Do you have lawn care questions? Nearly every homeowner does, and they can leave you scrambling over what to do with your lawn at times.
In today’s guide, we’ll go over the most common lawn care questions and provide comprehensive answers so you can formulate a care plan for a healthier, greener yard!
1. Should I Dethatch My Yard? If So, When?
You might have heard of a family member or neighbor talk about dethatching their yard.
Admittedly, you have no idea what that means and if you should be doing it, let alone how often.
Dethatching a yard refers to removing organic debris called thatch.
Thatch includes some living plant material, but a lot of the plant material is dead as well. Thus, keeping thatch on your lawn isn’t really serving it.
The accumulation of organic matter happens faster than the matter can break down. This allows the thatch to keep growing.
If yours is thicker than half an inch, you should dethatch. It’s especially time if your grass growth is being hindered.
To do that, you have a few options. You can either hire a professional dethatching service, or you can tackle the job yourself.
If it’s the latter, then you can use a vertical mower or vericutter as well as a power rake.
A vertical mower features vertical-directed blades that will reach deep into the soil to lift thatch. Grass roots can come up as well, just as an FYI.
A power rake has rotatable tines that get into the soil and pull out the thatch. For a great dethatcher, click here.
You could also use a manual dethatching rake if you don’t mind putting more elbow grease into your work. This rake is only recommended for light dethatching.
2. Should You Test Your Soil?
Testing your soil, which is usually done as part of a soil analysis, can determine how fertile your soil is (i.e., how much active grass and plant growth it can support) as well as whether the soil has any nutrient deficiencies.
To test your soil, you’d obtain a pH reading of the soil to gauge how basic (aka alkaline) or acidic it is.
Soil testing kits are widely available at home improvement and yard care stores as well as online.
Testing your soil is a good idea if you’ve never done it before, as you can determine how viable your soil is to plant greenery.
Once you’ve done the reading, repeat it every three to five years.
3. Do I Have to Aerate My Lawn? If So, When?
Aerating your lawn is a great way to prevent thatch, as you’re making the soil a roomier environment for grass and other plants to grow.
You can use a tool such as a lawn aerator to ensure the holes in the soil are nice and even.
Wait until the grass begins actively growing, which will happen for the first time in the year between March and April before peaking in May.
If you miss the spring/summer aeration periods, never fear. You can also aerate your lawn in the fall.
Some homeowners say this is the best time to aerate, probably because it makes the soil nice and roomy to support better growth into the autumn and then for next spring!
4. Is Organic Lawn Care the Way to Go?
Organic lawn care entails avoiding using synthetic chemicals and other substances when caring for your yard.
Instead, you avoid weed and feed fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides, favoring natural products whenever possible.
Organic lawn care is ideal for many reasons if you can make it happen.
When you use chemicals on your lawn, they don’t stay there forever.
The rain and other weather will carry the chemicals away, where they can then enter the public water supply.
You should also worry about the exposure of pets and people to chemicals.
You don’t want your pets roaming among the same grass that contains herbicides and fungicides, right? Nor do you want your child breathing in non-organic pesticides when you care for the lawn.
Even if you don’t have children or pets, it’s not great for you to breathe in chemicals either.
All those very convincing benefits aside, organic lawn care can help your grasses and plants develop a healthier root system. We recommend using Milorganite 0636 Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer.
Check out our other article, “What is the Best Organic Soil for Lawn Leveling.”
5. What Are the Best Weed Control Methods?
No one wants their lawn to be covered in weeds.
Weeds are ugly and seem to multiply in the blink of an eye. How do you get rid of them for good?
First, you must identify the types of weeds you have. Weeds are categorized in two ways, grassy or broadleaf weeds.
Grassy weeds include crabgrass, which looks a lot like regular grass but isn’t wanted to nearly the same degree.
Broadleaf weeds like clover, purslane, chickweed, and dandelions are more varied but still not great for your lawn.
Herbicide is one treatment you can rely on to scale back on weeds in your lawn.
Do keep in mind that if your issue is crabgrass, especially that treating the weed problem can lead to diminishing grass levels in your yard.
