Grass & Lawn Care For Beginners
Maybe you just bought your first house with a yard. Or maybe you’ve been a “mow it and forget it” kind of person for years. Many people have no idea where to start, or even what their lawn needs to thrive. Check out our tips for lawn care for beginners to grow a soft, green yard to enjoy all year long!
Assess Your Lawn Baseline
The first step to lawn care for beginners is figuring out your baseline. You’ll want to assess your lawn to better understand what steps you’ll need to take to improve it.
Is your yard nothing but crabgrass and weeds? Do you have dead spots everywhere from outdoor furniture or pets? Is your yard so compacted that you can’t plant any new bushes or trees? All of these problems are symptoms of an unhealthy lawn and will require time and elbow grease to fix.
On the other hand, you may have just a few patches that need to be reseeded and watered. Knowing where you are and what your dream lawn looks like will help you develop a plan and a schedule.
Develop a Backyard Game Plan
Once you know the current condition of your lawn, you can devise a plan to create the yard you want. Most lawn care plans consist of five main elements:
Weeding helps keep your lawn looking even and beautiful. It also helps your grass thrive because its sunlight, water, and nutrients aren’t being stolen by weeds.
Some of the most common weeds you might encounter include:
- White Clover
The most effective way to remove weeds is to pull them, roots and all, by hand. However, if you have a heavily weeded yard, you may want to use a spray instead to kill the weeds. There are also a number of natural and organic options for killing weeds for those who worry about their kids or pets outside after spraying.
When it comes to lawn care for beginners, mowing properly is crucial for a healthy lawn. Take the time to sharpen your blade at the start of the mowing season for a clean cut. Also, be sure to wait until your lawn has dried after rain or watering before you mow.
And, while it might throw off your schedule, it’s always best to mow based on the growth of your grass rather than the day of the week. Wait until your grass has grown ⅓ over its mowed height before cutting.
Before fertilizing your lawn, you’ll need to understand its composition. Take a sample from your soil to perform a pH test (some home and garden centers will even test your soil for free!). Once you know what your soil is lacking, you’ll be able to pick out the perfect fertilizer.
There are plenty of natural and non-toxic fertilizers on the market these days, and you can even fertilize with compost depending on your soil’s needs. Some home and garden centers (like Stauffers) will even let you borrow a spreader for free when you buy fertilizer.
While you may see neighbors watering their lawns several times a week in the summer, frequent watering really isn’t necessary for most yards.
If you have a totally rainless week, one good watering should keep your lawn hydrated. If you live in a consistently dry climate, water deeply once a week. One deep soak is more effective than a shallow watering a few times a week because it allows the water to absorb deeply into the soil and grass roots.
If you can, water on overcast days or early in the morning, because bright sunlight can cause the water to evaporate before it fully soaks in. Try to avoid watering at night so you don’t invite fungus into your lawn.
Aerating your lawn adds air to the soil so that air, fertilizer, and water can reach the roots of your grass. If you’ve never aerated your lawn before, you’ll likely need to invest in or rent a plug or spike aerator. As a general rule, plug aerators are more effective if you have an extremely compacted lawn, while spike aerators are better for naturally looser soil. If you aren’t sure which is right for your lawn, you can always consult with someone at your local home and garden center.
You’ll only need to aerate your soil once every few years to add air without damaging grass roots. Most people aerate in the spring and/or fall to help their grass survive the most extreme conditions of the year. Moisten (but don’t soak) your lawn first, then use your aerator tool on your entire yard for a healthy, lush lawn.
After aerating your lawn, you’ll want to seed any thin or yellowing areas where the grass has died. Start by figuring out what type of grass or grasses you have. Planting an existing or local grass will ensure that the grass seed you choose will flourish in your local environment.
If you’re in the Northern U.S., you likely have a cool-weather grass like Kentucky Bluegrass or Fescue. If you’re in the south, you probably have a warm-weather grass like Bermuda Grass or Zoysia.
Once you’ve determined the type of grass seed you need, spread the seed on any patchy areas of your lawn that have been damaged by pets, children, furniture, or winter salting. Check the recommendations on the bag to avoid overseeding, and avoid areas that are already growing well. Seeding healthy areas won’t give you a thick, beautiful lawn, but it can make the grass tough and more work to mow.
Create a Seasonal Lawn Care Guide
One of the secrets to lawn care for beginners is to create a regular schedule. Just like you might have a cleaning schedule for your home, a maintenance schedule for your lawn will make sure everything gets done in a timely manner. These seasonal checklists will help you tend to your yard all year long.
Winter Lawn Care
While you might not think of winter as primetime for your lawn, it’s important to prepare your yard for the colder months. There are a few easy steps you can take to help your lawn survive the winter:
- Remove furniture, fire pits, and kids toys from your yard to store indoors. These items can kill your grass when left in the same spot all winter long.
- Clear debris, leaves, and sticks from your yard. These items can promote mold and mildew and prevent your grass from getting the air, water, and nutrients it needs.
- Be careful when using de-icing chemicals and rock salt on pavement near your yard. These products can pile up on the edges and kill grass quickly.
Spring Lawn Care
Spring is the time for your lawn to recuperate from a harsh winter and prepare for the hot summer. These four steps will help you maintain your lawn with ease:
- Aerate your lawn with a plug or spike aerator to help air, water, and nutrients reach the roots of your grass. Then, seed any thin or yellowing areas.
- Mow as soon as you notice your grass has started to grow again, but raise your blade a notch or two to help your lawn re-develop deep roots. Many people wait too long to mow and then compensate by mowing their lawn too short and stunting its growth.
- Water only as needed during major dry spells. There is typically plenty of rain in the spring, and you likely won’t need to water at all.
Summer Lawn Care
While the summer is often thought of as a high-maintenance time for lawns, it’s actually one of the easiest times of year to grow a lush, green yard. Check out these four simple steps to a great summer lawn:
- Fertilize at the beginning of the season to encourage new growth.
- Control weeds with spot treatments or by hand-pulling larger weeds. Weed before mowing to avoid spreading seeds for new weeds to grow.
- Mow regularly and often enough that you never cut more than ⅓ of the grass’s height. Mow higher in the summer to help prevent weeds from moving in.
- Water deeply only during dry spells when it hasn’t rained for a week or more. Keep an eye on the forecast so you can water before your grass gets overly dry, and consider installing a rain barrel to avoid wasting water.
Fall Lawn Care
- Rake up leaves and pick up sticks often. This will prevent dead spots in your lawn and will prevent mold and mildew from developing, which can contribute to allergies and household pest activity.
- Mow your lawn with the blade set a notch or two lower. Shorter grass will survive better without smothering itself under layers of snow.
- Clean your mower and sharpen your blade after your last mow — it’s one less thing to do come springtime!
- Fertilize in early fall then again in late fall for a thicker lawn. A thick lawn means stronger roots and fewer weeds, so this is one of the most important steps toward having a beautiful lawn come spring!