When I first bought a house, I didn’t know anything about how to take care of it. It’s not like I’d never lived on my own; my partner and I both shared a series of rental apartments and homes for five years before finally investing in real estate. But with home ownership comes a whole host of responsibilities we never previously thought of — like lawn care.
Homeowners are almost always liable for their own lawn care, but if you are new to home ownership, you (like me) probably don’t know the extent of what that means. Here’s what I did to survive my first year of caring for my lawn, so I could continue enjoying our lovely landscape without losing the lawn or my sanity in the process.
My first step in learning how to care for my lawn was hiring a lawn care service near me. “Wait, what?” you are probably thinking, “I thought this post was supposed to teach me how to DIY my lawn care.” It will — but the truth about lawn care is that it is complex and time-consuming. As you struggle to learn how to properly care for your lawn, it will slowly die. Thus, by hiring experts to provide necessary care in the interim, you ensure that your lawn remains healthy even as you take other steps to assuming greater lawn care responsibility.
Get to Know Your Lawn
Before you can properly care for your lawn, you need to get a bit of background on it. To start, you should investigate your local climate. This is especially important if you bought a home in an area you are unfamiliar with. Spend some time talking to your neighbors or invest in a farmer’s almanac to get a sense of typical weather throughout the seasons.
Next, you should look into what type of soil you have on your property. I started with an extensive search of what types of soils exist around my state — mostly red clay, thanks Georgia — but you should pay especially close attention to the soil in which your lawn grows. If you aren’t comfortable evaluating your soil on your own, you can send samples to soil labs. Soil scientists can tell you the exact pH level of your soil, its clay content, its organic material content and more. This will help you understand your soil’s nutrient levels, its ability to retain water and general necessities for care.
Just as you wouldn’t care for roses the same way you treat your oak tree, different types of grass require different kinds of care. I used my lawn expert to help me identify my precise grass variety; at the very least, you should discern whether you have warm- or cool-season grass in your yard. This is typically obvious based on your climate — if you live in an area that experiences a true winter, you probably have cool-season grass, and if your region gets excessively hot in the summer, you are likely to have warm-season grass. Then, you can know when to water, mow and fertilize your lawn appropriately.
Watering seems like the simplest lawn chore, especially if you have an automatic sprinkler system, but in truth more lawns suffer from improper watering than any other issue. While the amount of water your lawn needs will vary slightly depending on its variety, its soil and its climate, you should be aiming for around 1.5 inches of water per week. To ensure you don’t waste any water, you should schedule your waterings for mid-morning, and you should have only one or two waterings per week, allowing your lawn to get a long, deep drink.
I prefer smart sprinklers because they give me more control over when and how I water my lawn. However, in truth, as long as you are dispersing water efficiently over your entire lawn — not just dropping a hose in the middle — your watering method should be fine.
Know When to Mow
Many homeowners wait to mow their lawns until the grass looks long — but this is irresponsible and dangerous. Mowing your grass when it is over-long risks sending your grass into shock by lopping off too much at once. If this happens, you need to mow several days in a row, taking off small amounts at the top and allowing your grass to heal in between.
An easier solution is mowing about once per week during its high growth season and avoiding cutting away more than one-third of the lawn’s height. Though you will be mowing more often, it makes the process of mowing much simpler and more straightforward. Plus, it encourages grass to grow thick rather than tall, which helps it block out weeds and recover faster from pests and disease.
This is just the start of learning to care for your lawn. Eventually, you might assume all lawn care tasks, from overseeding to aerating, but for now, you should try to become a master of these basics.