Did you know that nearly 81% of homeowners do their own landscaping and lawn work? Although everybody’s got their own reasons, most can agree that there's a particular kind of satisfaction when you can implement lawn care on your own and maintain your property's curb appeal.
Understanding what your lawn needs and knowing how to take care of it is a major key in your property’s health—and can, unfortunately, be a challenge for beginners. Lawn grasses demand consistent care for a healthy and uniform look. That's why it’s essential for any new or experienced homeowner to refresh their lawn care know-how.
This guide will tell you everything about the basics of lawn care. You’ll get the ins and outs of important lawn care steps that involve mowing, watering, nutrients, weeds, and aeration—plus plenty of information on the types of turfgrass blends that will thrive in your region.
Where to Start: Lawn Care Tips & Basics
Whether you’ve just bought a new home with a new lawn or are looking to beautify your existing property, knowing lawn care basics is an essential part of the process of obtaining a beautiful property.
This part of the guide will talk about lawn care’s most critical aspects—like mowing, watering, nutrients, weeds, and aeration—while also answering essential questions about specific methods and issues along the way.
Tip #1: Mow Your Lawn Frequently—No Matter the Season
Mowing your lawn may feel like a tedious chore, but it’s an essential one that you should do no matter the season. When it comes to lawn care tips, mowing your lawn has numerous benefits, with the most important one being that it keeps your grass healthy.
Proper mowing can increase your grass’s density and promote more profound root growth, which can lead to a stronger turf. Over time, you'll have healthy grass blades that can survive better against invasive weeds and pests that sneak onto your property.
How Much Should I Mow My Lawn?
Although how much you should mow depends on the speed of the lawn’s growth, don't clip off more than ⅓ of the blade with your mower. One of the most common mistakes is cutting your grass too short.
Doing this could interrupt the natural process of photosynthesis on your lawn, which is the crucial process that is responsible for converting the sunlight into energy.
You should mow your lawn according to your seed blend’s recommendations. However, a good rule of thumb for timing is to cut once a week during the growing season and then every other week during off-seasons.
So, for example, mow cool-season grasses frequently during the spring and fall because that’s when seeds germinate quickly. Then, you should mow only every couple of weeks in the summer when the growth has slowed down. This is because cool-season grasses go dormant in the winter, so they don’t require mowing attention at that time.
Tip #2: Watering
Like all living things, your lawn needs water. However, depending on the variety, your property may require less—or more—water than other blends. You should become familiar with your lawn’s water intake because giving it too much water is just as bad as offering too little.
You can water your lawn with a hose, a manual sprinkler, or by installing an irrigation system. It’s a good idea to water somewhere between two and three times a week when it hasn’t rained. If it does rain, be sure to let your lawn dry out before you water it again.
Generally, lawns need to be watered early in the morning between five and nine a.m. and somewhere between 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. The key is to ensure that the top 6 to 8 inches of soil are soaked, although this may vary depending on your soil type and your lawn’s health.
Should I Install a Water Irrigation System?
There are pros and cons when it comes to inground irrigation systems for young grass shoots. Here are some factors that many homeowners like about irrigation systems:
- It saves time. Having an irrigation system saves you manually doing this chore and will take care of your property for you in an automated way.
- It goes by a schedule. A properly scheduled irrigation system can help guarantee your lawn’s health by watering the turf with the exact amount needed, at a timing interval you choose
Of course, there are some disadvantages too, with cost being a significant issue on the list.
- It’s expensive. Even though they're resources, lawn irrigation systems are an investment. means There’s an upfront cost you have to consider.
- It requires maintenance. Sprinkler heads usually have to undergo repairs or maintenance at some point, especially if you mow frequently and accidentally damage one. These systems typically require some maintenance to prevent damage from freezing or any potential leaks. (This is why irrigation systems are more common in southern lawns.)
Tip #3: Nutrients and Soil pH
Nutrients play a significant role in your lawn’s overall health, and you can usually obtain the right amount of nutrients for grass roots through fertilizing. Using the right fertilizer can amplify your lawn’s color, increase its productivity, heighten its ability to recover from stress, balance soil pH, and help fight against weeds, diseases, and pests.
Your lawn needs essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When you buy fertilizer, you might notice something called N-P-K ratios, which refer to:
- Nitrogen (N): Nitrogen is responsible for the chlorophyll (green coloring) of your lawn, promoting growth and lush yet strong blades.
- Phosphorus (P): Phosphorus helps promote strong root growth, which is essential for establishing lawns. Phosphorus allows your grass to grow more efficiently and more vital than ever so that it can combat weeds.
- Potassium (K): Potassium helps maintain the cells’ health in your grass, which can help increase its drought-tolerance, cold-hardiness, and disease-resistance.
Unfortunately, you can’t see what your lawn’s nutrient levels are without a soil test, but the good news is that conducting a soil test is easy. You can buy a soil test kit from a home and gardening store or get it tested at a soil testing lab, like your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.
