10 Easy Steps to a Perfect Lawn: Healthy Lawn Care Tips

It’s that time of year to start thinking about perfecting your lawn, and there’s no better way to get started than to first learn how to do it.

These 10 steps will have you well on your way to creating the greenest and most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood. You and your lawn will be glad you followed these healthy lawn care maintenance tips!

1. A New Beginning: Sod or Seed?

Starting a new lawn with sod
Creating a new lawn with sod is the fastest way to start over

If you’ve decided you need a fresh start, the first question that comes to mind is should you Sod or Seed?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Using sod for your yard can give you a great-looking lawn, fast. However with sod, your choices for different species of grass can be limited, and it can get expensive.

Seeding, on the other hand, is more versatile but involves added work on your part. The soil needs to be prepped, seeded, and taken care of until it matures.

That being said, it’s cheaper and you have more choices when it comes to which species of grass you want; allowing you to choose a grass more specific to your watering & shade vs. sun needs.

2. Time to Mow

Spring has sprung, and that means mowing season is upon us. When it comes to taking care of your lawn, mowing is essential. What most people don’t know is that there is a WRONG way to mow.

How to Mow a Lawn the Right Way

  • First off, keep the mower blades sharp. Dull blades don’t cut the grass, it’s more of a rip or tear, which damages your lawn in the long run.
  • Second, don’t mow your lawn when it’s wet. The grass isn’t standing at its full height and you will get an uneven cut.
  • Speaking of uneven, be sure to overlap each pass by at least a few inches to help ensure you don’t leave tall patches in the middle of your yard.
  • Lastly, try to vary your mowing pattern as often as you can. By mowing in different patterns you avoid making ruts in your lawn with the wheels on your mower, and it keeps the grass growing more upright, rather than leaning in the direction of the cut every time.
Mowing the lawn
For a beautifully cut lawn, make sure the mower blades are sharp and the grass is dry.

3. Even Grass Needs to Drink

Depending on your location, nature may provide enough water for your lawn on its own with no help. Other locales are not so lucky (ahem… Arizona).

Depending on the sprinkler you’re using, you’ll want to water between 20-30 min twice a week. That should amount to about ½ in of water each time.

However, be aware of the time of day you are watering. You want to avoid watering between 11 am and 3 pm, the hottest part of the day, to reduce the rate at which the water evaporates. Watering at night is also not a good idea, leaving an open invitation to all kinds of mold and fungus in your yard.

Watering the lawn
For best results, water the lawn early in the day.

4. Living on the Edge

Create a distinct line between the lawn and the garden bed
A sharp edge makes both the lawn and the garden really shine

Many people don’t edge their lawns, and some have never even heard of it. But edging along a driveway or sidewalk will give your lawn a clean finished look.

For those who don’t know, a power edger is like a tiny lawnmower, which has been turned on its side. With a power edger, simply line the blades up with the lawn and slowly move down the line.

Take care to keep straight and the blades away from the concrete, as both the blades and concrete can be damaged from contact.

Fitness lovers can try using manual edgers for something a little more labor-intensive. These usually take the shape of a half-moon that you drive into the ground, much like you would a shovel, along the borders of your lawn or garden bed to give it more definition.

5. Your Lawn Gets Hungry Too, Feed It!

Your lawn’s favorite meal is fertilizer. The nitrogen found in fertilizer is just as important to your lawn’s health as water, so knowing these lawn fertilizing tips is key to caring for your grass. Start with a slow-release fertilizer, so you only have to spread between 6 and 8 weeks instead of every 4.

The best time to start fertilizing is in mid to late April for most areas, when the temperature is around 55 degrees. Plan for another feeding in late May, and continue that schedule until the growing season stops in mid-October.

Applying fertilizer to lawn
Use a drop or broadcast spreader to apply the fertilizer evenly throughout the lawn.

When you start spreading, we recommend using granulated fertilizer in either a rotary or a broadcast spreader. Be sure to fill it on a non-grassy surface, such as your patio or driveway, in order to keep from accidentally dumping a bunch in your grass.

Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Keep this as a rule of thumb, fertilizing too little is better than too much. Most grass can and will grow without fertilizer, but using too much can kill it early.

Also, take note that the more you fertilize, the more you need to water. The more you water, the more growth you get, the more growth you get the more fertilizer you need, and the more you need to mow. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s worth it to have a gorgeous lawn all summer long.

6. Do you Need to De-Thatch?

Thatch refers to the build-up of debris between the blades of grass and the roots.

So what’s the big deal? Why is it good to get rid of it?

Simple. Thatch causes run-off and keeps the necessary water and fertilizer from reaching the roots of your lawn. It is caused by overwatering, over mowing and over-fertilizing.

