A recent study by the National Association of Landscape Professionals shows that over 84 percent of Americans find it important to have a well-maintained lawn. However, only 33 percent of Americans think they’ve got the right skills to keep their lawn healthy.
Many new homebuyers are taking care of a lawn for the first time, and the last time they
Follow these five steps, and you can rest assured that your lawn is getting the TLC it deserves.
1. Know Your Grass
Before you do anything else, you must determine what type of grass you have, as different grass types require different levels of care.
Lawn grasses are mostly broken up into two classifications: “cool season” grasses, which do better in the North, and “warm season” grasses, which are optimal for the South. Once you identify the type of grass you have, you’ll want to research the proper maintenance regimens and treatments for that grass.
It’s best to consult with a local lawn care specialist to determine what type of grass you have, but you can also try using the Scott’s Grass Type Identifier.
Fertilizing your lawn is a necessity if you want to maintain lush and even grass throughout your property. The type of fertilizer you should use depends entirely on the type of grass.
In general, the best time to fertilize is in the spring, between late April through June, and then again in the fall, between late September and early November. If you move in during the winter or summer, you can wait until the spring or fall to fertilize.
It’s highly recommended to hire a professional company to do fertilization. For one, many homeowners end up applying too much fertilizer, resulting in ugly, yellow patchiness known as “nitrogen burn.” Secondly, professional companies use chemicals that are far superior to those that you might find at your local hardware store, so you’ll see much better results. Most companies apply five to eight treatments throughout the year, costing $40 to 70 a pop.
3. Aerate and Overseed.
Aeration involves removing plugs of dirt from your lawn to relieve compaction in the soil. You should aerate your lawn annually, either in the spring or fall. In particular, be sure to aerate if you’re moving into a brand-new home; the soil of recently developed properties tends to get compacted by all the construction equipment.
If your lawn has cool-season grass, it’s best to spread a thin layer of seed over your lawn just after aeration. Note that this process, called overseeding, is generally not effective with warm-season grass.
According to Lawn Care Academy, keeping your grass young is the key to maintaining a thick, healthy lawn. Since most grass blades live only around 45 to 60 days, grass relies heavily on constant reproduction to remain healthy and thick. Overseeding also helps reduce competition from weeds and other unwanted plant life.
It’s also recommended to hire a professional for aeration, as the process requires heavy machinery that can be dangerous to operate. Generally, you can get an aeration/overseeding package for around $200 to $250.
4. Water Your Lawn.
Mornings are the best time for you to water your lawn, as the water is less likely to evaporate than at midday. A high-quality lawn will need three solid days of water other than daily sessions. Additionally, Julie Martens from the DIY Network says: “On average, most lawns needs 1 to 1.5 inches of water [per week] to stay lush and green.”
If you’ve recently laid down new sod or seeded, you’ll want to water more than usual. While watering an area you’ve recently overseeded is a necessity, you don’t want to overdo it. Your lawn never should flood from watering. Too much water can drown the grass seed and make future growth nearly impossible.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using an irrigation system, a yard sprinkler or a hose, as long as your lawn is getting watered frequently and evenly.
5. Mow Frequently and Properly
Now that you’ve gotten all of the initial maintenance taken care of, you’re left with the recurring task of lawn mowing.
Your lawn-mowing frequency generally will be weekly or biweekly for most of the year, although in warmer states it’s common to mow monthly during the winter times.
Shorter is not always better when it comes to mowing. Cornell University’s Home Gardening website says: “Mow high, mow often, and leave clippings.”
When you’re mowing, you’ll want to remember the one-third rule: Never cut away more than one-third of the grass blade during any single cutting. If you find that your mower is cutting a significant amount of the grass blades’ height, you’ll want to raise the height of your mower blade. Cutting too low can remove too much of the turf and leave it more susceptible to burns and bad health.
Finally, be sure to either replace or sharpen your mower blade annually. A dull mower blade will tear out grass and ruin your lawn over time, so don’t skimp on this. You also can hire a professional company that generally should sharpen its mower blades regularly.
Jake Lane is a growth analyst for LawnStarter. He moved to Austin, TX, in 2010 to attend St. Edward’s University and escape the Houston, TX, humidity.