Ultimate Guide to Lawn Care In 2020 (Beginner Friendly)

Ultimate Guide To Lawn Care

A man’s home is his castle, and while a moat around it might require a permit, a swath of green, however, does not.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that having a beautiful lawn has held its sway in the psyche of those who wish for the “American Dream.”

A lush green lawn is so much more than just a place where we lay, play, and bask in the sun.

It is the suburban ideal, but getting there is going to take some effort.

When it comes to lawn care, folks are more than happy to go the extra mile to ensure that the green expanse surrounding their home is as healthy and welcoming as possible, and hearing the chest-swelling compliment “That’s a nice lawn” makes it all worth the effort.

If you’d rather go the DIY route than hire a lawn care service, then you are going to need this guide to help you get that picture-perfect lawn.

Lawn Care

Who doesn’t like to wake up to a lush, bug-free, weedless lawn? Like any other maintenance job around the house, everything always goes smoother when you have access to the right information. Here are some tips that should help you tune up your lawn.

Watering

Watering Your Lawn

Contrary to popular belief, lawn care takes more than just regular watering. So, how does one know when their lawn needs watering?

An easy way to find out is by giving your lawn the “footprint test.” When you walk across your lawn, try to notice your footprints in the grass. If they are clearly visible, it’s a good time to get out the garden hose.

Another good way of testing that the dryness of the lawn is by sticking a 6” screwdriver into the lawn.

If it goes in all the way, you’re good. If it doesn’t, then the lawn isn’t being watered enough.

While some people prefer to use water sprinklers, using a garden hose makes sure the water goes exactly where you want it to and also makes for a more intimate experience with your lawn.

That said, modern lawn sprinkler systems use the latest technologies, water gauges, moisture level sensors, and timers to ensure that your lawn gets the right amount of water, which makes them a good choice for those who are strapped for time.

So, the question here is, “how much is too much?” Watering your lawn every day is not recommended.

In fact, too much water can end up damaging your lawn.

Typically, the average lawn needs up to 1 ½ inches of water per week, regardless of it being summer or winter.

Also, when watering your lawn, try to start as early as possible.

That’s because cooler temperatures minimize the amount of evaporation after you’ve watered your lawn.

Besides that, watering the lawn before 10 am helps keep the turf cooler during the day, which puts less stress on the grass.

Seeding

Seeding Lawn Care

If you plan on planting or seeding your lawn, then the question is, “When’s the right time for seeding?” This will mainly depend on where you live in the United States.

According to the United States National Arboretum, the US is divided into four climate zones for turfgrass.

This makes grass selection easier for those who want a healthy and vibrant lawn. The four zones are divided into cool arid, cool/humid, warm/arid, and warm/humid.

Some US states are divided into multiple zones. For instance, the states of Texas and California are divided into three different zones, so residents there need to do their research on which zone their neighborhood falls under to get the best results.

Here’s a quick guide to help you get started:

  • Cool/Humid regions are able to support cool weather grasses (examples: Fescue and Bluegrass).
  • Cool/Arid regions support cool weather grasses but will require more irrigation.
  • Warm/Arid regions support Buffalograss due to its tolerance to drought.
  • Warm/Humid regions support Bermuda grass (however, you might want to check with your local nursery if you’re living further north).

The Transition Zone is a fifth zone that is the area of land running east to west across the US, which separates the cool and warm season growing areas.

While not many kinds of grass can grow there, you can get Transition Zone grass seed that has adapted for harsh growing conditions in the transition zone.

How Much is Too Much (Lawn Seed)?

The amount of lawn seed that you’ll need is mainly going to depend on the type of seed you’re getting.

For instance, you need 3 pounds for seeding over an existing 1,000 square-foot lawn, while a new lawn of the same size will require around 6 pounds of a “sun and shade” seed mix.

To find out just how much grass seed you will need, multiply the length of the lawn by the width to get an idea of the area in square meters.

Then, multiply that figure by 0.06lbs (0.03kg). Or you can just check the label of the brand of seed you’ve purchased to find the information you need.

Overseeding Explained

Overseedings

Lawn overseeding can result in thicker growth.

Also, overseeding new turfgrass in an older lawn can help it withstand disease, insects, and drought conditions.

