Some people have a green thumb, while others can kill even fake plants without trying. Whichever one you are, these lawn care tips will help you create a green swath around your home. Grass can be fussy about water and fertilizer, depending on the type.
Nearly every homeowner can see the value of a healthy lawn. A lush lawn gives your home curb appeal. That means that if you’re trying to sell it, you’ll attract more interested buyers. It will also add value to your home.
Occasionally, a high maintenance landscape can turn off buyers because they don't want to do the upkeep involved. However, there’s one feature in any outdoor space that always creates value and draws in interested buyers: a healthy, weed-free lawn.
Know Your Lawn
Before following any lawn care tips, take some time to get to know your lawn. That means understanding what kind of grass you have and its nutritional needs and growth habits. Knowing how and when to cut and treat your lawn will help keep you from wasting water and fertilizer, or even worse, doing more damage.
Lawn Care Tips For Better Understanding Your Lawn
By understanding your lawn, you’ll know better when to fertilize, the optimal mowing height, and what to look for in case of diseases and insect infestations. The types of grass in many lawns vary pretty widely, and not all respond to care in the same way. You should know this information before putting any plans into action. By knowing the following four aspects of your lawn, you’ll be better able to care for it and get that lush effect you’re looking for.
Measure Your Property
Many lawn care tips and lawn products use your lawn’s square footage to calculate how much seed, fertilizer, or pesticide to use. You can use the dimensions on the property survey of your home or take a rough estimate from the plat map from your property appraiser’s office. In the latter case, most counties keep online records you can search.
Multiply the frontage by the depth and subtract the square footage of your home from the total. That will give you a rough idea.
You can also measure it if you choose, which is more accurate. It may also be more helpful if you have different grasses or growing conditions in the front yard than you do in the back, as many homeowners discover.
Identify Your Grass
There are many types of grasses used in North America, and they vary by cultivar and growing season. Cool-season grasses, like perennial ryegrass, are more common in USDA growing zones 2 to 8. Warm-season grasses, like Bermudagrass, flourish in warmer regions. Check out the excellent grass identification tool online from the North Carolina State University,
Understand Your Lawn's Growth Habits
On the same page as the identification tool above, you’ll find links to helpful descriptions of your grass. Take time to read up on your lawn grass.
Understand Your Soil
While the quality and pH of your soil will change over time, you should test your soil or have it tested for a base reading. Your local USDA extension office, often working in partnership with local universities, usually provides this service. You can also purchase a home kit that will provide pH information. However, a university analysis will offer more data.
Choose The Right Grass
If you’ve decided to start with a whole new lawn, you need to make sure you choose the right grass for your growing conditions and climate. A new lawn can mean a significant investment of money, work, or both. So, it pays to inform yourself thoroughly.
Lawn Care Tips For Choosing The Right Grasses
Homeowners can choose to replace their lawn using seed, plugs, or sod. They all have their benefits and disadvantages. Seeds take more work and fill in slower. Sod can be very expensive. One of the most important decisions, however, is which grass to install.
Although the USDA hardiness zone map is useful, there are more variables in play when choosing a lawn grass than just temperature. You’ll find an excellent Climate Zone map from LawnGrasses.com that factors in rainfall.
Once you’ve identified your region, you can use their chart for finding the type of grasses that grow best in your climate. By choosing the right kind of grass, you’ll save money on irrigation and treatment chemicals.
Lawn Care Tips For Spring
Between global climate change, El Niño, and random acts of weather, it’s sometimes difficult to know when spring has really sprung. If you begin mowing or feeding your grass too early, you can make your grass more susceptible to disease. Once spring has arrived, however, you can begin cultivating that thick, weed-free lawn you’ve dreamed about.
Start At The Right Time
Make sure outdoor temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Cutting your lawn right before an unexpected freeze can damage your grass. Depending on your lawn type and where you live, wait until you have at least 3 to 4 inches of new green growth before the first mow. In warmer areas of the country, temperatures might rise over 40 long before the grass starts growing again. In this case, take your cues from its length. If you cut your grass too soon or too short, it will lose its resistance. And that means more weeds and more pest damage.
Sharpen Your Tools
Sharpen your mower blades. The faster and quicker the cut, the healthier your grass will be. Dull blades can shred the grass blades and pull the roots out of the ground.
Prepare For Spring Weeds
If you had weed problems in the previous fall, use a “weed and feed” product designed for your grass in the late spring. For many homeowners, a dose of weed and feed in late spring means a better lawn all year long. Combining a slow release fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicide results in thicker grass and fewer weeds. The best thing about these formulas is that its effects usually last two or three months. Many homeowners can often get by on one spring application, which means fewer synthetic chemicals on your lawn.
If you didn’t have a significant number of weeds in the fall, go straight for a slow-release fertilizer in late spring. While an instant release of nitrogen will provide a blast of green growth, it may cause your grass to sacrifice root development for top growth. That results in shallow root systems, which will make it harder for your lawn to compete with summer weeds.
Lawn Care Tips For Summer
Summer brings faster growth and higher demand for water and fertilizer. When it comes to lawn care products, you can add too much of a good thing.
