Definitive Lawn Care Guide To Help You Achieve A Healthy Lawn FOREVER
Gardening is an extremely rewarding and relaxing hobby.
You can keep yourself fit with the gentle effort of maintenance. When you’re done, you can kick back and reap the spoils. Sit back under your cantilever umbrella or huddle around your glowing fire pit and bask in the beauty of your garden.
The centerpiece of any outside space is a nice rich lawn.
Today, we’ll give you a complete lawn care guide so that you’re covered from sowing the seed right through to mowing, edging, watering and fertilizing. We’ll also take a glance at how to get rid of common lawn pests.
First thing’s first, how about getting started with a new lawn?
- 1 1. Starting Off: Sowing Your Grass Seed
- 2 2. Mowing
- 2.1 Manual Push Mower
- 2.2 Gas-Powered Push Mower
- 2.3 Electric Mower
- 2.4 Riding Lawn Mower
- 2.5 Lawn Tractor
- 2.6 Garden Tractor
- 2.7 Mowing Basics
- 2.8 3. Edging
- 2.9 Different Types of Weed Eater
- 2.10 Cordless Electric
- 2.11 Corded Electric
- 2.12 Corded/Battery Combination
- 2.13 Gas
- 2.14 The Many Names of Weedeaters
- 2.15 Weed Eater Shaft Design
- 2.16 Safety With Your Weed Eater
- 2.17 4. Watering
- 2.18 Water In The Morning
- 2.19 Water 3 Times Each Week
- 2.20 1 Inch a Week Works Best
- 2.21 Don’t Be Wasteful
- 2.22 Let Your Grass Dry Between Watering
- 2.23 Be Flexible
- 3 5. Fertilizing
- 4 6. Pest Removal
- 5 Wrap-Up
- 6 Sources
1. Starting Off: Sowing Your Grass Seed
The quick and easy way to lay a lawn is to rely on turf.
Growing from seed might take longer but it offers you a far wider range of choice of grasses. It’s also much more cost-effective.
When To Sow Grass Seed
As a general guideline, you should sow your grass seed in spring or fall.
Whatever the exact time you choose, always make sure the soil is damp and that the weather is neither too hot nor too dry. Avoid sowing grass seed in the rain.
Different Types of Grass Seed
You can get a wide range of grass seed. Each type has different characteristics. They also have differing covering capacities.
The way in which mixes are named varies from supplier to supplier.
If you pop to the garden center, you should get plenty of advice on what seed would work best for your circumstances.
Seed is normally sold loose so you can get more or less the exact amount you need.
Here are some of the most common seed mixes…
- Standard: This tough seed mix is perfect for areas with kids and animals. It establishes itself very rapidly and it’s highly durable. Most standard lawn seed is ryegrass
- Drought-Tolerant: If you expect to suffer from water shortages, opt for drought-tolerant seed. This seed is usually a mixture of seed from a handful of fine grasses. Because they are so fine, very little moisture will be lost into the air. This type of grass can be mown very close
- Luxury: As the name suggests, you should get a rich and resistant lawn of the highest quality with this seed. You will need to mow regularly. This type of seed lends to year-round performance
- Shaded: If your lawn is in a shaded area, shoot for some seed that’s fit for purpose. Shaded lawn seed is also tolerant to drought and can bounce back easily from wear and tear
- Low Maintenance: If you want grass that establishes swiftly and grows low, opt for low maintenance seed. If you lack the time for constant mowing, the slow rate of growth with this grass is ideal
Planning and Preparation of The Lawn
Since your lawn will obviously be with you for some time to come, taking the time to think about what you want from it is essential.
If you are bringing on a lawn from seed, it’s best to put down the whole lawn then cut in some flower beds after a year or two.
Steep slopes don’t work so well with lawns so you might need to flatten some areas out. Remove the topsoil from the area you want to flatten. Move the sub-soil around and then replace the topsoil. If you need to level up by more than a foot, allow the ground to settle for at least a year before grassing.
You need to choose an area that’s well drained.
A lawn works best on top of a nicely drained medium loam.
If your soil is heavy clay, add some sharp sand and compost or manure. Rotted leaves also work well. This will help to enhance drainage.
Give sandy soils compost, manure or rotted leaves. This will boost moisture retention.