So, “What is overseeding?”

Overseeding is the process of planting grass seed without tearing up the turf or soil first.

This is an efficient way of filling in bare spots and improving the density in an existing turf.

Those lawns that look withered or need an unusual amount of water and fertilizer to grow are excellent candidates for overseeding.

However, before you plan to spruce up an existing lawn by overseeding, its best to first find out the cause behind your tattered yard.

Getting Started with the Seeding Process

Spraying the area with a non-selective herbicide is recommended, but you will need to wear the proper protective clothing.

You will then have to wait for around 72 hours until you can till under the weeds where you sprayed the herbicide.

If you do not wish to use an herbicide, then you can just go ahead and till the weeds.

You then have to wait for 5 days to till the weeds again and keep repeating this process for two to three weeks.

Before you spread the lawn seeds, you need to prepare the soil by working it to a depth of 2 to 3 inches before you rake the soil until it’s smooth.

This will give the soil the ability to absorb water and not run off or make the seeds wash into puddles.

You can use a handheld broadcast spreader to disperse the lawn seeds evenly.

You can also use a walk-behind spreader for larger lawns.

Lastly, you need to lightly drag the grass seedbed to make ¼ inch of soil cover the grass seed, so they stay in place.

Mowing

Mowings

Proper mowing increases the lawn’s resistance to pests while discouraging weeds.

But, only when you mow your lawn to the correct height and at the right frequency will you get the results you want to achieve.

For the best results, a good lawnmower is necessary.

While mowing your lawn, it is important to avoid scalping the grass, which is cutting the grass too short.

This is because grass that has been cut too short is more vulnerable to weed infestation and disease.

Also, grass that’s been cut too short regularly also tends to have a weaker root system, which does not result in healthy turf.

Sharpen the Blade

To make sure you get the best results when mowing your lawn, you should always start off by sharpening the blade of the mower.

Adjusting the height is also another important part of mowing your lawn.

Shift the Cutting Deck Accordingly

You will want to shift the cutting deck a bit higher during the warm months as this allows grass to grow longer and develop deeper roots.

You should lower the cutting deck for the last mowing of the season to prevent any snow mold from forming on the grass.

Best Time to Mow the Lawn?

Grass Dry Mowing

You should always mow the lawn when the grass is dry since the wet grass might clog the lawn mower.

If a certain area of your lawn grows in the shade, you should leave the grass longer to encourage photosynthesis.

Another handy tip is to wait until there’s shade in the area where you want to mow since grass that’s cut in the shade loses less water as compared to grass that’s cut under sunlight.

What is Grasscycling?

Leaving the cut grass on the lawn is called “grasscycling” and is a good way to save time (from not bagging) and money (from not buying yard waste bags).

Grass clippings can make up for 25% of the fertilizer needs of your lawn.

That being said, grasscycling works best if you only remove one-third of the length of grass and if you mow your lawn frequently.

Avoid Mowing in a Pattern

Another great tip for mowing your lawn is to not mow in the same pattern or direction every time since it could lead to compacting soil, which can have a negative impact on the health of your lawn.

Dethatching

Dehatching Grass

Thatch removal is an important part of having a healthy lawn. Dethatching the lawn means removing a layer of dead turfgrass tissue, which is called “thatch.”

This thatch is bad for the health of your lawn as it prevents water and nutrients from seeping down to the roots.

While dethatching is not as important as mowing your lawn, it does play an important part in getting a healthy lawn.

The Best Time for Dethatching

The best time to dethatch a lawn is mainly going to depend on the type of grass, as in, whether you have warm-season grass or cool-season grass.

When growing warm-season grass, it’s best to start the dethatching process in late spring.

When growing cool-weather grass, you should start dethatching in early spring or early fall. Be sure to sweep the lawn and other things before dethatching.

The process of dethatching should be carried out at least once a year on almost all lawns, or whenever the thatch is ½ an inch thick.

You can check this by working your fingers into the grass and noticing the depth of the thatch layer.

