Most Common Lawn Care Mistakes to Avoid Making
What you don’t know will hurt your lawn and if you want that idyllic lush green lawn, there are some common lawn care mistakes that you’ll need to avoid like the plague. Most homeowners coast through year after year making these mistakes and are never able to get the lawn they want. Check out these common mistakes so you can make your neighbors green with envy.
Common Lawn Care Mistakes
TRIMMING GRASS TOO SHORT
Trimming your grass too short can expose its roots to harsh sunlight which can dry them out and kill your lawn. There is also less of the grass blade to catch the sunlight and use it for photosynthesis which will essentially starve your lawn. If your grass isn’t long enough, you’ll be able to tell within a few days with the emergence of brown spots or bare soil over a longer time frame. The danger of this is that this gives weeds real estate to take root and further damage your lawn.
So, what are you to do? How long you cut your lawn depends on the type of grass you have. Warm season grasses have larger, flatter grass blades which are better at absorbing sunlight so they can be cut rather short without much worry. Cool season grasses have thin blades which need to be longer so they’re able to absorb enough light for photosynthesis. You’ll have to keep these longer than a warm season grass.
NOT pH TESTING
You might be thinking that pH testing is only for pools, but you would be wrong. A lawn’s pH is vitally important in its ability to grow properly and that band is more narrow than you might think. Most grasses will thrive if the soil’s pH is between 6.0 – 6.5 and testing your soil is the only way to find this out. Ignoring it won’t change it or make it better.
If your pH is out of whack, you’ll need to add either a lime based treatment or a sulfur based treatment to bring it back within that optimal range.
BAGGING LAWN CLIPPINGS
Many people swear by raking up or bagging your lawn clippings, but we’re here to tell you that you’re missing out on free fertilizer. Now, you shouldn’t just leave the clippings as is. That will obscure sunlight and kill the grass beneath the clippings. It’s just like leave a kiddie pool out for a day or two after your kids played in it over the weekend. You’ll be left with a nice circle of dead grass.
To make the most out of your lawn clippings, you want to have a self mulching lawn mower that can shred those clippings into fine pieces that will decompose and provide nutrients for your lawn.
WATERING TOO OFTEN
There are two main faults with watering too often. Either A) you’re watering often and shallow, or B) you’re watering often and deep. You don’t want to do either. The former will cause your lawn’s root system to be very shallow and located near the surface of your soil. When you have a shallow root system, your lawn will not be able to weather heat waves and/or droughts. Your roots won’t be able to reach the moisture in the deeper layers of your soil.
Doing the latter will cause unnecessary erosion to your lawn which will in turn cause run off. On top of that, having too much moisture creates an environment where fungus and disease can take root and make your lawn sick.
USING THE WRONG FERTILIZER
Different grasses need different fertilizers at different times of the year and that’s not even taking your lawn’s pH into account which can affect what type of fertilizer and how much you need to spread. If you add too much fertilizer, the grass blades can grow too much while the roots suffer and if you add too much it can actually destroy your roots because of the high concentration. Spread it at the wrong time and it can imbalance your lawn’s pH and lead to a host of other problems there.
The key to fertilizing your lawn is to 1) know your grass type, 2) know your lawn’s pH, and 3) know your lawn’s growing season. If you have those 3 things locked down, you’ll be able to spread the right amount of fertilizer at the right time to make the most out of it.
CUTTING WITH A DULL BLADE
The sad truth is that most homeowners will never get their lawn mower blade sharpened. It’s that age old concept of out of sight, out of mind. Now, provided that you aren’t mowing over rocks and fallen branches, your mower blade should last quite a long time before it needs to be sharpened again. It’s a metal blade that’s cutting grass. The wear and tear is minimal in that regard.
Mowing with a dull blade rips the tips of the grass blade rather than cutting it cleanly. This causes a ragged end that loses its green hue leaving it a whitish tan color. This creates an optical illusion that your lawn isn’t healthy. It is. It just looks like it isn’t. This misconception has led many a homeowner to overcorrecting their lawncare and actually making a healthy lawn unhealthy instead.
The fix is quite simple, just get your blade sharpened at the beginning of your growing season. That’s it. You have to tune it up anyways so you might as well get the blade sharpened as well.
WATERING AT NIGHT
There is a correct way of watering your lawn and doing it at night isn’t it. It sounds counterintuitive because watering at night would let the water completely soak into your lawn instead of evaporating in the harsh sunlight, right? Yes. That is correct, but it also leaves your lawn moist during the darkest part of the day which is a perfect recipe to grow molds, fungus, and other diseases that can damage or kill your lawn.
