A row of freshly mowed grass

Lawn Mainenance

When it comes to having a beautiful lawn, timing and technique is everything. Lawns are a quintessential part of owning your own home and it’s important to know how to take care of your lawn effectively and safely. Having a lawn or yard you’re proud of is never out of reach. Read on to learn more about how to properly maintain your lawn to achieve the best possible results!

Why Are Lawns Important?

Lawns only exist to make your house look more attractive, right? While that is definitely one perk of owning a well-maintained lawn, it is certainly not the only one or the most beneficial! Here are just some of the reasons why lawns are a crucial aspect of your home and why you should keep it well-cared for.

  • A lawn measuring 50 x 50 ft releases enough oxygen for a family of 4.
  • Healthy lawns prevent runoff and absorb rainfall effectively.
  • Turfgrass helps prevent pollution by trapping dust and dirt particles. Each year, grass traps around 12 million tons of dust and dirt released into the US atmosphere.
  • Front lawns of 8 average-sized houses have a cooling effect equivalent to 70 tons of air conditioning. Average-sized air conditioners only have a 3-4 ton capacity.
  • Turf grass increases home’s property value by 15-20% if well-maintained.
  • A healthy lawn absorbs noise and reduces glare.
  • Safety sightlines discourage intruders and increase visibility.

Prepping for Planting Grass

Unfortunately, we can’t just throw seed haphazardly across our lawn, hope for the best, and magically have the lawn of our dreams. Life would be so much simpler that way! Prepping your lawn is the first step in making sure it’s as ready as possible and is a hospitable environment for seeds or turf to thrive. Follow the steps below to prep your lawn for grass planting.

Fall leaves being raked off of a lawn
  • Clear Area of Debris – A lawn covered in thick layers of leaves or large stacks of wood covering areas you want to landscape will prohibit grass from growing. Clear away all unwanted obstacles to make it easier to plant.
  • Address Drainage – You may have noticed that when it rains heavily, certain areas of your lawn stay wet or have lots of puddles. Too much water draining to an area can actually drown the plants growing there. Landscape these areas so they drain well and evenly. Make sure the landscaping slopes away from buildings and towards drains.
  • Till to a Depth of 2 Inches – Doing so helps control weeds, alleviate soil compaction, improve root permeation/growth and water movement. All of these are major factors in the development of strong root systems for your grass.
  • Add Topsoil – Add around 4-6 inches of topsoil and then conduct a soil test to see which nutrients your soil is lacking or abundant in. Soil needs the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to support plants at all stages of their life cycles. Adding topsoil can help balance out nutrient levels in the soil.
  • Make Adjustments – More often than not, you will need to make some small adjustments along the way, whether that means changing the soil’s pH, adding nutrients, or landscaping to help with drainage. These small adjustments will make your lawn that much healthier and stronger.
  • Allow Soil to Settle – After you’ve made the necessary changes, give your lawn time to settle. The time this takes will vary based on weather and foot traffic. Your lawn should feel spongy not compacted. When adding nutrients, give the soil 24 hours to soak in everything effectively.

Mowing Basics

Mowing your lawn can seem like a mindless chore you do to make your turf look presentable. The average person spends only 11 hours per year (30 minutes a session) mowing their lawn, so it might not seem like a big deal or something that requires any technique. However, it is actually a stressful event for your grass. Follow these useful tips to keep stress levels low and to prevent damage when mowing.

    • Grasscycling – Many people spend hours raking their grass clippings or have an attachment on their mowers that collects cut grass as they mow. Leaving a light covering of cut grass on your lawn actually helps your grass. As the cut grass decays, it gives essential nutrients back to the soil for roots to then use.
    • Avoid Mowing During Certain Times – Mowing your lawn when the sun is high in the sky can cause dehydration and raise water bills. Plants typically cannot absorb the water faster than it evaporates so they do not receive all of the water you used. To prevent this, mow early in the morning or in the evening which will help your plants combat the shock of the heat.
Person mowing their lawn in curves
  • Avoid Mowing in Patterns – If you mow in the exact same pattern each time you could be creating ruts and compacting your soil. Try mowing in inconsistent patterns and mow in the opposite direction to prevent this from happening. Mowing the same way each time also causes grass to lie to one side which can cause less sunlight to reach covered grass.
  • Mow Dry Grass – Fungi actively search out wet or damp spaces to invade. By mowing your lawn when it is dry, you can help decrease the chance of fungi spreading into the freshly cut blades.
  • Keep Mower Blades Sharp – Dull mower blades can tear grass which makes it easier for fungi, disease, and insects to invade and cause major damage. By keeping mower blades sharp, you will reduce tearing and the appearance of brown marks.
  • Set Mower Blades High – By setting your mower on the highest or next highest level you can help fight the spread of weeds and disease. As a general rule, only mow about ⅓ off of the total length of your grass.

Fertilizers

Plants are 90% roots. Their purpose is to search for and intake as many nutrients as a plant needs. Healthy grass has roots that extend deep into the soil which anchors the plant and gives it more access to nutrients. Soil health plays a major role in the success of your lawn. If there aren’t enough nutrients available in the soil, it won’t matter how deep your plants’ roots penetrate. In addition, healthy soil protects plants and feeds plants and microbes. The more beneficial microbes there are in the soil, the less likely harmful bacteria or diseases will damage your plants.

