Lawn Care for Beginners: 15 Essential Steps to a Greener Lawn
Uncover what lies beneath the grass with our lawn care for beginners guide. Many homeowners think lawn upkeep is a straightforward process. However, it remains a nuanced field where mistakes often occur. Find out how to take care of a lawn in 15 steps.
Get up close and personal with the soil and discover much more than a plot of dirt. A healthy lawn conceals a dynamic ecosystem packed with nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial fauna. Soil that lacks these essentials for thick, green grass will struggle to produce a beautiful lawn without fertilizers and some tender loving care.
The soil’s texture will dictate how a lawn care professional will approach lawn rehabilitation. The three main types of soil texture are clayey, silty, and sandy soil. Loamy soil is 40% sand, 40% silt, and 10% clay. Sand does not retain water like silt or clay, so sandy soils require more frequent watering than silt or clay soils.
To determine the health of the soil and start planning a lawn care routine, a lawn expert must perform a soil test. A laboratory soil test reveals soil’s:
• Organic matter percentage
Soil tests found at the local home improvement store often provide information on soil’s nutrient levels but do not fully inform a fertilization or soil amendment schedule. A nearby college or agricultural co-op may possess the facilities to run a complete soil test.
Most lawn care for beginners guides will tell readers to identify their grass before taking remedial measures. A lawn’s required level of care depends on the grass species, and a home’s location will determine which grass type will thrive in that region’s climate classification.
Warm-season grasses thrive in hot climates, especially in places with long summers and short winters. If the soil temperature remains below 55℉, warm-season grass will go dormant, only to revitalize itself again the following spring.
Some of the most common warm-season grasses include:
• Bermuda grass
• St. Augustinegrass
Cool-season grasses enjoy mild climates with long winters and brief summers. Cool-season grass grows best during spring and fall and goes dormant twice a year during summer and winter.
Some of the most common cool-season grasses include:
• Annual ryegrass
• Fine fescue
• Kentucky bluegrass
• Perennial ryegrass
• Tall fescue
Homeowners in transition zones can try either type of grass and decide which grass seed performs better. Warm-season grasses will thrive during the summer, but cool-season grasses may turn brown before returning to life in the fall.
With the soil test performed and the test results returned, a lawn care services company can begin to remedy any issues. The lab should provide soil amendment recommendations with the soil test results to help lawn experts revitalize the existing lawn. For example, the soil may need lime to balance the soil’s pH after a pH test, allowing the grass to uptake nutrients more efficiently.
Lawn experts will focus on bald patches in the early stages. Several all-in-one products mix premium grass seed, fertilizer, and mulch to reduce preparation time. Some products also include vital microbials to enhance a lawn’s health by naturally correcting the soil’s underlying issues. Even bald spots that pets create can be fixed with good lawn care practices.
Now that the soil and grass are back on the right track, develop a maintenance game plan with a professional. A typical maintenance plan involves fertilization, seeding, mowing, watering, and aerating. Perform other tasks, like dethatching, raking, and weeding, on an as-needed basis.
A local lawn care expert can suggest types of fertilizer, new grass seed, and even lawn mowers. The best type of fertilizer for grass will depend on any short-term and long-term goals for the lawn. And the different kinds of grass seed employ distinct strategies that may encourage fast growth, improved thickness, or extra hardiness.
Refer to the test data regarding pH and composition to decide how to fertilize the lawn. Grass requires three elements to live: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Determine the soil’s N-P-K ratio and select a fertilizer that will bring the soil toward the ideal ratio of 4-1-2.
Fertilizer packaging usually contains the N-P-K ratio of the contents, expressed as a percentage. So, a fertilizer that lists its N-P-K ratio as 24-8-16 contains 24% nitrogen, 8% phosphate, and 16% potash.
Many lawn experts prefer to use liquid or granular fertilizer because they create less of a mess. However, manure often delivers exceptional results, too. Do not apply excess fertilizer, which can result in lawn burn, iron chlorosis, or root rot.
Once the grass starts growing, wheel out the lawn mower and get ready to start cutting. When nurturing a previously neglected lawn, experts will adhere to several practices that avoid damaging new growth and promote strong, healthy grass roots.
After a lawn care pro has corrected the soil and created the ideal environment for grass seed to sprout, sharpen up the lawn mower blades. Dull blades do not cut the grass; they tear it, damaging the leaves and stalks more than necessary. Torn grass tends to turn brown near the tip, which makes a lawn look unhealthy. Sharpening the blades once per year should prove sufficient.
