A Successful Lawn Care Schedule Goes Year Round
It isn’t difficult to begin to plan for how you will take care of your lawn at the growing season comes along. As the grass begins to become green in the spring and you begin to see things to be done like attend to weeds, the desire to get out there weekends and take care of it is something you and all of your neighbors experience. The truth is, however, that the best way to do a really good job of caring for your lawn is to have a schedule that goes year round and to attend to the needs of your living yard in every season of the year.
Of course as you might expect the winter months are going to be less active where what you are doing for your yard does not call for you to be out there cutting and fertilizing it every weekend. That is why the winter months are good times to get the maintenance done to your lawn mower and to prepare for the more active months in the spring. It is also a good time to inspect the yard to see if there are places where you will be seeding or working to help the grass fill in when the grass comes to life in the spring.
Depending on your climate in the deep winter, your main objective may be just to get ready for spring and to try to minimize the damage from freezing. That means trying to keep from walking or using equipment on a frozen yard to cut down on braking the grass stalks before they can regenerate in the spring. If your climate is milder or if you have those occasional “Indian summers”, it is always good to get a maintenance mow in to clean up the fallen leaves and to open up the yard for further growth in the spring. You can also “aureate” the soil by walking the yard down with spiked shoes on during the late fall or days when the weather is milder. This allows oxygen to get down into the soil which encourages irrigation and growth year round.
Late winter and early spring then is the time to get out ahead of the other things you don’t want in your hard. So starting early with a good pre-emergent weed killer along with some early spring fertilizer gives your hard a head start on coming in full with less interference from weeds. This is also a good time to get out there with the rake to get up any remaining debris from the fall and winter. The raking can also stimulate the soil which encourages growth.
The schedule of yard care is pretty much well understood for the spring and summer months with a continuous routine of mowing, fertilizing and weed control. When fall comes along, then you should think about post emergent to prepare the yard for the winter and to cut down on the viability of weeds taking root in the milder fall weeks. By continuing to have a plan for care and maintenance of your yard month after month, you cut down on the work of lawn care when things get active again next year. And in doing so your lawn stays healthier and more productive year round.
A Successful Lawn Care Schedule Goes Year Round
The Right Lawn Care Supplies Make for a Healthy Lawn
Taking care of a lawn is not extremely complex. The simple tasks of mowing and trimming the yard are so routine that everybody who has property does it or has a service take care of it. Even the next level of taking care of weeds and providing for the other needs for your lawn is entirely achievable by the average home owner with the purchase of affordable supplies that are available at any corner garden or hardware store in season.
Even during the off seasons of fall and winter, you may find yourself laying in supplies of pre-emergent to spread on your lawn and water in. This is a specially developed formula that can go a long way to keep down the amount of weeds and encourage grass growth in the spring. By watering pre-emergent into the soil, the chemicals will retard the ability of weeds from germinating from seeds in the soil. When spring comes then, the weeds cannot even get a start and you have stopped the propagation of weeds from year to year. Pre-emergent that you put out in the early spring also encourages growth in your grass so your lawn gets a good start when springtime begins the cycle of growth.
If you are starting to plan your purchase and storage of chemical supplies for your lawn, you have some decisions to make. You can get some good deals buying in bulk but you will have a storage issues. You really don’t want to leave bags of open fertilizer and weed killer outside to expose to the elements. That can ruin your stock which defeats your purpose. But if you have a secure shed that can hold a dozen or so large bags of various chemicals, you can buy in bulk. Most lawn care chemicals do not have a serious shelf life so a big bag or several big bags can last for years as you use out of them as needed.
The summer brings the need for weed killers and/or fertilizers and what you need to put out may change by the month. You may need broadleaf weed killer one month and crabgrass killer the next. Other chemicals that may be needed to control pests such as insecticides, grub control supplies to discourage moles and ant or termite control chemicals all might need to be stored as you go.
Similarly, the types of fertilizers you put out may change throughout the growing season depending on where your turf is each month. In late winter or early spring, weed and feed works well so you don’t have alternate weed killer and fertilizer. As the growing season takes off, you will want fertilizer that encourages rapid growth and thickening of your yard so new sprouts do well and existing grass turns your yard into a think lush grass carpet. Then as the summer continues, fertilizers that cause the grass to become greener are appropriate.