Fertilizers provide a healthy boost to the soil that encourages plant growth and some contribute to soil microbe health. However, there are two kinds on the market, chemical and organic. One provides sustainable growth and nutrients, and the other shocks your plants with a one-time growth booster.

Chemical VS. Organic Fertilizers

Chemical fertilizers are a short-term fix for a long-term problem. These artificially-prepared fertilizers treat the plant, not the soil in which they grow and can actually strip the soil of important nutrients. They kill beneficial bugs and microorganisms that are essential to maintaining nutrient balances within the soil. Although they are inexpensive and rich in 3 nutrients plants need to grow quickly, these fertilizers strip the soil of nutrients and you will have to continually apply to maintain a lush lawn.

Organic or natural fertilizers, like SaferⓇ Brand Lawn RestoreⓇ Fertilizer, treat the soil as well as the plant to encourage beneficial soil microbes, sustainable growth, and provide nutrients over time to prevent shocking your plants. While they sometimes have more expensive upfront costs, they can be cheaper in the long run. As the fertilizer nourishes and strengthens your lawn and soil, you will need to use less product as time goes on. Organic fertilizers also contribute to a decreased risk of disease and fungi invasion because they feed beneficial microbes in the soil that provide nutrients and protection for plants.

Chemical Fertilizers

Pros and Cons of Using Chemical Fertilizers
Cons Pros
 
Contains high acid content. Can burn skin and negatively impact soil fertility Rich in 3 essential nutrients needed to grow healthy plants
 
Short-term fix Inexpensive
 
Artificially prepared Plants grow quickly
 
Treats the plant not the soil
 
Kills beneficial bugs
 
Strips soil of nutrients and weakens grass
 
Can be harmful to pets
 
Toxic runoff

Organic Fertilizers

Pros and Cons of Using Organic Fertilizers
Cons Pros
 
More expensive
upfront costs
Made from naturally derived sources
 
  Safe for use around family and pets
 
  No toxic runoff
 
  Does not kill beneficial organisms
 
  Promotes deep root growth
 
  Helps plants fight disease and weeds
 
  Increases soil quality and helps prevent erosion
 
  Long-term solution

Common Lawn Problems and Their Solutions

At one point or another, you are bound to encounter some sort of lawn issue. There’s no need to panic! Here are some common problems you are likely to face, how to identify them, and what you can do to return your lawn to its natural, healthy state.

  • Pale, Weak Grass – If you notice your grass has become unusually pale or splotchy and doesn’t grow much during its active season, you might have an iron deficiency. Try spraying your lawn with compost tea for a quick, natural dose of nutrients or spread an organic fertilizer.
  • Striped Grass – If you notice yellow or brown lines on blades of grass you may be dealing with the effects of unevenly applied fertilizer or an excess of synthetic fertilizer. Use a spreader when applying fertilizer to prevent this from happening and use a slow-release, organic fertilizer which will help prevent the browned lines. Always water fertilizer after spreading to help the nutrients absorb into the soil.
  • Brown Tips – Dull mower blades can make your grass more susceptible to dehydration. Make sure your mower blades are sharpened each year.
  • Bare or Brown Patches – If you notice brown or dead zones in your lawn that easily come loose when you tug on them, yout might have a grub infestation. Your best and safest option is to employ an organic insecticide. SaferⓇ Brand Neem Oil is an effective product in the fight against grubs.
  • Yellow Grass – Grass that is low in nitrogen will often turn yellow. This can also result from higher soil acidity or over-watering. Aerate your yard and apply a fertilizer to boost the nitrogen levels. Fertilizers with sulfur will also help to lower the acidic pH. Refrain from watering your lawn for several days after heavy rainfall. Allow your lawn to dry somewhat before you water it next.
  • Weeds – It seems like there’s no escaping these troublesome plants. Cut off the heads of weeds to prevent their seeds from spreading. Dig out their entire root system to prevent them from growing back.

Lawn Care By Season

Scenes representing leaves and flowers in each of the four seasons

Depending on the time of year, your lawn will need different maintenance. Timing is everything when it comes to maintaining a beautiful lawn. Follow this season by season general guideline to get the best results year after year.

Spring

Spring is the busiest time of the year when it comes to lawn preparation and maintenance. All of the prep and hard work you do sets your lawn up for the rest of the year. These tips will help you stay on schedule and get the best possible results.

  • Rinse Off – If you live in an area where snow is common, you’ve probably encountered snow salt. This can easily be carried into your yard on shoes, pets, and equipment. Be sure to rinse this away thoroughly early in the season to prevent a large buildup of salt in your grass which can cause burning.
  • Prune Trees and Shrubs – Keep your trees, shrubs, and any other unruly plants neatly trimmed. Grass thrives in lots of sunlight so make sure they are not covered by shadows for the entire day.
  • Test Soil – Grass grows best when soil pH is around 6.5. Any pH that is drastically different can cause major problems or even kill your grass. Make any adjustments you need as soon as possible.
  • Apply Fertilizer and Weed Prevention – Give your soil a nutrient boost before its active season kicks into full gear. The nutrients they need will already be in the soil and weeds will have more trouble getting established.
  • Mow – Mow your yard on the highest setting. This will leave your lawn looking well-manicured and the extra grass clippings provide extra nutrients.