Prepare your topsoil. You want it to be fine and workable to a depth of about 5 inches. With small lawns, just dig by hand with a spade. If you have a larger area to deal with, a rotavator comes into its own.
Once you have turned everything over and broken down the soil, chuck in half of anything organic material you plan to dig in. After digging over the entire area again, throw in the other half and repeat.
Rake the area.
Leave well alone for a week or so.
Rake again. Remove any stones or vegetation.
Tread over the area to really help things settle down.
Sowing Your Lawn
With preparation taken care of, it’s time to sow your grass seed.
For obvious reasons, choose a day with no wind.
You can use a broadcast spreader rather than sowing by hand. Use whatever method you find most comfortable.
Before sowing, rake the area one final time.
Divide your seed in half. Sow half of it walking in one direction. With the second half of your seed, sow it at right angles to the first batch.
Gently rake the seed into the top of the soil and you’re good to go.
Just over a week from sowing the seed, germination will take place and your lawn will gradually begin to take shape.
Care and Maintenance
Do not walk on your grass while it is germinating.
You will need to gently water the young lawn if there’s a dry spell. Try using a sprinkler or a hose with a very fine spraying attachment. Point the spray upwards for a light touch. This will keep the soil moist but not too damp. You want to avoid seeds pooling into clumps.
Keep animals and birds away as much as possible. Chicken wire works well on smaller areas. Aluminum foil attached to string can help.
Once the grass gets to an inch or so high, it’s time to roll it carefully with a garden roller. If you don’t have one of these rollers, tread it over just like you did after sowing the seed.
Wait until the grass is about 3 inches tall before you break out the mower. Mow using a light touch to a height of 2 inches. If you do not have a cylinder mower, you’ll want to roll or tread after mowing.
Reduce the cutting height each time you mow but don’t dip below 1 inch until you enter the second season.
Children and pets should be kept away from the lawn during the first season. Seedlings are extremely fragile and you need to give them the time to properly establish.
Now your lawn is up and running, you need to think about setting a regular mowing routine in place.
Mowing is part and parcel of proper lawn care.
It not only helps your grass to look great but makes it healthier and more robust.
The first thing you need to do is choose your mower. There are several different types at your disposal…
- Manual Push Mower
- Gas-Powered Push Mower
- Electric Mower
- Riding Lawn Mower
- Lawn Tractor
- Garden Tractor
- Mulching Mower
Manual Push Mower
If you’ve got a very small lawn and you want something that’s cheap, quiet and environmentally friendly, a manual mower is an option.
Think about your mobility and how easily you would be able to push something around. It’s no use buying something that’s not fit for purpose.
Gas-Powered Push Mower
If you want a mower with a great combination of power and maneuverability, a gas-powered walk behind or push mower is a smart choice.
You’ll have to choose between 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines.
While you will get plenty of performance from a gas-fueled unit, they are noisy and give off a few fumes. You’ll also need to factor the price of gasoline into your ongoing costs.
For anyone with a medium-sized lawn, gas-powered mowers are a great cutting solution.
Electric mowers come as corded or cordless.
Corded versions are more powerful but you will be limited by the need for a power outlet. With a cordless, the battery will need recharging so you won’t be able to work continuously for long periods.
For a small yard, these quiet and green mowers are perhaps the best choice.
Riding Lawn Mower
For large and sloped lawns, a riding mower lets you get the work done in no time without breaking a sweat.
Once you step up to a lawn tractor, you can hook up attachments as well as mowing your grass.
If you want to make use of a bagger or pull your cart around, a lawn tractor might be just what you’ve been looking for.
These highly capable and adaptable mowers also allow you to hitch things up behind.
With large, all-terrain wheels, you can get anywhere with your garden tractor and do far more than just mow your lawn.
A zero-turn commercial mower is a heavyweight riding mower with an exceptionally tight turning circle. If you want something powerful but highly maneuverable for really large-scale mowing jobs, think about a ZTR mower.
Although you need to mow your lawn frequently, there’s no need to set a fixed schedule.
How often you cut your grass should depend on the growth rather than being fixed. The season and also the type of grass influence how quickly it grows.
You should aim to remove no more than 1/3 of your grass blade in any one mowing session. You risk depleting your turf’s carbohydrate stores if you cut too closely. Your turf will also be more prone to attack by weeds, pests or diseases.
Never now when the grass is wet. You just won’t get an even cut and it will clog up your mower. It’s not worth it.