Just a Trim
All lawn pros know they should not cut more than one-third of the grass’s height. For a lawn that has grown too long, cut less than one-third of the grass’s leaf mass. After watering, wait a few days before cutting another third or less off the top of the grass.
Everyone knows that a beautiful lawn needs water. But what time should it be watered? How much water does it need? And how often should it be watered? Find the answers to these questions and more below.
Water the lawn before 8:00 a.m. for the best results. Watering before 10:00 a.m. should give a lawn enough time to absorb the water before the sun evaporates it.
Do not water the lawn in the evening. Grass needs the sun to evaporate any leftover water to prevent diseases and pest infestations.
Depending on the grass type, most lawns require about one to 1.5 inches of water a week. For a robust lawn, water less frequently and for longer periods of time. Frequent, shallow watering will lead to a weak root system that sits toward the surface and absorbs water poorly.
Look for footprints left behind on the grass as a sign of dehydration. Hydrated grass should bounce right back after someone steps on it.
Dull discoloration of the grass’s leaves also indicates a dehydrated lawn. Automatic sprinkler systems can help the lawns of homeowners who forget to water their grass.
Break up compact soil by aerating the lawn. An aerator removes small plugs of soil and grass from a lawn, allowing water, oxygen, and fertilizer to penetrate deeper into the soil. When silt or clay soil becomes too compact, it starves and dehydrates the grass.
For best results, a lawn care expert will aerate warm-season grasses in summer and cool-season grasses in the fall. Aerate once a year for silty and clayey soil and once every few years for sandier soil.
After aerating the soil, spread grass seed in areas that appear thin or yellow. Sometimes grass may get damaged by pets, outdoor furniture, or winter salting.
Plan the seeding for optimal seasonal grass growth. Perform due diligence on the brand of seed. Some unscrupulous brands include weed seeds in their products. Selecting the more expensive premium grass seed will save time and frustration later.
Dethatch the lawn for optimal grass growth. Thatch is the layer of living and dead organic matter that accumulates on top of the soil. It may include grass clippings, mulched leaves, dead roots, and more.
Thatch serves as beneficial mulch when it remains less than half an inch thick. However, a lawn pro should remove it once it exceeds that thickness because it begins to attract pests and diseases. Dethatch warm-season grasses in early summer and cool-season grasses in fall.
Keep the lawn cut short and well-watered to prevent pest infestations and fungal diseases. If a lawn exhibits symptoms of unwanted insect activity or fungal growth, the homeowners should act fast to remedy the underlying issue. Signs that indicate pests or fungi include:
• Dead grass
If the lawn shows any of the above signs, notify a local lawn care specialist.
Even a well-maintained lawn gets an occasional weed. However, recurring weed growth may serve as a sign to improve lawn upkeep.
Sometimes, a homeowner may need to remove weeds using a post-emergent herbicide. After the weeds die, pre-emergent herbicides can stop them from coming back.
Even if homeowners like how fallen leaves look on their lawns, they should rake and remove them in order to prepare lawn for winter. Not only do leaves create an environment for pests to thrive, but they block out the sun, preventing the grass from photosynthesizing the sunlight.
Rake the lawn twice a week to keep it tidy and healthy. If the leaves are wet, rake the lawn more frequently. A lawn expert may use a leaf blower or even a leaf blower vacuum to expedite leaf removal.
To understand how a lawn pro takes care of grass, a homeowner must understand the tools of the trade. Some of the most commonly used tools for maintaining a lawn include:
- Edger — Creates a straight edge where the lawn meets the pavement
- Weed Whacker — Cuts grass in areas the lawn mower can not reach
- Leaf Blower — Pushes leaves and grass clippings with minimal effort
- Broadcast Spreader — Dispenses fertilizer evenly over a wide area
- Wheelbarrow — Transports heavy loads like large bags of fertilizer or mulch
- Mower — Cuts grass with rotating blades
- Rake — Collects fallen leaves for mulching or disposal
- Shovel — Digs holes to remove or transport soil
- Hose — Delivers fresh water to the grass, trees, and plants
Grow a gorgeous, green lawn with deep roots while minimizing its environmental impact. A lawn requires substantial resources. Some of the things a homeowner can do to protect the environment include:
- Collecting rainwater to water the lawn
- Choosing organic fertilizer
- Limiting the use of herbicides
- Leave grass clippings behind
Lawn care for beginners presents a steep learning curve. Entrust your lawn to proven grass experts instead. At Heroes Lawn Care, we offer the full suite of services, including fertilization, aeration, dethatching, irrigation system installation, and pet waste removal. Call us today at 844-980-LAWN to schedule a consultation!