Lawn care for first time homeowners

Where to begin?

First-time home ownership is such an exciting time. There are so many decisions to make, everything from choosing paint colors and fixtures to prioritizing home improvement projects.

One important area that shouldn’t get overlooked is lawn care and landscaping. Your lawn is the first impression your family and friends will make about your new home. But it can be difficult to know where and when to start. Many homeowners get overwhelmed, but Lawn Doctor is here to help. A beautiful lawn with healthy grass can be in your future along with the amazing curb appeal that comes with it. The sooner you get into a regular lawn care routine, the sooner you will have the perfect lawn.

Soil Testing

The first step in evaluating if a new home has a healthy lawn is to understand the environmental factors that could affect the health and growth of any lawn grasses, shrubbery, and flowers you plant. This can be accomplished with a soil test and a ph test. Soil testing is the procedure of taking samples of your yard’s soil and having them lab analyzed for available nutrients that affect growth, like organic matter, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

These elements all play a part in determining if your yard has the right conditions for a beautiful, lush lawn and healthy landscaping plants. When you get your soil test results, you may find that your lawn is missing necessary nutrients or has a ph level that is outside the optimal range (6.0-7.0). If this is the case, you should consider soil enrichment services that will bring the lawn back to its ideal state. Whatever your yard is lacking, Lawn Doctor has the solution for getting you a green lawn.

Types of Grass

After you determine the health of your soil, the next step is choosing a grass type. The process of determining the right grass for your yard has a few factors to consider. The first thing is to understand your climate and what kinds of grass types will flourish in your local conditions.

In general, there are three grass growing regions in the United States – warm season climate, cool season climate, and transitional. As the names suggest, southern states are suited for warm season grasses, northern states with cool season grasses, and the areas that fall under the transitional band can use either warm season grasses or cool season grasses, depending on their local conditions. Warm season grasses do best in the summer with temperatures between 75 and 90 degrees. Cool season grasses grow best in fall and spring, when temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees.

There are so many types of grass seed that one will be the right grass for you. When to apply seeding treatments will also vary depending on your climate. Lawn Doctor can advise you on which species of grass is best adapted to your region and growing environment.

Warm Season Grasses

The most common warm season grasses are Bermudagrass, which are drought tolerant, Centipedegrass, which is perfect for more acidic lawns but less drought tolerant, St. Augustine grass which does well in sandy coastal soil and is suited for the extreme heat and humidity of places like Florida and the gulf states, and Zoysiagrass which shares many properties with St. Augustine, but can turn brown during prolonged winters.

Cool Season Grasses

The most common cool season grass include Fine Fescue grass, which grows rapidly and is shade tolerant, Kentucky Bluegrass, which is known for its beautiful color and density, but doesn’t do well in heavily shaded areas, Ryegrass, which establishes quickly, but is prone to patchiness, and Tall Fescue, which endures the warm temperatures better than most cool climate grasses and can withstand a variety of soil conditions. There are also many varieties of seed mix that combine different grass seed so you can get the benefits of each.

Transitional Climate Grasses

If you happen to live in the transitional zone, you will need to do a little research before determining what grass seed is best suited to your specific conditions, as both warm season grass and cool season grass have advantages and drawbacks. Determine what are the factors you consider most important in your lawn, speak to your neighbors to learn what options have worked best for them, and consult a professional lawn company, like Lawn Doctor, to get expert advice on what will be the best option for a green lawn in your local climate.

Dethatching

Thatch is the layer of living and dead organic matter that lies between the blades of grass and the soil. It is usually a beneficial component of the lawn and acts much like mulch, protecting the grass roots and soil from extreme weather conditions. However, too much thatch can cause problems for your lawn’s grass, as it will inhibit new growth by creating a barrier that deprives the root system of nutrients, water, and oxygen. Too much thatch will cause your lawn to look thin and lacking a vibrant color.

You can determine if your lawn has too much thatch by digging up a small wedge with your garden trowel and measuring the thatch. If you see more than a one inch layer of thatch, consider dethatching to keep your grass healthy. Dethatching can be accomplished by using a garden rake to push down into your lawn and rake out the excess thatch. You want to dethatch when your grass is most actively growing, so cool climate areas should dethatch in early spring or early fall and warm climate areas should dethatch in late spring through early summer.