Here are some handy pointers to bear in mind when mowing your lawn…
- Maintain Your Mower: You should always make sure your mower blades are sharp. Sharpen them every 3 or 4 times you mow. If you end up with ragged cuts from dull blades, not only will your grass be uneven but it will more susceptible to pests and diseases
- Fertilize After Mowing: We will look at fertilizing in more detail in section 5. Proper feeding is just as important as watering. We will look more at that in section 4
- Vary Your Mowing Patterns: Grass tends to lean in the direction it’s mowed. Mix up the way you cut your grass and you’ll encourage a much more even growth
Give your grass a close cut without going over the top. Mow often but not to a set routine.
Once you have packed away your mower, it’s time to break out the weed eater and apply the finishing touches…
Getting yourself the best weed eater is one of the smartest investments you could make when assembling your lawn care tools.
Whether you want to edge your lawn and borders, clear away longer grass, weeds or debris, getting the right string trimmer will make your life much easier.
While there are several different styles at your disposal, the idea of a weed eater is very simple…
A plastic string is rotated at high speed and this slashes through whatever gets in its way.
Although you can get away with using shears or a manual pole saw, a weed eater is a huge time-saving device that doesn’t cost the earth.
Different Types of Weed Eater
There are 4 main styles of string trimmers:
- Cordless Electric
- Corded Electric
- Corded/Battery Combination
These battery-powered electric strimmers are quiet and offer plenty of freedom without the restriction of a power cord.
If you have a medium-sized garden and you need mobility without the noise and fumes of a gas-powered trimmer, go for a cordless model.
For anyone with a smaller garden and plenty of power outlets, a corded weed eater works well.
These lightweight models are extremely user-friendly. They are quiet and convenient since you won’t need to stop to refill the fuel tank or charge the battery.
The principal thing to watch out for is not to trip over the cord. Work with care and caution at all times.
For a real win-win, some electric weed eaters offer you a combination of a cord to use if you are near a power supply with a back-up battery for other occasions. These are highly versatile pieces of kit.
You’ll get a superior run-time when compared to a cordless model and much more flexibility.
The most powerful type of weed eater comes with a gas-fueled engine.
These can be 2-stroke or 4-stroke. With a 2-stroke engine you will need to add oil to the gasoline.
Gas weed eaters make a fair amount of noise and also give off some fumes so they are not the most environmentally friendly option. That said, if you have a larger area and want freedom of movement married to great cutting power, a gas weed whacker might be just what you have been looking for.
If you need to replace the trimmer line, check out our reviews here. It’s also possible to swap out the head in the event of any problems.
The Many Names of Weedeaters
Terminology can be confusing. There are many different names for edging tools…
- Weed eater
- Weed whacker
- String trimmer
- Weed snipper
- Weed whip
All of these are one and the same.
A brush cutter is a large 2-stroke gas-powered edging tool that you need 2 hands to operate and is suitable for much heavier-duty cutting.
Weed Eater Shaft Design
The way in which the shaft is designed influences performance.
There are 3 main styles:
- Straight Shaft: The key advantage to straight-shafted weed eaters is the length of reach you will enjoy. Whether you need to access awkward spots below your decking or get in underneath shrubbery, a straight shaft works best. They are also particularly useful for tall users
- Curved Shaft: With a curved shaft on your weed eater, you can exercise much more control. They are generally lighter and easier to use around fences and posts
- Split-Shaft: These weed eaters come with removable heads. This makes your tool much more multi-purpose. You can hook up other attachments like a leaf blower giving you much more bang for your buck
Think about which variety of shaft would best fit with your needs. There is no right or wrong answer so make sure you pick what works for you.
Safety With Your Weed Eater
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- Wear safety goggles and gloves
- Do not wear open-toed shoes. Work boots are ideal
- Keep long hair tied back and do not wear excessively loose clothing
- Go for some ear defenders if you have a noisy, gas-fueled weed eater
- Use insect repellent and sun screen if you are working outdoors in the sun for long periods
- Clear all large debris from the area before you start edging
- Work slowly and do not overwork your weed eater
If you take your time to get the right tool for your situation, a weed eater will give your lawn a truly professional finish.
Now it’s time to think about a proper watering regime…
Luckily, watering your lawn is far from rocket science. Knowing how to water it the right way, though, is crucial if you want to maintain a healthy lawn.