The best time to water your lawn is actually first thing in the morning. You still get the benefit of letting most of the water soak into the soil, but any excess evaporates throughout the day so your lawn gets all the water it needs without any negative repercussions.
How to Seed a New Lawn
Not every lawn can be saved. Sometimes there’s just too much work to be done or you’re in the wrong season to bring a dying, or completely dead, lawn back to life. At that point, it’s can be better to just pull the plug and start fresh with seeding a new lawn. Planting a fresh lawn isn’t a quick job, but it’ll take less work and require less attention than rehabilitating an ailing lawn.
Some people will swear that laying down sod is the way to go for a new lawn. While it will work, seeding your lawn is far less expensive and you don’t have to worry about that expensive sod dying before the roots set in your soil. If you’re willing to put in the work, follow these tips for a nicer, healthier lawn.
HOW TO PLANT GRASS SEED
Pick the Right Seed & Season
There are cool season grasses and warm season grasses. Which one you pick will affect when you can plant it so it can make full use of its growing season. Planting a warm season grass in the cooler months, or vice versa, will cause your new lawn to have a shallow root system that will struggle to absorb enough water to keep your lawn healthy.
Warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine need to be planted in late Spring to early Summer so they can germinate through the warm months. Cool season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescues, and Bentgrasses need to be seeded in early to mid Spring or mid Fall depending on where you live. Planting outside of that will expose the seeds to extreme temperatures which can kill the seeds.
REMOVE THE OLD LAWN
Once you have the seed picked and the time is right, it’s time to rip out the old lawn. There are a few ways to go about it and it mainly depends on the size of your lawn. If you have a small lawn, you can remove your lawn with a manual sod cutter or a square pointed shovel. It’ll be hard work, but your lawn isn’t large enough to warrant renting a gas powered sod cutter from Home Depot or Lowes.
If you have a big lawn, you definitely want to rent one of these. It’ll probably run you about $75 – $100 a day, but you’ll save an enormous amount of time and you won’t be laid up for a week because you blew out your back.
Regardless of which method you use, make sure you get rid of every trace of the old lawn. Grass blades, roots, all of it. Cut it out, scoop it up, and dispose of it. Once that’s done, you’re ready to prep the soil.
PREPARE THE SOIL
Well prepared soil is key in giving your new lawn the best chance to take root. Rocks, roots. sticks, and any other debris needs to be systematically removed from every square inch of your bare lawn and when you’re left with nothing but earth, it’s time to till the soil and repeat the process again.
The primary goal here is to have nothing larger than the size of a pea or a marble in your soil. This allows your grass seed to set a thick and uniform root system throughout your yard. Once that’s done, you’ll need a tamper to level the surface of your soon to be new lawn. You don’t want peaks and valleys that can be exacerbated by inclement weather. This will also cause your grass seed to not be spread evenly which can leave room for weeds to take root.
SPREAD THE GRASS SEED
When your soil is flat and free of debris, it’s time to spread your grass seed. You may be tempted to spread it by hand, but take it from us, you want to use a broadcast spreader. Like we said before, you want to have uniform coverage and growth throughout your lawn and using the spreader will guarantee that coverage. A handheld spreader can do the job, but we prefer the walk-behind variety. The only thing you have to focus on is maintaining the same walking speed while you walk your lawn.
Our preferred method for spreading is to walk your lawn in one direction and once you’ve covered it, turn 90° and spread in the opposite direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a criss cross pattern or a grid, it simply helps ensure even coverage and we’ve gotten the best results using this method.
WATER & KEEP WATERING
The first time you water is very important because the seeds are at their most vulnerable. They’re on the topmost layer of soil and are exposed to the element as well as birds who will chow down on them the first chance they get. You’ll want to soak 6” deep during this first session using the mist setting on a hand sprayer or a gentle sprinkler.
Over the next ~14 days, you want to make sure that you water your lawn 3 – 4 times per day, at minimum, to keep your soil moist until your grass is about 1/2″ high. At this point, you’ll be able to swap to a once a week watering schedule to encourage deep root growth that will help your lawn get through possible droughts down the line.
We’d like to say that you can’t water your lawn enough, but that’s not true. Over watering will erode your soil and wash away the grass seed before it can take root. Take your time, be diligent, and be consistent with watering your lawn.
How to Get Rid of Ants: Home Ant Treatment Guide
Getting rid of ants can be an ordeal because if you don’t catch them early, there can be thousands of them. They get into everything, you only see ~20% of the entire colony (at most) at one time, and there can be multiple ant beds leading to a super colony underneath your lawn. Get rid of ants for good by follow these simple steps.