Watering Your Lawn
Water your lawn but not every day. If your spring season is dry, water up to 1.5 inches once or twice a week. Test your soil with an inexpensive moisture meter at 4 to 5 inches depth. Look for signs of stress like wilting and browning and check your local forecast for possible rains. If none are forecast, go ahead and water. However, in every case, your lawn will benefit from deep watering more than frequent watering.
That is still true if you have an irrigation system for your lawn. Water early in the morning, but no more than twice a week depending on the rainfall. Make sure your timer is set to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water each time.
Although it takes nearly as much work to mow grass that’s 6 inches tall as it does to mow grass that’s only 4 inches tall, don’t be tempted to let it get that high for several reasons. First of all, when grass is permitted to grow too tall, it can block sunlight from its own roots. Keeping it trimmed to the proper height will allow plenty of sunshine to reach all the blades.
Mowing frequently also means won't remove more than a third of the blade height when you cut your grass. Allowing your grass to get too high and then cutting it too short causes damage. First of all, it’s likely to get pulled out of the turf. Secondly, it means you’re removing most of the plant where photosynthesis takes place. Both cause shock and makes your lawn more vulnerable to damage by pests and disease.
Leave Those Grass Clippings
Some claim that grass clippings cause thatch, but that’s not always true. Grass clippings are free fertilizer. The secret is to (once again) mow frequently. In this way, clippings won’t clump heavily and suffocate your grass. The second part of the secret is to use a mulching mower or a mulching blade on your existing mower. Generally less than $20 - $25, you’ll find “universal” mulching blades that fit a range of power mowers.
Time To Fertilize
If your lawn looks a little tired even after getting adequate water and a weekly dose of clippings, it may be time to feed again. By this time, your slow-release fertilizer may need a reapplication. Remember to follow the package instructions for best results. Some slow-release fertilizers need to be watered in immediately while others do not.
Lawn Care Tips For Fall
During the fall, the days grow shorter, and your lawn grows slower. However, lawn care remains important in the fall, because preparing it for the cold months ahead results in a quicker recovery when spring rolls around.
Keep Mowing As Long As Needed
Continue to mow as long as necessary. Your grass, and especially any weeds, may continue to grow during the fall. You’ll probably have to mow less often, but you should mow it for as long as it grows. With each subsequent fall mowing, lower your blades slightly. By lowering the blade over time, your grass will get more sunlight and warmth from the sun during colder months.
Fill In Bald Or Brown Patches
Fall is a good time to fill in those bald or brown patches in your lawn. You can purchase a patch kit that includes seeds, fertilizer, and some mulch. Apply early in the fall to give the grass time to establish itself before the first freeze.
Keep Your Lawn Cleaned Up
Remove fallen leaves with a rake as soon as possible. Or better yet, mow over them several times with a mulching mower to add nutrients to the soil. Piles of damp autumn leaves block sunshine from reaching your grass. They can also increase the chance of fungal diseases. It doesn’t take more than a few days for grass to die from suffocation.
Apply Weed Killer
Apply a broadleaf weed killer to your lawn to prevent spring dandelions or other noxious weeds from popping up in the spring.
Aerate And Apply Lawn Food
Aerate your lawn before adding any fertilizers in preparation of winter. The fall is a good time to get a pH test and add amendments as well. Use a lawn food that is high in potassium to encourage root growth so your grass will be ready for the winter ahead.
Lawn Care Tips For Winter
Your to-do list will vary widely in winter depending on where you live. If winter falls hard and fast, your list will be short. Warmer regions may only freeze up a few times over the winter, meaning you'll need to continue lawn care.
Winter Lawn Care Tips For Northern Lawns
Cool-climate lawn care during winter remains minimal. The most critical thing to properly prepare your grass for winter is following our fall lawn care tips in a timely fashion. By early winter, make sure your grass is free of debris like leaves and downed branches. Your grass will need all the sunlight it can get during the winter, so ensure nothing blocks it.
Winter Lawn Care Tips For Southern Lawns
Southern and warm climate lawns often continue growing into December and January. St. Augustine grasses may go dormant, but if you have any weeds at all, they'll continue to grow. That results in an unsightly lawn.
Some homeowners with warm-season grasses choose to overseed with a short-living annual grass during the winter to retain a green lawn in the winter. However, St. Augustine is too dense to allow the seeds to penetrate, and cutting it shorter will damage it permanently. Also, watering the seeds will mean watering the St. Augustine, which makes it prone to fungal diseases when dormant. Although the winter browning can seem a bit sad, the chances of permanently damaging your lawn for two or three extra months of green isn’t worth the risk.
Watering dormant grass is a waste of water and money, so make sure you reset your irrigation system for slow winter growth. Reduce usage by 50 percent as long as temperatures remain low or if you have dormant St. Augustine grass. Turn them off altogether if your climate is rainy.
How To Use These Lawn Care Tips
Remember to get to know your lawn before treating it with chemicals. As you can now see, you could end up doing more harm than good. And while you may be in a rush for that perfect green lawn, remember that it can take time for a lawn to become established. One that has suffered from weeds and bald patches may need more than one season to grow in. Nature moves at its own pace.