First thing’s first, you’ve got a simple choice of how you prefer to give your grass the moisture it needs between rainfall:
For anyone who struggles with their mobility or simply does not have time to devote an hour to walking around the garden, a lawn sprinkler will get the job done on your behalf.
Once you’ve chosen your weapon, it’s time for some very basic pointers to help you on your way…
Water In The Morning
Early morning watering sessions are the most effective.
By cracking on first thing in the morning, you’ll ensure that the roots get the moisture they need before the sun comes up and starts evaporating the water. Also, the grass will have time to dry off before evening rolls around. This helps to ward off pests and diseases.
It’s usually cooler and calmer in the morning with less wind so try to make this a part of your routine and take care of business when you get up.
Water 3 Times Each Week
Watering your grass is a delicate balance…
You want to make sure that your grass gets the moisture it needs without drenching it and causing over-saturation.
While there is no hard and fast rule, watering 3 times weekly is a reasonable benchmark. There are many variables but this is a good starting point from which you can fine-tune things.
You certainly won’t want to water more than 3 times a week. This is just as harmful as neglecting your watering duties completely.
1 Inch a Week Works Best
You can’t go far wrong giving your grass 1 inch of water over the course of the week.
You can do this weekly in a single session but it’s much better to water every other day, perhaps 3 times a week in total.
Don’t Be Wasteful
One of the drawbacks of lawn sprinklers is wastage. Water comes gushing out more quickly than it can be absorbed. This leads to it running off into the street or wherever it can escape.
Water in short bursts if you are using a sprinkler. Leave it running for 10-15 minutes then shift the sprinkler or turn it off for a while.
One way to fight back against sluggish water penetration is to dethatch your lawn. Thatch is a collection of organic debris that builds up near the surface and slows things down. Remove it for best results.
Let Your Grass Dry Between Watering
Healthy roots need a good relationship between water and air.
By watering every 3 days, this part should be taken care of nicely.
When you walk over your lawn, if you can see your footprints, it probably needs watering. Dry grass also tends to lose its luster and bright green coloring so keep your eyes peeled and watch for any signs your lawn is crying out for moisture.
Watering your lawn is not an exact science. Make small adjustments as necessary.
Does your lawn seem to struggle drying out between waterings? Change it up and extend the spell between sprinkler sessions.
If you are finding that the water just isn’t getting deep enough, water more in each session but water less frequently.
Fine-tuning your watering regime will lead to a superior lawn over time.
Once your lawn is fully established and you’re watering regularly, it’s time to think about giving it a helping hand with some fertilizer.
Why Do You Need To Fertilize Your Lawn?
Soil will provide your lawn with most of the nutrients it needs but fertilizer also plays an important role.
With a proper feeding routine you can:
- Reduce weeds
- Encourage recovery from damage caused by pests
- Replace any lost nutrients
- Boost new leaf and root growth
If you’re going to the time and trouble of bringing on a lawn, it’s essential to go the extra mile and provide it with great fertilizer.
How Big Is Your Lawn?
Most fertilizers are sold according to how may square feet of lawn they will feed.
The most common sized bags cater for 5000 and 15000 square feet.
Measure up your garden allowing for any areas of pathways or driveways.
Taking the time to measure accurately will let you get just the right amount of fertilizer for your needs.
What Type of Grass Do You Have?
Grass can be loosely divided into 1 of 2 categories:
- Cool Season
- Warm Season
Most common in northern areas, grasses like ryegrass, bluegrass and fescue are known collectively as cool season grasses.
Since they grow most vigorously during spring and fall, this is the best window of opportunity for fertilizing.
Give fertilizing during the heat of summer a wide berth. This can really weaken your lawn and is to be avoided at all costs.
Bermuda, St Augustine and Bahia are warm season grasses prevalent in the south.
Anywhere from late spring through to the start of fall is a good time for fertilizing these grasses. Getting the timing right is key to prevent weeds as much as possible and to strengthen the grass for the coming winter.
Test Your Soil
Conducting a pH test of the soil before fertilizing is critical if you want to get the right fertilizer for the job.
pH tests show how acid or alkaline your soil is.
A reading of anywhere from 6.0 to 7.0, as close to neutral as possible, is an ideal basis for feeding from.
