A sharp mower blade is a key to a perfect cutting job. However, whenever you sharpen a blade yourself, always check it for balance. An out-of-balance blade can cause excess mower vibration and wear. One way to check is to tie a metal washer onto a string, thread the string through the center hole of the blade, then hold the blade up with the washer supporting it. The washer should be on center and turned perpendicular to the blade. The blade should stay level. If it doesn't, grind it for balance on the back side of the blade. Always disconnect the lawnmower's sparkplug wire before removing or replacing any blade.
If you have a heavily shaded area that you just simply can't grow grass, ground covers look and work great. However, if you simply must have grass, than there are a couple of grass species that will do moderately well in shaded environments. In the Northern climates Creeping Red Fescue is the best shade tolerant turf and in the Southern climate St. Augustine performs the best. For CRF to survive it is important to quickly remove tree leaves in the fall. This is the only time of the year that the plant will see the full sun and you will want to maximize this. Keep the fertility low, the soil acidic and the turf as dry as possible. Also, neither of these turf species will handle traffic very well.
As a rule, you should fertilize at least three times a year; spring, summer and early fall.
Cyclone or rotary spreaders work best with fertilizers. Drop spreaders work best with lime.
If you've ever unsuccessfully tried to get grass to grow in the small bare spots in your lawn, you probably made the mistake of not properly preparing the soil. Grass seed needs a lodging spot in order to hold itself in place and protect it against washing rain, drying sun and wind. Use your garden trowel or hoe to work up the upper layer of soil before laying down the seed. A power cultivator will enable you to prepare larger areas.
Before you apply fertilizer and lime you should know your soil nutrient values. Soil tests can be done at most Land Grant Universities for little or no fee. Others avenues for testing are County Extension Agents and maybe some of the better garden nurseries. An easy way to take a soil sample is to take an old golf club. Keeping the grip in place cut the shaft at a 45 degree angle about 2' down on the shaft. About 2" up from the angled cut, cut out or notch 1/2 of the shaft circumference. By inserting this into the soil it will remove a 2" core of soil. Take at least a dozen core samples from all over the lawn area. You will need about 1/3 -1/2 lb. of soil in total. You then remove the grass top from the core and place the remaining soil in a brown bag to be sent off for testing.
For fast results, try hydroseeding your lawn. Hydroseed is prepared in a mixing tank. As the tank is filling with water, a cellulose fiber is added, as well as the seed mixture. Once the tank is full, a growth stimulant and fertilizer are added and then mixed for about ten minutes. Once it's ready, the mixture is sprayed evenly across the soil.
Always buy "certified seed". This is identified by a blue tag saying certified. By spending a few extra cents up front, you will save many hundreds of dollars along with the added aggravation of controlling unwanted weeds later. Choose the right grass seed, sod or sprigs for your situation.
If you don't have a soil moisture probe, some simple guidelines can help you decide when to water. Water when grass changes from a green to a grayish blue color, when grass leaves begin to roll, when the grass stays down after being walked on, or when you can't easily push a screwdriver down into the soil a half foot or so. Apply 1/4 in. of water and then check to see if the soil is wet down to 6 in. If it isn't, make another application just so the soil is moist, but not wet or sticky.
The first cut in the spring and the last cut in the fall should be low. In the spring this removes any winter fungus and in the fall prevents fungus from getting established during the winter.