Learning the cycles of your lawn from late winter through the spring growth through a busy summer and then into the fall and winter months as well is a big part of knowing in advance what supplies you will need. If you can buy and store them as you go, more power to you. But just having a good annual schedule of supplies means you will be stocking up in time for each need and that means your maintenance will be on time and effective throughout the life of your yard.
Proper Mowing is the Heart of Responsible Lawn Care
Maintaining a lawn takes a little bit of tender loving care every so often. The great thing about a healthy and well cared for lawn is that once it is established and doing well, it pretty much takes care of itself. A strong stand of grass will actually choke out weeds just because it is protective of the ground and sun space the grass uses to grow and thicken. For the most part, your lawn gets what it needs from the rain, an occasional watering and the soil. And if you give it a little fertilizer every once in a while, that helps things along as well. But you don’t need to do that more than couple times a year because you can do as much damage over tending your lawn as neglecting it.
The one routine maintenance step you should plan to work on probably around once a week depending on growth is mowing the lawn. It sounds like this is just a basic step to keep the lawn from looking ragged and to keep the neighbors satisfied. But mowing does a lot for your yard to keep it healthy as well. Grass is unique among wild vegetation because it thrives on being mowed. The cutting stimulates growth and spreading. If some or all of the cuttings get down into the soil, that provides mulch for nutrients.
But maybe most valuable is that weeds do not thrive on mowing. When you cut off the heads of weeds, they do not have that upper growth to gather sunlight and produce spores for reproduction. The weakened weeds are then easy prey for aggressive grass sprouts to crowd them out of your yard. In that way, mowing is a natural form of weed control. This is why early in the season, mowing low works because not only does it encourage grass growth but it sucks up much of the residue, which prepares the turf for new growth. In addition, you want a relatively clean grounds early so the fertilizer you put down to jump start the yard can get down to the roots.
But as the summer progresses, lawn experts call for raising the blades of your mower so you are cutting the yard higher and leaving it somewhat longer than earlier. This encourages root growth. And the deeper the root system, the better your grass becomes at finding water and nutrients. The more well established your yard will be which helps it survive the dormant months ahead.
The court is out on whether to catch your grass or to allow the cuttings to go into the soil for mulch. In general, you will get some residue from mowing even if you catch and that is probably sufficient mulch. If you allow too much mulch, it can become a “thatch” which restricts airflow and even water penetration to the roots of your grass. So be smart in how you approach even this basic task of mowing your lawn so you are doing so in a way that encourages long term growth and health for this important part of your property.
New Lawn Care Means Getting It Right the First Time
It doesn’t happen very often but if you are looking out of the windows of your new home at a plot of bare dirt because you decided to establish your new lawn yourself, you might feel a little intimidated. But this is a rare opportunity to lay down a superior lawn from the very beginning. And that strong start may be the beginning of a lawn that continues to grow in lush and full each year and that resists disease and weeds even better than average lawns.
You made the right decision if you decided not to let the builder put in the lawn. Builders are not master gardeners and while they would put in a lawn that would probably grow, they are not going to look at this project in terms of a decades long investment in your yard. They just want to get the job done as cheaply as possible so you will sign off on the job so they can move on to the next job. But by keeping this job back until how it is done passes your scrutiny, you can make sure that before the first seed is dropped or piece of sod is unrolled, the soil was prepared and everything is as it should be.
Many times, there will be preparation of the soil to be done. This is a perfect time to have the soil evaluated for acidic levels and to determine that it is rich enough to support a strong yard. If not, you can have lime treatments done and do other remedial work to the soil before the grass goes down. You can also turn the soil and smooth it out as well as add compost and other rich nutrients so your new grass will have a great bed of soil to start its new life with.
You also have a lot of choices about what kind of grass to put in. The choices will impact the look and the health of your yard. This is a good time to make it your passion to learn all you can about how different varieties of grass do in your part of the country and how they would fit on your plot of land. Some grasses such as Bermuda grass are tough and spread well but it loves the open sun and lots of heat. If you have a shady lot or you don’t get that much heat where you live, look at other grasses more adaptable to where you are.