Ways to Dethatch Your Lawn

Once the thatch is more than two inches thick, you can use the following ways to dethatch your lawn:

  • Manual Dethatching — The manual dethatching rakes are short-tined with curved blades that are designed to dig deeper into the soil. While these rakes are heavier, they are good for the removal of light thatch in small to medium-sized lawns.
  • Power Rakes — A power rake is a lot similar to a lawn mower that uses rotating rake-like tines to pull the thatch at soil level. A power rake is going to be your best option if you have a lawn with thinner thatch layers.
  • Vertical Mowers — Vertical mowers are also known as verticutters. These machines have vertical blades that slice through the layer of thatch to pull out the thatch along with the grass roots. Because of the intense raking power of vertical mowers, these are best used for the removal of thick thatch.

Aeration

lawn aeration

Lawn aeration is a process that is carried out after dethatching lawns.

The small holes allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots.

Aeration helps the grass grow longer and healthier, which results in a lush green lawn.

When does Your Lawn Need Aeration?

One of the questions that many homeowners ask is when they should go about aerating their lawn.

Some of the common indicators for lawn aeration are:

  • When there’s heavy traffic on your lawn (serves as a play area or BBQ area), which can contribute to soil compaction.
  • The lawn’s part of a new home, which means that the topsoil is either stripped or buried, and the subsoil has compacted due to heavy construction traffic.
  • The turf dries easily and feels spongy, which is a good indicator of excessive thatch.

Any one of these will be a good reason for lawn aeration, but aeration is also recommended if there is soil layering.

This means when the fine-textured soil that comes with imported sod is on top of the coarser soil.

Soil layering can end up disrupting water drainage, leading to poor root development due to the compacted conditions.

Proper aeration helps to break up this layering, enabling water to flow freely through the soil and reach the grass roots.

What’s the Right Time for Lawn Aeration?

The growing season is the right time for lawn aeration.

This is when the grass is able to heal and fill in any open area more efficiently.

Lawn aeration for cool-season grass is better done during early spring or fall, while those using warm-season grass should try lawn aeration during late spring.

Plug Aerator vs. Spike Aerator

There are two main tools used for lawn aeration – plug aerator and spike aerator.

The former is used to remove a plug of grass and soil from the lawn while the latter is used to poke holes into the ground with a fork or tine.

Since poking holes is not as efficient when it comes to aeration, it’s best to get an aerator that can actually remove plugs of soil.

Also, you should always choose a machine that can reach 2 to 3 inches deep within the soil and 2 to 3 inches apart.

You can rent these machines from your local home improvement center.

Difference Between Powered and Manual Aerators?

As the name implies, a powered aerator uses power from ground propulsion to drive multiple tines in the ground.

Powered aerators are more efficient when it comes to aerating larger lawns as compared to manual aerators.

This is because manual or step aerators come with two to five hollow tines that are mounted on a step bar and has to be pushed manually.

Best Practices for Lawn Aeration

The following are some tips to use while aerating your lawn:

  • Make sure the soil is moist enough before you get started. If possible, aerate the lawn a day after rainfall or after you’ve watered the lawn.
  • You should make multiple passes over the same area since most aeration machines cover a limited area.
  • To give your lawn more uniformity, it’s best to allow the excavated soil plugs to dry before breaking them down with the lawn mower. You can also use the back of the rake to break the plugs for a cleaner appearance.
  • Once you’ve aerated the lawn, you should continue your basic lawn maintenance practices, such as mowing, watering, and fertilizing, to maintain a healthy lawn.

Fertilizing Your Lawn

Fertilizing Lawns

Using the right fertilizer can make or break the appearance of your lawn.

Applying fertilizer to your lawn can always be tricky, which is why you need to be extra careful.

You can test the soil for its organic matter, nutrient content, and pH.

You can find that out by using at-home DIY soil test kits that are available online or at the home improvement center.

The Right Time to Fertilize Your Lawn

Just because the test indicates that the soil needs fertilizer doesn’t mean that you should go ahead and fertilize the lawn.

When you fertilize the soil is also a major factor in the health of your lawn.

It is recommended to wait until fall if you’re living in the northern third part of the country since the grass there tends to endure cold winters.

The energy that is saved in the roots of the grass will provide it with the nutrition it needs during spring.

However, if you’re living elsewhere in the United States, it’s best to wait just before the rainy season to use fertilizer on your lawn.