After you get your results, you can get quality fertilizer based on what your lawn needs. For example, if it has a potassium deficiency, then you can get a fertilizer that helps boost those levels.
Tip #4: Weeds
Weeds are a plant’s worst nightmare—and, unfortunately, they’re prevalent in lawns across the country. Weed seeds are invasive and grow anywhere where there’s room. Some weeds, like dandelions, are particularly meddlesome, taking over the resources for other plants, because they can spread thousands of their seeds on the wind.
The most common and invasive type of weed in the US is broadleaf weed. While problematic, they’re easy to spot on your lawn because they won’t match your turfgrass at all and the flowering types don't look like garden flowers.
Instead, these plants have broad leaves and a kind of fuzzy flower head, depending on the type. Some common species are chickweed, dandelion, and thistle.
You can prevent weeds from taking over your lawn using pre-emergent herbicides. However, if you already have weeds, then this solution won't do much. Instead, you’ll need herbicides designed for post-emergence, which is a standard method used for weed control in your yard.
I Don’t Want To Use Herbicide. Is Pulling Weeds Effective?
Pulling weeds in your yard can be effective whether they’re surface-level, creeping, or deep-rooted. This can be a chemical-free way of combating weeds on your property, especially if they’re only in a concentrated area and haven’t yet spread throughout your lawn.
When you do pull weeds, be sure that you grab at the weed base and pull it out so that all of its roots come out with it. If you leave any root in the ground, then there’s a chance it can still spread.
In incredibly challenging circumstances, it might be time to opt for herbicides. Although some property owners are wary of using chemicals on their property, it is still quite an effective option when gaining your lawn’s health back.
Can Herbicides Kill My Lawn?
Herbicides can kill your lawn if you’re using the wrong kind. The key is to use the right herbicide for your grass. If you buy non-selective herbicide, then you could harm your entire property by mistake.
So when shopping for herbicides, be sure to purchase selective herbicides. A selective herbicide is manufactured to combat specific weeds species while leaving other species (like your turfgrass) unharmed.
Tip #5: Aeration
Aeration is a necessary task when your soil is too compacted for your grassroots. Compacted soil can inhibit the flow of the water and nutrients to reach your grass, supporting your lawn’s growth and overall health.
Aeration is a method that helps break up the soil so that your roots can breathe better. It does so by creating holes in the ground that can alleviate the compaction, allowing water and nutrients to reach the roots. Performing consistent aeration can also help with eliminating thatch and the chances of root rot, since your grass seeds will be able to breathe.
How Do I Know My Lawn Needs Aeration?
There are numerous ways to tell if your lawn needs to be aerated:
- Your soil is hard and it’s difficult to dig with a shovel
- Your lawn grass is growing poorly or thinning
- There are several patches or worn areas in the yard
- Numerous puddles appear and don’t dissolve
These are all apparent signs of compacted soil, which means that your lawn is desperate for aeration and some dethatching.
When Should I Aerate My Lawn?
If you plan to plant grass seed, then you should aerate your lawn so that the soil is loosened and ready to germinate. However, you have to be sure that you aerate at the proper times.
For example, you should never aerate dormant lawns. Be sure to focus on aeration when your grass is prepared to reach its peak time for natural growth. Plan to aerate cool-season lawns in the early fall or early spring. For warm-season grasses, late spring or early summer is the best time for aeration.
How Do I Aerate My Lawn?
You can hire professionals to aerate your lawn and eliminate the thatch layer, but it’s also a good idea to have a general idea of how aeration works so that you know how to do it yourself. There are two main ways to aerate:
- Spike aerators, which poke holes into the ground with a fork-shaped blade.
- Plug aerators, designed to remove a plug of grass and soil from the lawn.
Before you get started, make sure that your soil is slightly moist. You want to wait a day if it’s rained since the ground is likely puddled or soaking a few inches deep. When it’s damp, go over the affected areas with your aeration machine.
You’ll probably have to go over the same spots a few times since compacted soil can be stubborn to break through. After you’ve aerated your lawn, be sure to follow lawn care basics habits like mowing, watering, and fertilizing for optimal maintenance.
When It’s Time to Reseed Your Lawn
Reseeding your lawn might seem like a daunting and unnecessary task, especially if you already have an established blend on your property. However, it's sometimes necessary —especially if your lawn looks like it needs that extra help.
When this happens, it could indicate that the current blend of seed isn’t doing well in the existing soil or climate conditions.
The good news is that reseeding can often fix this problem. Before you purchase a bag of seeds, be sure that you know the type you should look for. You can start by finding out what species will do well in your zone with the Seed Selector tool.
Also known as “southern grasses,” warm-season grasses are grass species that grow best in hot weather like the southern United States. Depending on the type, some do better along the coast in subtropical regions like Florida, while others prefer more arid climates like the Southwest.
Warm-season grasses don’t have the same winter hardiness as cool-season grasses do, which means that they go dormant when the temperature drops too low. In some regions, warm-season grasses don’t go dormant at all and can remain green year-round.