All of this preparation will serve you well. Also, consider whether to go with a seed based installation or sod. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Seed will probably give you a more assured installation and sometimes sod comes with weeds already started along with the grass. But seed takes a lot of watering and care in the first months of yard life so be sure you are prepared to make that kind of commitment. If you do and you have done your preparations well, you are assured of a beautiful lawn that will take root and continue to be healthy and make your home look beautiful for many years to come.
Lawn Care Products That You and Everybody Else Can Live With
Any trip to the lawn care section of Wal-Mart or your local hardware store will bring home dramatically that the variety and quantity of chemical fertilizers and other products to take care of your yard is pretty overwhelming. So the natural question that has to come to mind especially in our current world where “green” considerations enter into every aspect of daily life is, “What will all these chemicals do to the environment?”
If you have become accustomed to asking that question about most of your purchase decisions as many of us have, you have made the transition to the motto of “think globally, act locally.” The very act of walking down your yard with a spreader and watching those granules of chemicals spew across your land makes you wonder if what you are giving to your grass is good for the rest of the world.
For one thing, many lawn products such as fertilizers and pesticides are not at all good for pets or wildlife. How often have you looked out your window after a big application of fertilizer or weed killer and watched the birds land in your yard and eat things from the ground as they always do. Watching nature in your yard is one of the joys of having a home. But if you suspect that you might be poisoning nature as those birds innocently find things to eat in your yard, that takes a lot of the joy out of what you are doing.
You may also have pets to think about. Try as you might, if you have a domestic dog or cats and they go outside ever, they will chew on the vegetation out there. Taking some small quantities of grass or leaves helps their digestion. That assumes, of course, that what they are eating is natural and not coated with life threatening poisons intended for weeds or to fertilize the grass.
It is with these concerns in mind that many of us have turned to natural alternatives for fertilizers and other lawn products. Just as you are “going green”, so are many of the industries that sell products for the home. And what better place to “go green” than in your yard where you are working hard to make your grass grow green and healthy and to create your own tiny example of a healthy environment.
So look for products that specifically state that the chemicals are organic and that they are safe for pets and wildlife alike. Yes, those products are out there and you can look to see this category of lawn products become more evident as the green movement picks up steam. You might have to pay a few more dollars for fertilizers and weed control chemicals that are in harmony with the environment and are safe for Fido or Fluffy to taste. But in the end, a strong environment and a healthy yard for the birds, your animals and even your children to frolic is what “home” is all about.
Lawn Care Lime for the Health of Your Lawn
Lime treatment is a very common method that is used to control the acidic content of the soil of your yard. The increase in acidic content of an average yard’s soil is a natural occurrence that happens whenever you have come out of a period of increased rainfall. But the use of compost for fertilizer or even the use of commercial fertilizers that are high in acid can offset the balance in the soil. So if you suspect that is what is happening to your yard, a lime treatment might be in order.
The first step to find out if you have an acidity problem is to buy a testing kit for your soil. Any fine nursery or garden department of a department store would have a kit for you to take home and get the process started. The instructions are easy to follow and in the end, you will at least know if your soil is high on acids or alkaline. If you detect a higher acid content than the instructions recommend, that is when a lime treatment may be in order. Be sure you know what you are looking for. A little consultation with the master gardener at your garden center can help you learn more about the process.
Before you can plan to treat your soil for lime, you need a more complete evaluation. This is done by sending a sample to a lab for a more in-depth testing. The yellow pages or an internet search will tell you where to find one. The cost is reasonable and you will get a detailed report that will give you all you ever wanted to know and more about the chemistry of the soil of your yard. But the important thing is you will also get a recommendation with details of how much lime to apply and that is what the real value of the testing is to you.
There are a number to types of lime you can choose from that your master gardener can recommend. Some of the mixes also are high in magnesium. The value of the lab test of your soil is that if you find out that you also need to apply magnesium, you can do that at the same time. Application of lime to the soil is a project so go into it knowing that. You will need a rototiller to really work it in so it might benefit you to contract the work done if you don’t have the machinery or are uncomfortable with working it.
You can add lime to your soil at any time when vegetation is growing so you would avoid the winter months. But follow this process and don’t apply the lime unless it is called for or you can cause more problems then if you had not put it down at all.
Lawn Care Advice for the Smart Home Owner
“Don’t work harder. Work smarter.”