Do Not Use Fertilizers with High Levels of Nitrogen

Nitrogen Fertilizers

It’s crucial not to overdo it when it comes to the nitrogen levels of the soil. If the test indicates that your lawn is low on nitrogen, using more does not mean healthier soil.

In fact, studies have shown that two-thirds of fertilizers that have a high content of nitrogen end up either vaporizing or running off without affecting the grass.

This is not just a waste of money but is also not healthy for the environment.

Apart from that, you could end up burning your lawn if you use too much of high-nitrogen products.

Quick Tips for Applying Lawn Fertilizer

The following are some quick and easy tips that you could use when applying fertilizer to your lawn:

  • Fertilizer should not be applied during a drought since it will burn the lawn. This is because both water and fertilizer are necessary for the grass to go through the process of photosynthesis. So, with no rain, the fertilizer will not be as effective.
  • While you can fertilize your lawn if the forecast indicates light rain, it is not advised to use fertilizer on your lawn if heavy rain or a thunderstorm is expected.
  • Lastly, even the best fertilizer won’t turn your lawn into a lush green oasis if you do not mow properly.

Lawn Care During the Year

If you want a front lawn that will leave your neighbors green with envy, you will need to be on your toes all through the year when it comes to lawn maintenance.

Here are some tips for year-round maintenance of your pride and joy – your front lawn.

Spring Lawn Care

Start from the Ground Up

Start your spring maintenance with a soil test. The pH scale should be around 6.5 since grass tends to grow better in soil that has a neutral pH.

Don’t forget to check the nitrogen, potassium salts, and phosphorus in the soil as well.

Mowing and Edging

Proper mowing and edging are always recommended if you’re looking to awaken your lawn. To get a neater look, trim before you mow.

Dethatching?

A lawn that’s very dense could use some dethatching, which will allow the soil to breathe.

If the lawn does need a bit of dethatching, then it is advised to go with a power dethatcher instead of going the labor-intensive route with the manual dethatcher.

Don’t Go Overboard

When it comes to lawn care during spring, it’s best to start by late-April while the temperature of the soil is still able to support growth before the weeds start to appear.

Summer Lawn Care

Water More Frequently (But Not Every Day)

Water gauge

When the mercury rises, so do the stress levels of your lawn.

While a lawn will do fine under normal conditions with just an inch of water per week, when it gets hot and dry, then you need to replace all that evaporated moisture.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to water the lawn after intervals of four to five days.

You should invest in a water gauge, which will be helpful if the area you live in uses a municipal water system.

Try to avoid brief water sessions, while making sure that each watering session provides the grass with an inch of water.

You can either use a cup-style rain collector or a temperature-sensing weather station that connects to your PC to measure the water level of your lawn.

Keep the Grass Long

Short grass during the summer can result in more water being evaporated, which will not be good for the health of your lawn.

It’s recommended to keep the grass at least 2 ½ inches long even after you mow. Also, mowing the lawn too low will increase weed infestation since weeds require light to grow.

Kill Pests

While you can get a fertilizer that has a wide variety of insecticides to kill every common lawn pest, it doesn’t necessarily work for all lawns, depending on where you live.

Instead, you can go with a simple fertilizer that has a low nitrogen level, and separate pest control that will still do the trick.

Autumn Lawn Care

Yellow Patche

Invest in a Dethatcher

Don’t underestimate a patch of yellowish grass since it can end up blocking air and moisture to the grass root.

Instead of going too deep with the dethatcher, it’s better to make three or four shallow passes instead, which should be able to do the trick without destroying your lawn.

Quit Bagging

After you’ve mowed the lawn, don’t pick up the whacked grass. Instead, leave them be since grass clippings help recycle nitrogen back into the lawn, which gives the grass enough nitrogen to last the winter.

Test the pH

If you’ve used too much fertilizer on your lawn, the soil might be a bit acidic, which means your lawn is not going to thrive. You can correct that issue by keeping the pH level of your soil in check this fall.

A Good Time to Reseed

Every gardener knows that early fall is the best time to reboot your garden.

If the lawn needs reseeding, you should go ahead, but only use the lawn seeds as recommended by the United States National Arboretum or your local nursery.

Winter Lawn Care Tips

Lawn Winters

Do Your Homework

You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Winter gives you some down-time when it comes to lawn maintenance, which means you should start preparing for spring or try to remember the problems that you faced during the previous months and try to figure out solutions that you can use in the coming months.