7 Easy Steps to Get Rid of Ants
Figure out what type of ants you have
While there are thousands of different types of ants, you’ll only see a handful if you live in the US. Knowing which one you have will give you a leg up on figuring out how to deal with them. If you have an ant problem, you’ll most likely have pavement ants, Argentine ants, odorous ants, or Carpenter ants. It’s important to identify them quickly because if you have carpenter ants, they’re eating your home. Those can be identified fairly easily because they’re much larger than normal ants and dark black.
Clean your house top to bottom
When you live in a house long enough, things fall through the cracks. Your house isn’t as clean as you think it is. Crumbs get brushed under the refrigerator and oven, your kids might be hiding part of their meals they don’t like eating, popcorn gets kicked under the couch, the can opener has a bit of caked on blueberry juice, or any number of other things could be drawing ants inside.
No matter what type of ants you may have, the road to getting rid of ants starts by giving your house a thorough cleaning. Cabinets, appliances, closets, waste bins, clean everything. It’s the only way to be 100% sure that you’ve gotten everything and can move on to the next steps to keep your house ant free.
Get rid of any potential food sources
If ants are getting into your house, they’re looking for one of two things. Food and water. When it comes to food sources, you’ll want to start keeping food in sealed containers. That means fruit, sugar, spices, cereals, and so on need to be safely stored so they don’t attract ants. This is because sometimes plastic bags and cardboard boxes aren’t enough to keep ants at bay. Store any food that doesn’t go in the freezer / fridge in sealable metal, plastic, or glass containers.
Don’t forget that there are some indoor plants that excrete honeydew, which is a food source for ants. Be sure to regularly wipe down any and all plants inside of your house to keep them from attracting these pests.
Check for indoor water sources
Ants needs water just like every other living being. If they can’t find it outside, they’re going to come knocking. Check your home for any signs of leaks or standing water to keep ants outside where they belong. Some standard places to look at sinks, tubs, showers, and your refrigerator’s drip tray.
The same thing goes for your pet’s water bowls. If your pets are finished with their water, pour out the water in the sink and dry them out. They can even be coming out of the woodwork to get water from a sponge, wet dish rag you left by the sink to dry, or even an over-watered potted plant.
Seal up entry points
If you remove all the ways into your home, ants will look for an easier target. If you don’t, you’re leaving an open door for thousands of ants to come into your home. Even the smallest crack between a window and a wall can give ants an opportunity to infest your home. Walk the inside and outside of your home to look for cracks and crevices around your windows, door frames, foundation, baseboards, pipes, and ceilings so they can be sealed up.
While you’re doing this, also be on the lookout for rotted wood. Ants love wood that’s rotting or had termite damage and you can usually find a good amount of ants calling it home.
Use indoor & outdoor ant killer
There’s no guarantee that you house is ant free yet so it’s important to target the ants both inside and out. For the indoor ants, you’ll want to use two types of ant killer. First, spray an ant insecticide around your door frames, windows, and baseboards to target any stragglers trying to into or out of your house. Second, you’ll want to use an ant bait trap near areas of ant activity. You’ll typically find said activity in or near your counters, sinks, pantries, and cabinets though you should scour your home. Even finding one or two ants in the guestroom is enough evidence to warrant placing a bait trap in there.
For your outdoor ants, you’ll want to replicate what you did inside, but you have more options outside. You don’t have to worry about your kids or pets getting into the insecticide or your food getting contaminated by it. You’ll want to spray ant killer around the perimeter of your foundation as well as around door frames, window frames, and any additional seams or seals. Spreading ant killer on visible ant beds will help cull the colony’s numbers. There’s more beyond just this though.
Your landscaping can also be attracting and harboring ants. Follow these tips to make your lawn, garden, and flowerbeds inhospitable to ants.
- Trim bushes and trees so they aren’t touching the house
- Trim bushes up so that they don’t cover the ground
- Clean outdoor trash cans as needed & keep them away from the house if possible
- Keep your lawn healthy and short
- Minimize standing water / moisture
- Clean gutters regularly
Find & kill the colony
While some people will tell you that ants are good for lawns because they help aerate it, we don’t share that sentiment. You can easily do the same thing for your lawn with an aerator without letting these pests infest your property. We recommend that you seek out any and all ant mounds and liberally spread ant killer to send them packing. You can go with the old fashioned Amdro ant killer or you can go with the spikes. Like we said earlier, we don’t like taking chances. We recommend that you do a combination of killers to get the job done.