How to Get Your Grass Green

De-thatching is a common way to learn how to get your lawn green
A great way to turn a brown tangled lawn green is to give it a good de-thatching

Thatch is a common reason for brown spots in your lawn. If you want to know how to get your grass green again, de-thatching is a great lawn maintenance tip.

If your lawn has a brown mat over it, de-thatching is probably in order. We recommend examining your lawn to determine if you need to de-thatch. Is there a brownish-gray cover of grassroots that has grown together over the soil? If so, is it at least an inch thick? If you said yes, then detaching is the next course of action for you.

For smaller lawns, use a manual thatch rake with sharp tines that collects the thatch like it would collect leaves. (You can use a leaf rake, but it won’t be as effective)

For larger lawns, you can rent a power de-thatcher, and run it over the lawn once, just like you would a lawnmower. When finished, rake up the debris, and take the opportunity to water and fertilize. Your lawn may not look amazing for a few weeks, but soon your efforts will be rewarded.

7. Don’t Just Seed, Re-seed

The snow is melted and the sun is starting to shine bright, but you look at your lawn and just see a brownish mess. Re-seeding may be your solution.

One early spring lawn care tip that some don’t realize is that over time, grass needs to be replaced. But don’t wait until its all gone to do so. Early April is a great time to add seed to ensure a healthy lawn.

First, mow your lawn a little shorter than usual and choose an appropriate seed for your lawn, whether you want a hardy grass built to withstand kids and pets or a lush green grass to impress friends over for BBQs. There is a seed for you.

That being said, before you seed, it’s a good idea to spread a thin layer of enriched soil over your lawn, not covering, just a light layer that the current grass can easily peek through.

Then fill your spreader and spread your seed over the lawn. Easy-peasy!

Hand seeding a lawn
Every few years, your lawn can benefit from newly planted grass seed

8. A Holey Lawn is a Healthy Lawn

This may seem counterproductive, but your lawn needs aeration. Aeration involves poking thousands of holes in your lawn. This allows air, water, fertilizer, and new seed to penetrate the soil much easier, helping your grass establish strong roots.

The best time for aeration is during the growing season when the gaps in the lawn and soil can easily be replaced. Choose an aerator that removes plugs of grass and soil that are between 2 and 3 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart.

Before you get started, be sure the ground is moist, whether by Mother Nature or by man. Attempting to aerate dry dirt can be incredibly frustrating. Wait a day after watering and use the aerator like you would a mower. Make several passes over each section of your lawn. Thankfully, you can leave the dirt plugs to dry and just run them over with your mower next time you mow.

Lawn Aerator Sandals
A fun way to aerate the lawn is with these Lawn Aerator Sandals (sold by Amazon)

Aeration is one of the often-ignored steps towards achieving a great lawn, but one of the most critical. If your lawn is a candidate for aeration, don’t be afraid to give it a shot.

9. Conquer And Destroy Those Weeds

Now that we’ve got you seeding, fertilizing and mowing, we have a hunch your lawn is looking great.

But now those pesky dandelions and their uninvited friends show up to ruin the party. The bad news is that no one technique or herbicide will stop all weeds, all the time.

Turtle eating dandilion in lawn
Don’t rely on visiting critters to take care of your weeds.

Weeds are opportunists and will take root in whatever space is provided to them. The trick? Don’t give them the chance.

Keep up with your lawn maintenance (seeding, fertilizing, aerating) and you’ve won half the battle. That being said, some weeds thrive on fertilizer, so stick to the schedule and don’t give them too much food.

The same goes for watering. It is better to water on an irregular schedule and let it go deep. This will help feed the deeper roots of the grass, and overpower the shallow roots of most weeds.

If weeds have already taken over, the best tool you can use is your hands. Get down there and pull them out, roots and all. Don’t let weeds establish themselves in your lawn.

If you’re not a get down and dirty type person, your go-to weed defense is an herbicide. Herbicides work by targeting germinating seeds in the soil and killing them off.

The downside to this is that many kill germinating grass seeds as well, so overuse will kill your lawn along with the weeds. A combination of the three methods may be best, and anyone will help.

10. Beat The Winter Cold

The growing season is ending, leaves are falling, and winter is coming. You’ve fought the valiant fight to keep your lawn green all season long, and now its time to prepare for next years’ battle.

Fall lawn
In fall, it’s time to prepare your lawn to get through the winter.

First, determine what species of grass you have. Cool or Warm season. Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall since they can still grow fairly strongly in the autumn months.

The fertilizer commonly available at the end of the season is called a winter fertilizer, which triggers the reaction in your lawn to start preparing for winter, and should be applied in the late fall months of October or November.

However, warm-season grasses are different, and instead of only slowing their growing process, they go completely dormant. These grasses should not be fertilized any time after the first of September, or you risk restarting their growing process.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could aerate your lawn again and spread cool season or winter grass seed along with your last fertilization to give your lawn a head start on the Spring months when the process of fertilizing, watering, and mowing starts all over again.

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