Lightly rake the lawn so that seeds settle down through the existing grass and onto the soil where they can germinate.
8. Apply Fertilizer
A slow-release nitrogen fertilizer will give your refreshed lawn the nutrition it needs to thrive as it grows.
9. Water, Water, Water
Finally, water the lawn heavily right away to push the seeds firmly into place. Then water two or three times a day for the first few weeks to keep the soil moist but not soaked. After the grass sprouts, you should water less frequently but for longer periods so that the water sinks in more deeply.
Supervise if the kids are in charge. The greatest threats to seedlings are over-watering to the point of root rot or under-watering that dries out the tiny roots as they try to establish themselves. You can let them take care of this, just check on their progress every so often.
10. Mow Your New Lawn
When the grass reaches the tallest height recommended for its type, mow it down by one third, and continue that procedure each time. Cutting grass too short doesn’t leave enough nutrients in its leaf blades and it also allows more sunlight to reach the soil and encourage weeds