Tag Archives: Soil

How to Get Started in the Spring with Your Yard Care

Your lawn is starting to wake up! Think about your lawn like a bear emerging from hibernation. It has just spent the last several months sleeping and recovering from the stress of last year’s hot summer, and is now slowly warming up. Now, your lawn is hungry (needs some high-quality food), could probably use a nice long shower (here comes the Spring rain!), and could use a nice thorough grooming to get ready for the season.

Spring lawn care can be daunting (where do I even start?!), but don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be that hard! In fact, there are a few big things to start with that will really get you set up for a great season.  Take a look below for some tips on how to get started.

1.       First up?  LOOK for signs of damage, weeds, and issues that you want to address this year.

Our first recommendation is always to take a nice long walk around your property. Do you see any signs of damage (did the snowplow dig up a part of your grass?) A few things to take note of:

  • Wet winter weather may mean that you have moss growing in your lawn.
  • See any circular spots on your lawn that look like moldy bread? If so, this might be snow mold!
  • Can you see any “tracks” in your lawn where pesky critters (moles/voles/mice) may have enjoyed your beautiful lawn this winter?
  • Are there any new weeds that are starting to pop up? Some weeds (e.g., bittercress) emerge before the grass does, so you’re likely to see these first thing in the Spring.

If so, take a couple pictures and let us know!

Spring Lawn Care
Colorful crocuses and snow

2.       Next: GET READY for the season!  Time to prepare your tools.

Mower maintenance is a big one—we usually recommend doing a mower (and other equipment) maintenance at the beginning of each summer.  This includes:

  • Changing the oil, air filter, and spark plugs
  • Giving your mower a good wash (we also recommend washing before you put it away for the winter, but just in case, give it a good wash in the Spring too!)
  • Blade sharpening
  • Fueling the tank with fresh gas!

There are many shops that offer a full maintenance (or even just a quick blade sharpening), but most of these to-dos are easily done by yourself if you’re willing to give it the time!  Most importantly, make sure to read your owner’s manual for proper maintenance safety, and never do any of this maintenance while the mower is running!

Spring Lawn Service

3.       Finally, after you’ve tackled this prep work, it’s GO TIME!

Even though the soil ecosystem has been active over the entire winter, now that your lawn is waking up it’s about to be kicked into turbo mode! This means that your grass—and potential weeds—will be pulling nutrients from your soil at a much higher rate and quickly growing the “shoots” part of the plant.  This means you’ll need to start mowing very soon! A couple of big needs at this point in the season:

  • Clear a path for sun and rain to get to your grass and its roots—make sure you pick up any sticks, trash, leftover leaves and debris that may be covering your lawn. You should also give your lawn a good raking—this will really help to promote air and water flow (my removing dead grass, etc.), boosting your lawn’s health!
  • Hand pull those weeds!  Some individual weed plants can drop tens of thousands of seeds over the course of a single season, so any weeds that you can hand pull at this point in the season will be a big help in reducing weed populations as we go.
  • Time for your pre-emergent treatment—this early-season treatment is focused on creating a weed “barrier” that will prevent weed seeds from germinating and popping out of the soil.

So, to summarize: take a nice long walk around your yard, get your tools ready to go, and then dive in!  Most importantly, have fun with it (if you have kids, now is a great time to have a competition on who can pick up the most sticks!).

As always, feel free to reach out anytime with questions and let us know what you see when you’re out there!

How to Identify Your Grass Type

Types of grass and why knowing is important…

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There are many different types of grasses, and most lawns contain a mixture of them. Even turf grasses you might see in the store year after year are always slightly different as environmental conditions change each year for harvesting. Turf grasses have in a lot of cases been evolved through science to stand up to the ever changing climate and diseases to provide more resistance turf. 

One of the key starting points of identifying your turf typically just starts with where you live. There are different types of grass meant for the warm and cool seasons of the United States and their climates.  We WROTE A BLOG SHOWING THIS HERE

  1. Warm season grasses that thrive in warm-weather regions, such as the Southern United States.
     
  2. Cool season grasses that do best with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as those found in the North, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest.

It’s important to know your grass type so you can take the best possible care of your lawn. The transition states between clear cool and warm season grasses can make for some of the hardest identifications. For example, if you pick a Northern weed control for a Southern lawn, you could actually harm it, not good! 