Summer

Now that you’ve strengthened and nourished your lawn during the Spring, it’s time to take control of any pests or weeds that may have snuck in. After that, you can sit back and enjoy summer days on your beautiful lawn.

  • Apply Weed Killer – Weeds are tougher to get rid of than they look. Apply an organic weed killer on sprouting weeds and dig out their roots. Be patient. It takes time to fully rid your lawn of these annoying plants.
  • Apply Grub Killer – The best time to apply grub killer is at the first sign of grubs or before. Grubs are the larvae of beetles and can be very difficult to get rid of once they are established since you have to deal with multiple life stages of these bugs. Neem Oil can help you banish grubs from your lawn.
  • Spread Fertilizer – In hot conditions, your plants might need a boost in nutrients. Spread SaferⓇ Brand Lawn RestoreⓇ Fertilizer to give grass nutrients when facing stressful conditions like hot weather.
  • Water Lawn Only In Droughts – As a general rule, water plants ½ inch every four to six weeks to keep roots alive. Overwatering can lead to stress in a plant and create an environment where destructive fungi will grow.
  • Spread Compost – Give your soil even more of a nutrient boost with compost. This will also contribute to increasing your soil’s overall health by feeding soil microbes and helping to increase their population.

Fall

You’ve made it through the hottest and driest part of the year with your lawn intact and fully nourished! Now it’s time to start preparing for the cooler weather to come.

  • Start a New Lawn – Fall is the ideal time to plant grass. The warmer soil temperatures, mild air temperatures, and cooler evening weather provides the perfect germination conditions for new grass seed.
  • Overseed – Overseeding is the process of planting grass seed directly into existing grass or turf without tearing up the soil. It is a great way to fill in gaps and prevent seeds from taking over those spaces.
  • Spread Fertilizer – This gives plants nutrients that will help grass survive the winter and come up next spring.
  • Raise Mower Height – Instead of cutting 1/3rd of grass, trim only 1/4th of the plant to prevent mold or fungus from appearing. Grass stays dormant over the winter so mowing your lawn extremely short will cause more harm than good.

Winter

It’s time to take a small break and focus on the little things. Lawn maintenance in winter is all about prepping for the year to come. Your lawn is fully nourished and just waiting for warmer weather. Now is the perfect time to prepare so you’re completely ready by the time the warm weather rolls around again.

  • Perform Mower Maintenance – You won’t be using your mower in the winter so before you store it in the garage or shed make sure you sharpen its blades.
  • Clean Up Debris – Mow over thin layers of leaves and leave them in yard to increase organic matter and ensure there are not thick layers of leaves or sticks smothering your grass.
  • Spread Compost – It is best to do this before the ground freezes. Otherwise, the nutrients will not be able to penetrate the soil.

No Rain Lawn Care

How much water does a lawn need? About ½ an inch every other week or 1 inch every week to keep growing in its active season. Cool season grasses actively grow in the fall and spring while warm season grasses grow rapidly in spring and summer. During these times, your turf may need more or less water depending on which season grass you have planted.

Picture of a tree, half of picture during a drought, half when well watered

Regardless of whether you are growing warm or cool season grasses, follow these tips to keep your lawn healthy when the forecast is going to be hot and dry for weeks.

  • Keep lawn full of organic matter which holds moisture like a sponge. To do this, recycle grass clippings and leaves, spread compost, and use organic fertilizers.
  • Feed your lawn the healthy way with organic products. These type of products will break down nutrients slowly and won’t dehydrate your soil with salts.
  • Soak your lawn well to encourage deep root growth. During hot weather, long roots will have access to water well below the surface and are less likely to dry out.
  • Water your lawn by soaking it and then let it dry out completely. This practice will teach your turf’s roots to grow deep into the soil to search for moisture. Sprinkling grass with water frequently but not soaking it encourages short root growth
  • Do not water plants outside of their active period. During this time, plants do not need as much water. You’ll save on the water bill and help save the planet by using less water.
  • Resist the urge to mow your grass really short. Longer blades of grass shade soil from sun which slows evaporation. By doing this, you will maximize your turf’s drought resistance.
  • Eliminate weeds. Not only are they ugly intruders, but they suck moisture and essential nutrients away from grass.
  • Keep your mower blades sharp! Torn leaves are thirstier than cleanly cut ones.
  • Plant tough grass species that are known for growing in rough conditions. This will keep the plants’ stress levels down and allow it to function more efficiently.

OMRI Certified for Organic Gardening Safer® Brand leads the alternative lawn and garden products industry, offering many solutions that are compliant with organic gardening standards. Safer® Brand recognizes this growing demand by consumers and offers a wide variety of products for lawns, gardens, landscapes, flowers, houseplants, insects and more!

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