It’s All About The Numbers
Fertilizers are composed of macronutrients and micronutrients.
The 3 main macronutrients are:
These always appear prominently displayed on the pack of fertilizer in the same order.
A 15-0-15 fertilizer is a common mix. This would contain 15% nitrogen, no phosphorus and 15% potassium. The remaining 70% is simply inert filler.
10-10-10 fertilizer is a standard all-purpose mix.
Nitrogen helps with growth, color and overall lawn health. Phosphorus is great for promoting early growth. Potassium helps your lawn ward off disease and strengthens the root structure.
How To Apply Your Fertilizer
Fertilizing by hand is an option but it’s not recommended. You’re likely to apply it unevenly causing bare patches or even scorching the lawn.
A spreader is by far the best option.
Check out our fertilizer spreader reviews here so you can quickly and easily get to grips with the best spreader for your needs.
Mow your grass first and then get your spreader loaded with half of your feed. Walk in one direction dispersing the fertilizer as you go.
Walk in the other direction and use the remaining half of your feed.
Remember you should start work before you turn on your spreader. Turn it off before you come to a halt.
Clean your spreader and thoroughly water your lawn for the perfect finish.
Organic fertilizers are not cheap but they are effective and environmentally friendly.
Many of these organic fertilizers have meal-based goodies inside them:
- Bone meal
- Blood meal
- Fish meal
- Feather meal
Poultry litter is another common nutrient added.
The NPK numbers are low with organic feed, usually below 10 on all counts.
Organic feeds boost microbial activity in the soil making for a healthy growing environment.
They are best applied during the warmer months.
Fertilizer Dos and Don’ts
- Always test your soil first
- Choose your fertilizer based on these results
- If you use a spreader, buy the best one you can afford
- Maintain your spreader and make sure it’s properly calibrated
- Measure your lawn accurately for best results
- Try organic fertilizer over the hotter months
- Keep records of how and when you feed your lawn
- Don’t wait until after you’ve fertilized before testing your soil
- Never fertilize more than 4 times a year
- Do not rely on guess work
- It’s not a good idea to fertilize in hot weather
- Keep your fertilizer well away from water features
- Do not bag your clippings
- Stay away from phosphorus unless your soil tests shows a deficiency
Get your fertilizing regime right and you’ll be rewarded with a healthy and vibrant green lawn well worth the effort you have put in.
6. Pest Removal
Luckily, lawns are not prone to attack by many pests.
Like any form of planting, though, it can run into problems from a variety of unexpected angles.
We’ll take a quick look now before we wrap up this complete lawn care guide at the main lawn pests and what to do about them…
Source: Gardening Know How
The leatherjacket is the larval stage of the crane fly or Daddy Longlegs.
They live for around 1 year after the eggs are laid in the lawn in September, hatching a few short weeks later.
These larvae will feed on the upper part of your grass’s root system over the winter. As an added kicker, birds root for the grubs causing further damage.
Chemical controls for leatherjackets have been banned. Your best bet is to introduce nematodes.
Source: Vert Lawn Care
The chafer beetle has larvae in grub form. These grubs live for up to 3 years.
Females lay their eggs in the lawn.
The small grubs feed on the roots of the grass. Birds and other animals like badgers also enjoy feasting on the grubs so your grass gets attacked from all angles.
As with leatherjackets, the best solution is to break out the nematodes.
Moles leave obvious trails of destruction behind them if they start menacing your lawn.
The mounds of soil are the result of all the soil the mole pushes toward the surface as they are constructing their underground tunnels.
Caster oil can be an effective way to discourage moles. They also prefer overwatered lawns so go easy with the hose or sprinkler.
Voles are small rodents that can chew their way through grass after the snow melts. They are able to move freely around under the cover of snow but seek shelter when it begins to thaw.
Use some soil or compost to fill in their trails. The grass should heal just fine.
Put down some castor oil before the snow kicks in to put them off before they get comfy.
We trust you have enjoyed this complete lawn care guide. We have tried to give you as much information as possible in a concise and easy to digest manner.
If you pay attention to the tips and guidance here, there’s no reason that any element of lawn care needs to be confusing. Take care of the basics and you will enjoy a bright healthy lawn to set off the rest of your garden.
Reach out any time if you have any queries or feedback. We love to hear your thoughts and we’ll help in any way we can.
Now go and get to work on making the very most of your lawn!