If you have any questions, consult with the lawn care experts at Lawn Doctor for professional advice.

Buying a Lawn Mower

As a new homeowner you will want to invest in a quality lawn mower that can handle the volume of grass on your lawn. A good lawn mower is essential for proper lawn care. A big consideration here is safety – be sure to follow all manufacturing safety instructions.

Buying a mower that is insufficient for your lawn needs will cause a lot of wear-and-tear on the equipment, shortening its lifespan. Buying a mower that is more than you need will cost you more money and it will have higher maintenance costs.

If you have a small lawn, you might be fine with a manual push mower or a self-propelled electrical mower, as these are the least expensive options. If you have a medium-sized lawn or one with a lot of shrubbery, you should consider a gas-powered mower or a rechargeable mower, as they are easier to maneuver and allow you the freedom of mowing a further distance from your home. Riding mowers are suitable for large lawns, as they can cut a high volume of grass in a shorter period of time. Your local home improvement store should be able to answer all your questions about lawn mowers and which one is best suited for your mowing needs.

Lawn Mowing Tips

Whenever you cut your grass, you never want to remove more than one third of the grass blade at any one time. Any more can cause your lawn stress and slow down its growing process. If the grass’s height is overgrown and very high, it might be best to mow several times over the course of a week or two with recovery days in between, until you reach the desired length.

Grass height is usually easy to maintain with weekly lawn mowing. Be sure to check and adjust your lawn blade length to make sure you are only removing the recommended length and to regularly clean and keep blades sharp and rust-free.  Sharp blades are better than dull blades, as they cut a straighter line and allow your grass to recuperate faster.

Once mowing is a regular part of your lawn care practice, you should be able to leave the grass clippings on your lawn as you mow, because their nutrients will help fertilize the grass root system and won’t contribute to thatch buildup.

Another important factor in mowing is to choose the correct time of day. You never want to mow during the hot afternoon sun, as this will damage your lawn and make the soil drier. The best times are early morning or after 4PM. The ideal day for mowing is the day after rainfall or a proper watering by an irrigation system or sprinkler.

Removing Weeds

One of the most frustrating and labor-intensive jobs for new homeowners is the removal of weeds. Apart from ruining the look of your lawn, weed growth also steal water and nutrients that should be going to feed your lawn and plants. The more you let them grow, the more they will crowd out your grass. Try to remove weeds as soon as you see them emerge, because younger weeds are easier to eliminate before their roots have a chance to become established. Get into a weed control routine by removing them regularly so they never have a chance to take hold and flourish in your lawn and garden.

Dig Them Up!

The most effective way is to dig them up and remove the entire root system. When you don’t get all the roots, it means that the weed will be back shortly with new unsightly growth and flower buds ready to propagate and spread again.

An effective weapon to control weeds in your garden beds is to use mulch. Mulch makes it more difficult for seeds to reach the soil and deprives any existing weeds of sunlight.

Herbicides

If you have a lot of weeds or don’t want to deal with the back-breaking work of manual weed removal, there are other methods to consider. Herbicides are chemical formulas that control weeds and are sprayed directly on the plant. This might be a good option if you have large swaths of weeds that you want to eliminate quickly, but there can be drawbacks. Herbicides don’t know the difference between beneficial plants and weeds, so you must be careful when applying to make sure they don’t harm your flowers, shrubs, or vegetables.

Another issue with herbicides is that they can affect your soil’s composition, making it inhabitable for future wanted grass and plants. Herbicides can also cause irritation if they make contact with your skin. There are non-toxic and eco-friendly formulas available if you want to avoid problems with chemical contamination.

Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent weeds before they can to germinate, but unfortunately beneficial plant seeds won’t grow either. It’s important to wait until wanted plants are established and growing before considering this option.

Lawn Care Next Steps

Lawn Care for Beginners is just the start. Check out the What Is Lawn Care blog for more even more tips including information about proper watering techniques, aeration to introduce oxygen into compact soil, and fertilization tips to ensure a beautiful lawn.

Contact your local lawn care expert at Lawn Doctor to get professional lawn advice and a free estimate.