When it comes to selecting a warm-season grass for your southern lawn, you have quite a selection to choose from. To keep things simple, you can start by learning about the most common blends: bahiagrass, bermudagrass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass.
Bahiagrass is the perfect blend for those whose lawns have poor soil, and other combinations haven’t worked. Bahiagrass offers a lime-green coloring with minimal water requirements, making it ideal for beautifying any dryland property. It grows slowly but does remarkably well for those who want a low-maintenance lawn with high curb appeal.
Bermudagrass is a versatile blend with minimal water requirements, meaning it’s perfect for hot, sunny lawns along the south. Its coarse texture and bright-green coloring offer extra beautification for high-traffic lawns and sports fields. This blend can survive in scorching summer conditions and is also famously pest- and drought-resistant.
Buffalograss is a slow-establishing blend that thrives in the entirety of the southern regions and the transitional zones. It has a soft-to-the-touch texture and vibrant-green coloring, making it perfect for beautifying front lawns that require a drought-tolerant blend..
Zoysia grass is an excellent blend for those with full-sun lawns. It has a deep emerald color with minor water requirements, which means that it thrives during the hot summer months. Thanks to its deep roots, it can easily access water in the soil to stay healthy even during drought seasons. Zoysia is ideal for busy lawns with children and pets.
Also called “northern grasses,” cool-season grasses are versatile and durable blends that are hardy enough to cold-weather climates like the northern half of the United States. They can withstand the cool and freezing temperatures of the winter, where they grow quickly during the fall and spring, slow down during the summer, and go dormant in the winter when the soil freezes.
In areas where winters are not as cold, like the transitional zones, cool-season grasses stay green all winter. However, in many parts of the country where it does get to freezing temperatures, cool-season grasses will withstand the fluctuation and simply go dormant so that it’s ready to come back in the spring.
If you live in the transitional zones, the Midwest, or the Northeast, then you probably need a cool-season blend for your lawn. To start, you should consider some of the most easy-going and popular combinations, which are Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue grass.
Kentucky bluegrass is perfect for properties that need that extra support. With a rich, deep forest-green coloring, Kentucky bluegrass thrives with extra cold hardiness, which means that it can offer year-round beautification and durability on high-traffic lawns or sports fields.
Perennial ryegrass is a perennial grass that germinates quickly. Perennial ryegrass is often blended with other species to help “nurse” slower-establishing species as it combats against weeds, erosion, and poor soil conditions. Its bright shamrock-green coloring catches the eye and also does well to beautify high-traffic lawns or sports fields.
Fescue grasses are versatile and come in several different blends, like fine fescue, tall fescue, creeping red fescue, sheep fescue, and much more. This shade-tolerant and erosion-control blend requires minimal water and is often used to beautify lawns that have been neglected or died out. It is also suitable for those who want a low-maintenance, low-water-use landscape.
Lawn Alternative: White Dutch Clover
White dutch clover is a popular lawn alternative that many homeowners opt for instead of actual grasses. It can grow anywhere within the continental U.S. and can tolerate full sun as well as full shade, which means it’s versatile for just about any lawn. People love white dutch clover as a lawn alternative because of its many benefits, such as:
- It requires little watering. Its roots are longer than traditional grasses, which means that finding water deep in the soil is no problem.
- It stays green longer. In southern climates, white dutch clover can stay green all year, but it also remains greens in the north from early spring to wintertime.
- It outcompetes weeds. Clover has the strength to outcompete weeds, which means that you don’t have to use herbicides to keep them at bay.
- It grows in poor soil. Perhaps the best part about white dutch clover is that it can adapt to any type of soil, even poor-draining, and low-quality soils.
- It doesn’t require aeration. Since clover can tolerate compacted soil better than regular grass blends, you don’t need to aerate your lawn if you decide to seed clover.
Keeping your lawn healthy is just as challenging as establishing one—but once you’ve got the basics down and take the time to understand what your lawn needs, you’re well on your way to a healthy and established property.
Just remember these key lawn care tips to guarantee a happy and healthy property:
- Your lawn needs to be mowed every week during its growing season and less often when it’s slowing down.
- Your lawn needs to be watered at least an inch twice a week.
- Nutrients are essential to your lawn’s health, and you can find out what fertilizer your property requires by conducting a soil test.
- Weeds are hard to avoid but not impossible to eliminate. Opt for selective herbicide or pull the weeds with their roots by yourself.
- Aeration should be done every growing season, especially if your property has compacted soil.
It’s also vital that you get the right turf or grass seeds for your region. Determine whether or not you are in a cool-season, warm-season, or transitional zone with the Seed Selector tool so that you can choose a turf products blend based on your preferences and needs.
Nature’s Seed Can Help You Choose the Right Blend
If you ever feel overwhelmed or need some extra guidance on these lawn care basics, then you can always consult with the professionals. The experts at Nature’s Seed have got your back when it comes to lawn care and can help you find the perfect seed for your property.