Clean and Repair Your Lawn Equipment

This is the best time for lawn equipment maintenance. Remove grass clippings and debris from the lawn mower or dethatcher.

Remove the air filter and spark plug on all two and four-stroke machines. Drain the engine oil in your four-cycle lawn equipment. Also, lubricate any pivot points and cable linkages so that they work better when needed.

Read the Manual

This will also be a good time to go over the manual (yes, again!) of any lawn equipment you’re not that familiar with. This will keep you from damaging the equipment just because you didn’t find it necessary to read the user manual of the device.

Common Lawn Diseases

Snow mold on lawn

Lawn diseases are not that common, but you should be familiar with them so that you can identify them when they actually occur. Some of the common lawn diseases that homeowners should watch out for include:

  • Snow Mold — This is a fungal disease that appears in early spring as the snow begins to melt. Snow mold can be further classified into two types: gray snow mold and pink snow mold.
  • Fairy Ring — These are naturally occurring arcs of mushrooms that can either be in the form of complete or incomplete circles. While they don’t cause any damage to the lawn, they can be difficult to get rid of.
  • Red Thread — Red thread is a red or pink color webbing that appears on the grass, which is the result of low nitrogen levels in the soil. Red thread mostly occurs in cool-season lawn grass.
  • Powdery Mildew — This is a fungal disease that’s quite common and mostly appears in shady areas of the lawn.
  • Brown Patch — As the name implies, this disease appears as a brownish patch and tends to be more common with cool-season lawn grasses.

Weeds

Dandelion weeds

They say the best weed killer is prevention, but if you slacked with your lawn care for the past few seasons, you will notice a healthy buildup of weeds around your lawn.

All is not lost, however, and the good news is that there are still ways in which you can reclaim your lawn. One of the best and most efficient ways of getting rid of weeds is by using a pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide.

But, first, you will have to examine your lawn to find out just what types of weeds you’re dealing with. Some of the common types of garden weeds include:

  • Crabgrass
  • Dandelion
  • Bindweed
  • Pigweed
  • Buckhorn Plantain
  • Quackgrass
  • Chickweed

You can use mulch, which helps block weed seeds from sunlight. If the space where the weeds are located in your garden is relatively small, you can turn to garden tools such as a garden hoe, mower, tiller, or spade to clean out the weeds.

Dry Patches

Dry patches do not only make your lawn look unattractive, but it is also a sign that your lawn is stressed and is not receiving enough water and nutrients.

You can either replace the soil or aerate the area and apply a wetting agent to help the soil absorb water again.

What Tools Do You Need for Proper Lawn Care?

Lawn Care Tool

Good quality tools are an essential part of lawn care, mainly because you’re going to need the right tools to tackle the various challenges that come along with a picture-perfect lawn.

The following are some of the lawn tools that you simply can’t afford to do without.

Leaf Blowers

If you’ve got trees, then you need a proper leaf blower. The falling autumn leaves can make it difficult to admire your lush lawn, which is why you need a gas or electric-powered blower to blow the leaves into a pile.

Hose / Hose Reel

A garden hose can save you from having to carry heavy cans of water around the lawn.

A good garden hose with the right garden shower can make watering your lawn and plants a breeze.

Edger

An edger is designed to make tidy edges around the lawn edge or plant beds.

The blade of the edger cuts a small gap between the area you’re trying to tidy up and the grass, which improves the aesthetic appeal of your lawn.

Rakes

Just like the leaf blower, the rake is a handy tool to have around the garden once the leaves start to fall and ruin the appearance of your lawn.

Power rakes, on the other hand, can also help make dethatching easier, which makes it worth the investment.

Other tools that you might need for lawn maintenance includes a pair of gloves, a chainsaw, wheelbarrow, hand trowel, a pair of shears, a string trimmer, spreaders, and sprayers.

However, the tools you decide on including in your garden is mainly going to depend on your requirements.

Conclusion 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to lawn care and maintenance, but you can still make sure that your lawn is in the best shape possible all through the year if you take the appropriate steps when needed.

Keeping that in mind, the aforementioned tips should help you get off to a good start with your lawn care and maintenance.

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