That is an adage from the business world that is also pretty good advice about how to approach the management of our lawns. We can do all the right things by buying good tools, quality fertilizers and weed killers and setting aside time each weekend for lawn maintenance. But along with devotion, some wisdom about how to go about the art of lawn care is necessary to be successful.
A good example is how you use your lawnmower. Just rolling it out of the box and starting to mow is not the smart way to use this tool. You must adjust it and use it purposefully so each mow accomplishes the goals of the season your yard is in. For example, in the early spring after the yard has sat idle for several months, it is a good move to bring the mower out and put it on the lowest setting and mow a lawn that is not active. It seems silly but “scalping” the grass removes the extraneous material from the grass seedlings as well as cleans the soil around the grass to make early growth more effective.
As the season continues, keep raising the height of the blades every 3-4 weeks until you are finally leaving your grass blades standing about three inches tall. This may seem like a shaggy grass but if you mow faithfully each week, it will be long but well groomed. The rule is for any plant that the depth of the roots matches the height of the plant above the ground. So if you let your grass get longer in the summer months, it will develop deeper roots and gather moisture and nutrients more easily at that depth.
Also, be sure to keep your mower in good repair. A well tuned machine uses the gas you in it more efficiently and produces less smog, which is good for the environment. But by putting your mower in the shop early in the season, the mechanics can make sure there are no leaks of oil or gas that could get down into your turf and kill sections of your lawn. They can also make sure the blade is balanced to cut evenly for the entire span of the blade which is crucial for a smooth cut each time.
Consistency in maintenance is the heart of any good lawn care program. Along with a routine of mowing, maintaining a disciplined watering schedule keeps your lawn on a steady diet of moisture that is critical for growth. Also, use a scheduled but restrained discipline for weed control and fertilizer. Apply applications every 2-3 weeks alternating weed killer and fertilizer but do not exceed that schedule or you will overwhelm your grass. If the weeds need more work than this schedule can provide, pull them by hand. This kind of attention to detail and discipline from you as a homeowner is the smart way of managing your yard and it will reward you with the healthy turf that you want to surround you throughout the year.
Having a Great Yard is Easy with the Right Lawn Care Equipment
In any big project, having the right tools is key to your success. This is certainly true when you set out to have a really great lawn. There is a basic set of equipment that you need to work with virtually every week as you perform the maintenance not only to make your yard healthy, green and growing but to trim it so it looks great and gives your home that “curb appeal” that is so valuable. While the tools of the trade of an expert lawn keeper are not exotic, you do want to invest in quality because you are going to be using them a lot.
The backbone of any good yard equipment garage is a reliable and versatile lawnmower. Now the style and size of mower you will need is entirely dependent what kind of mowing challenges you have ahead of you. But no one tool will have more scope of work to do than this machine in that your lawnmower routinely covers every square foot of the yard. So the impact of this important piece of equipment is pretty powerful when you stop and think about it.
For most average sized yards, your standard push mower is a good choice. But there are a lot of choices in brands and extras you can choose from. Now in the current environment of fuel economy, its easy to take a second look at electric lawn mowers and other alternatives like that. They are viable alternatives but you must take into account that you don’t want to have to drag a power cord around the yard. And the alternative is to mount a heavy battery on the mower, which is cumbersome. Overall, the regular gas using mower is the most efficient and well developed type that will last the longest. And it doesn’t use that much gas if you keep it in good repair.
Of course, for a large yard or acreage, you will probably look at a riding lawnmower or some form of tractor. But even in push mowers, there are various mechanisms for assisted pulling. Many of them work with gear systems so the engine turns the wheels for you. The problem with these types of mowers is maneuverability. If you need to turn and move the mower around quite a lot, you will constantly be disengaging the gears to take over the controls. And if you are always doing that, it was not really worth the extra expense those mowers bring with them to have a feature that just gets in the way.
Along with a good mower, you will need a reliable trimmer to take care of the areas where the mower will not reach. You should look to stock some saws that you can use easily to take care of low hanging branches or things that fall to the lawn if you have a lot of large trees on property. A spreader is a handy tool to keep because applying weed killer and fertilizer is ritual you will repeat several times each year. Along with these basics, you should build a good supply or hoses and watering equipment and even a shovel or two and some rakes to keep the yard trim and free of debris year round. With this arsenal of tools, you can keep your yard looking good spring, summer, fall and winter and then turn around and do it all over again next year.