Below are some characteristics of grass types…

TALL FESCUE (Cool Season)

Typically a cool-season type, tall fescue can also be found in hotter regions due to its ability to tolerate heat. It is a bunchgrass often used in athletic fields because it can withstand heavy use and foot traffic. In some lawns, patches of tall fescue may stick out and appear as a grassy weed. It grows in bunches, and is therefore not used very often in seed mixes.

Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 3/16” wide

Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, stiff

Growth: Clumps

Water: Frequent

Popularity: All regions

RYEGRASS  (Cool Season)

Ryegrass is easy to spot in a lawn due to its shine. Also, it leaves a “whitish” cast when mowed. It is a bunchgrass, which germinates quickly and is often found in seed mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass. It is primarily found in cool-season areas of the North, but may not survive as far north as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Canada.

Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 1/8” wide

Color/Texture: Dark green, soft

Growth: Quick, bunch type

Water: Average

Popularity: Mid- to North U.S.

FINE FESCUE  (Cool Season)

The name “fine fescue” is actually a collective term for the various species of grasses in this group: red, chewings, hard, and sheep. Like the name implies, they are very fine textured with needle-like blades. Fine fescues are popular because of their shade tolerance. However, they do not tolerate heat and dry conditions.

Blade: Hair-like, fine tip, 1/16” or less

Color/Texture: Dull or gray-green, soft

Growth: Fast

Water: Above average

Popularity: Northeast to North Central U.S. (depending on species)

KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS  (Cool Season)

Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most popular types in the North. It has a deep, green color and excellent texture. It grows well from seed, and is a popular choice for sod farms in the North. It grows from a very extensive system of rhizomes, underground stems that produce new plants. However, it does not grow well in deep shade.

Blade: V-shaped, pointed, 1/8” wide

Color/Texture: Darker green, soft

Growth: Aggressive, via rhizomes

Water: Average

Popularity: Northern favorite, sod farms

MIX – BLUEGRASS/RYE/FESCUE  (Cool Season)

The majority of Northern lawns are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues. Kentucky bluegrass will form the nicest lawn, but it has a very low shade tolerance. Ryegrass can tolerate heavy foot traffic, but does not tolerate extreme cold or drought conditions. Fescues (both tall and fine) are often found in mixes due to their tolerance of shade, foot traffic, cold, and drought. When combined correctly, these types will form a dense turf that is acceptable for most Northern lawns in the U.S.

Blade: Thin, tall

Color/Texture: Soft with coarse mix, dense

Growth: Average to tall, via rhizomes

Water: Average

Popularity: Most Northern lawns

BENTGRASS (Cool Season)

Bentgrass can be found on most golf courses in the Northern U.S. It can be mowed as low as 1/10″ and makes an ideal surface for putting greens and fairways. Even when mowed very low, it forms a dense turf with a very fine-textured feel. The costs to maintain a home lawn of bentgrass can be very costly due to the fungicides, insecticides, fertilizer, and expensive mowing equipment it requires. It also needs frequent watering – almost daily. Unlike other Northern types, it grows by an extensive production of stolons (above ground).

Blade: Narrow, flat

Color/Texture: Soft, dense

Growth: Low, 1/10″

Water: Frequently

Popularity: Northern golf courses

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ST. AUGUSTINE GRASS/FLORATAM (Warm Season)

St. Augustine grass is best suited to warm-arid regions such as Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Occasionally, it will be found in areas of California. It is not at all tolerant of cold temperatures, and requires plenty of moisture for survival. It is a very coarse-textured type that grows via above-ground stolons that can reach several feet. It has very broad blades compared to other grasses, with a rounded tip. It is often referred to as “Floratam,” which is a variety of St. Augustine grass.

Blade: Broad with rounded tip, 1/4” wide

Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, spongy

Growth: Slow, from sod or plugs

Water: Frequent

Popularity: Southern favorite

ZOYSIA GRASS (Warm Season)

Zoysia grass forms a lawn that feels like a thick, prickly carpet. Zoysia is found mostly in and from the middle part of the U.S. and east toward the Carolinas. It can also be found in the North, but will turn brown once the weather turns cold. It is very slow-growing—it can take more than a year to establish a lawn of zoysia grass. It has stiff leaf blades and will produce numerous seed heads if it isn’t mowed.