The reason is that crabgrass, despite being a weed, grows in many of the same conditions that regular grass does.
You might have to sacrifice some of your yard until the crabgrass is gone. That’s not a pleasant proposition, but it might be what you have to do anyway.
6. Do I Really Have to Worry About Using Pesticides?
You’ve not yet switched to organic lawn care, as you’re still on the fence. In the meantime, is it really all that detrimental to use pesticides?
Indeed, it is.
Pesticides, like other lawn chemicals, may start on the grass or plants but can soon leech into groundwater or nearby bodies of water such as ponds, oceans, or rivers, again due to runoff.
You already know that pesticides and other chemicals in the groundwater can affect the potability of drinking water in a neighborhood.
In some cases, pesticides can even become a gas after application, and if not a gas, then a vapor. This is called volatilization.
When this process occurs, the pesticide vapors can easily pass through the air and affect local wildlife.
According to Nature.com, pesticides are linked to several human health defects, including ADHD, birth defects, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Thus, you have to worry about pesticide exposure as well.
Those are hopefully some very inspiring reasons to stop using all but organic pesticides!
7. How Often Do I Really Need to Mow My Lawn?
You’ve probably heard that you should mow your lawn once a week, and perhaps you’ve always abided by that rule.
Is it okay to allow your lawn to grow a few weeks longer, or is the one-week rule a common one for a reason?
Indeed, you should mow your lawn once a week when grass actively grows (between the spring and autumn) to maintain its looks and its health.
In the winter, you can scale back mowing or even stop in some cases.
In some areas, like where I live in middle Tennessee, I have to mow my Bermuda grass every 4-5 days in the summer. I prefer to keep my grass rather short to keep it looking its best and don’t bag the grass.
8. How Do I Know If Something Is Wrong with My Lawn?
Lawn diseases can wreck your lawn, leaving it in awful shape for a long time to come.
Taking a proactive approach to a lawn disease or issue as soon as you spot it can be the difference-maker in how healthy your lawn is.
How can you tell that something is amiss with your lawn?
You usually needn’t look too far. Here are some signs that indicate your lawn is in bad shape:
- The grass has a chewed-on appearance despite that no wild animals have munched on your lawn lately
- The grass is pulling up
- The grass has spots, lesions, or other noticeable spots
- The grass has what appears to be a powdery substance on it despite that you haven’t recently applied any product
- The lawn is a lot thinner than it should be this time of year
- The grass is brown or very pale. Is Mulch Really Necessary?
You’ve never mulched your lawn before, but you’ve thought about it, especially after seeing how nice your neighbor’s lawn looks with mulch.
You should follow suit! Mulch is highly advantageous to your yard.
With only two to three inches of mulch on the surface of the lawn, you can begin reaping various benefits.
If you use organic mulch (which we highly recommend), it will provide nutrients to the soil once it begins decomposing.
Mulching the lawn prevents weeds from drinking in the sunlight they need to propagate. They won’t grow to nearly the same degree that they once did.
The soil moisture levels will remain more consistent, so you don’t have to water your lawn as often. Mulch will also maintain the temperature of the soil.
When it rains, the mulch bears the brunt of it, so your soil is less likely to erode.
Not going to lie; this process can take some time and can be hard for many people. In this case, we highly recommend hiring a lawn service. They not only help diagnose what’s wrong with your lawn but also can treat it for a multitude of issues. Click here for more information on whether a lawn care service is right for you.
10. Why Does My Grass Grow Unevenly?
Have you noticed that your grass doesn’t grow to the same degree across your lawn, especially during certain seasons such as spring?
There are several reasons this occurs. Perhaps the drainage across your lawn is inconsistent, so some of the grass gets a deluge of water, and the rest do not have as much water.
Different levels of soil settling can also cause problems.
We’ve written many articles about leveling your lawn, which can certainly help in your case. Be sure to read those posts to get your lawn growing evenly from corner to corner.
11. Should I Fertilize My Lawn? If So, When?
When we discussed the risks of chemicals earlier, we didn’t mean to make it seem like your lawn doesn’t need fertilizer at all whatsoever.