Going Green with Organic Lawn Care
The motto of the green movement is to think globally but act locally. To begin to live as environmentally conscious citizens of the planet, we must look at every aspect of our lives to find ways to “go green” and live in a way that protects our environment. And there may be no more appropriate place to go green than in how we take care of the biggest expanse of “green” you have which is the your lawn and how you care for it.
Our love of surrounding our homes with a lush green environment with many healthy and blooming flowers and plants in a way reflects our love of the natural world. So your desire to make your lawn a showcase is not at all against the principles of living green at all. The key is for us to find ways to perform that lawn care that is organic and natural and that will not harm the environment as we work to create that vision of the perfect lawn that you have in your head.
A very simple way to encourage a more organic and natural lawn is simply to let it grow longer than you might have otherwise. By allowing your yard to get longer and taller, it will fill in and that extra amount of grass above the ground generates more oxygen and is generally more organically sound. You can still get the look you want in your yard with a tall stand of grass. And a little known fact is that if the grass it taller, the roots are deeper which means they can find moisture better. That means your grass will be even healthier taller than if you trim the grass short.
Taking good care of your lawn mower is another way to make sure the act of caring for your lawn is environmentally conscious. The simple maintenance step of having your lawnmower blade sharpened or getting a new blade each year is a step that can do a lot for the health of the grass that lives in your yard. A sharp blade cuts the grass cleanly whereas a dull blade tends to damage grass which leads to injury and disease. Therefore using a sharp blade means a better cut to your yard, it also means healthier grass which is less prone to brown spots and illness as well as being environmentally conscious.
When the time comes to get a new mower, switching to an electric mower from an internal combustion engine cuts down on the emissions that your mower puts off as you cut the grass. It is a bit more of an effort to cut the grass with a power cord behind it but you can actually get mowers that work from a powerful battery. While the mower will be heavier, it will be cheaper to operate and the extra exercise will do you good.
Most of the natural steps you can take to a more organic approach to taking care of your lawn also make a lot of sense in terms or economy and being a good lawn owner. And by being environmentally conscious, you are taking one more step toward thinking globally and acting responsibly at the local level in how you care for your yard.
Going Green with Chemical Free Lawn Care
Finding ways to apply the principles of living green and in harmony with the environment isn’t always easy. That is because over the decades, we have come to depend on chemicals for so many things. From washing our clothes and cars to killing weeds in the yard, there is a chemical product for just about everything. So if you want to go organic even in your lawn care, it is going to take some adjustments and some getting used to.
One basic adjustment might mean a fundamental change to what we see as a “weed”. Many of the “pests” that we always fought in our yards actually produce lovely blooms in a natural state. Dandelions are an example of a “weed” whose only crime is not being grass. But the dandelion produces a lovely flower that many of us associate with the coming of spring and summer.
That said, you no doubt will have some objectives with your yard that include elimination of some weeds or objectionable vegetation. One great way to battle unwanted life is simply to give superpowers to the life you want out there and that is your grass. There are a number of organic recipes for fertilizing your lawn that you can use even before your grass springs to life each year. By getting on a regular program of fertilizing and maintaining your yard, your grass will have all it needs to become strong, resilient, and able to resist disease and even battle weeds directly.
Grass is notoriously greedy for land. That is one of the things we like about it. So if you do your part to make your grass strong and ambitious, it will crowd out weeds. By also maintaining a good mowing schedule, you will be giving your grass one more weapon to fight bad things that might compete for land, water and sunlight. Grass actually prospers when mowed whereas weeds are damaged by regular mowing. So that act of mowing which to you is just another step to make your lawn look good is also a very effective weed management program.
Of course, there is a very old fashioned method of weed control that has pretty much gone by the wayside in our new chemical driven world. It is tremendously effective, totally in step with the principles or living green and being one with the environment. And if it is done right, it can even be a family bonding event. That is just getting out there with hand held digging tools, shoves and rakes and pulling the weeds by hand.
Nothing kills a weed more effectively than being extracted from the earth root system and all. The remnants of the weeds can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and you get some exercise to boot. It might lead to some sore muscles every so often but one thing you have to say for the old fashioned of manual weed control in your yard and that is that its green and it works.