It does, but you should use organic fertilizer.
Organic fertilizer provides the nutrients your lawn requires for growth. The stuff doesn’t absorb into your plants immediately so you can go longer before you have to apply more.
While chemical fertilizer can easily be washed away and enter the local water supply or nearby lakes or rivers, organic fertilizer has a bit more staying power.
Even during a heavy rainstorm, it takes a lot to wash away organic fertilizer.
You should fertilize your lawn during the active growing season, which starts in the spring between March and May, continues in June and July before tapering off in August, and picks up again in September and October.
Your grass will go dormant after that.
12. What Height Should My Grass Be?
We established earlier that you should mow your lawn every week to keep it looking and feeling healthy, but what grass height are you aiming for?
The ideal grass height is between 2 ½ inches and three inches tall.
That said, it depends on the grass you’re growing. For tall fescue, the recommended grass height is between 1.5 and four inches.
For perennial ryegrass, it’s 0.75 to 2.5 inches; for Kentucky bluegrass, it’s one to 3.5 inches; and for fine fescue, it’s 1.5 to four inches.
13. When Is the Best Time to Plant New Grass?
Are you planting grass from seed? You want to give the grass enough time to grow, so that means timing your endeavor just right.
Early fall is a recommended timeframe for planting the seed.
However, you want to schedule the seeding so that the first frost of the season is at least 45 days away. The grass will have time to grow in the autumn before the air and soil temperatures get too cold.
14. Do I Need to Water My Lawn? How Often?
You water your plants and flowers, but admittedly, not your lawn. You figure that the rain can take care of that job for you, right?
Not necessarily, especially if you live in a dry, arid region or if it’s been a while since it rained.
As a good rule of thumb, you should plan to water your grass at least two or three times a week.
Feel free to reduce that rate if it’s been raining but be ready to increase the amount of watering during dry stretches.
If you can, plan to water your grass between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m.
15. How Do I Know What Type of Grass I Have?
Earlier, we discussed several types of grasses, but how do you know what’s on your lawn?
The first way to tell is to determine your region. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast, or the north, then you’re in a cooler region with cooler-season grasses.
Those who call the southern parts of the United States home will have warmer-season grasses.
Here are some identifying characteristics of common types of grass:
- Zoysia: This warm-season grass is prevalent in the eastern and middle US and sometimes in the north as well. Zoysia grows slowly with needle-like, stiff, narrow blades and a prickly texture.
- Tall fescue: Tall fescue grass is a cool-season type of grass that sometimes grows in warmer regions. It has noticeable veins, a dark green color, pointed blades, and a stiff texture.
- St. Augustine: Native throughout the Gulf Coast, including Florida, St. Augustine grass does not handle cold weather well. It features broad blades with a rounded tip, a dark green hue, and a spongy texture.
- Ryegrass: A cold-weather grass through and through, ryegrass looks semi-white when you mow it and has an appealing shine. Its color is a natural dark green, and it feels soft to step on.
- Kentucky bluegrass: No, Kentucky bluegrass is not blue, despite the name. This cool-season grass produces V-shaped blades in a dark green color. The growth of Kentucky bluegrass can be rather aggressive.
- Fine fescue: Fine fescue is another type of cool-season grass that is not tolerant of dry, hot conditions. The color is gray-green and rather dull, and this grass feels thin, fine, and quite soft.
- Bermuda grass: Common throughout the south, especially on golf courses, Bermuda grass is dense, short, pointed, and deep green.
16. Is There a Best Time of Day to Mow the Lawn?
When should you plan to mow your lawn? Does the time necessarily matter, or can you just get out there when you have a minute?
Ideally, you should schedule your mowing midway through the morning. The dew on the grass will have dried out by then. If you have ever tried to mow a wet lawn, especially if it is a little overgrown, you’ll know how much difficult it makes mowing.
The next-best time to mow the lawn is around 4 p.m. or later.
Lingering lawn care questions can leave you uncertain about your grass care decisions. We hope that by clearing up these common concerns that you’re ready to pursue your best yard yet!