Blade: Narrow, needle-like

Color/Texture: Prickly, stiff, carpet-like

Growth: Slow

Water: Average

Popularity: Mid U.S., East to the Carolinas

BERMUDA GRASS (Warm Season)

Bermuda grass makes for a nice home lawn because it can tolerate a very low mowing height, which is also a reason it is widely used on golf courses in the South. It spreads by both stolons (above ground) and rhizomes (below ground), which helps it to form a thick, dense turf. It is usually found in the South, but may grow as far north as Kansas City. Its maintenance requirements (fertilizing, watering, mowing) are high.

Blade: Sharp, pointed, 1/8” wide

Color/Texture: Deep green, dense

Growth: Close cut, high quality

Water: Frequently

Popularity: Central U.S.

CENTIPEDE GRASS (Warm Season)

Centipede grass spreads above the ground through stolons and forms a dense turf. Because it grows horizontally, it requires less mowing and is easy to edge around garden beds and sidewalks. It is found throughout the warm-humid areas of the South. It does not grow well in hot, dry areas and will die if not supplied with adequate moisture. However, it requires less fertilizer than other warm-season types.

Blade: Pointed with notch

Color/Texture: Light green, dense, soft

Growth: Grows low, almost horizontal to the ground

Water: Less than average; will go dormant quickly during a drought

Popularity: Southeast U.S.

DICHONDRA (Warm Season)

Mainly found in California and Arizona, dichondra is often used for home lawns since it can be mowed like grass, and it forms a pleasing, dense turf. The leaves spread opposite of each other along creeping stems. It requires a constant supply of fertilizer, and is often attacked by insects and diseases.

Blade: Round leaves

Color/Texture: Pale to bright green, dense

Growth: Broadleaf species; mow like grass

Water: Frequently

Popularity: Arizona & California

Mow Heights

Keep in mind allowing the grass to grow ½ to 1” taller during extreme heat or drought can be beneficial. You should never cut more than ⅓ of the blade off in a 3 day window. 

Steps to a nice lawn

10 Things We Love About Soil!

Why Test Soil

Let’s face it: not everyone wakes up thinking about soil and how amazing it is.  But, the reality is that soil is very much alive, so there is a lot to love! Soil contains vast amounts of living matter, including a wide variety of organisms that are beneficial to your grass.  Ultimately, maintaining a great lawn begins with maintaining a healthy soil base. Don’t worry, though, we’ll take care of all of the science behind it. For now, we’d love to share some of the amazing things we love about soil!  

10.  There are 70,000 different types of soil in the U.S.!

9.  1 Tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth!

8.   1.4M earthworms can be found in an acre of cropland …

7.  … And each of these worms pass 15 TONS of dry soil through them each year!

6.  10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in the soil.

5.  The top 6 inches of an acre of top soil contains 20,000 pounds of living matter.

4.  Soil acts as a filter for underground water, filtering out pollutants.

3.  0.01% of Earth’s water is held in soil

2.  Soil plays a huge part in supporting planet’s biodiversity

1 .  At least 500 years(!) is needed to form one inch of top soil!

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NPK – The Science, What They Are and What They Do

Lawn Fertilizer Numbers

Quick Pro-Tip’s:

  • Nitrogen (N): nitrogen is the food that aids a lawn to grow quickly, taller, and develop a darker green color.
  • Phosphorus (P): phosphorus is responsible for root growth and helps aid new lawn development
  • Potassium (K): potassium is a nutrient responsible guards the plant against diseases and aids in drought protection and cold tolerance.


You look outside and notice your grass is brown, patchy, and generally dry looking.  So, you decide to head to the store to get some fertilizer. But, what do all those fertilizer numbers mean?? And, what do you need for your lawn??  Well, the short answer is that it heavily depends on a professional soil test (free with the Lawn Serv program). But, more on that later. For now, let’s take a quick look at those fertilizer numbers, what they are, and what they mean for your lawn.

how to test soil

What The “Fertilizer Numbers” Are:

  • Nitrogen (N), the first number: nitrogen is the food that helps a lawn to grow quickly, taller, and to develop a darker green color.
  • Phosphorus (P), the second number: phosphorus is responsible for root growth and helps aid new lawn development; phosphorus is often “0”, or very low, as there are restrictions around when and where phosphorus can be applied.
  • Potassium (K), the third number: potassium is a nutrient responsible for guarding the plant against diseases and aids in drought protection and cold tolerance.

These are three of the core nutrients used to amend soil to grow a lush green lawn. It’s what you see on the front of a fertilizer bag when you see for example 20-10-10 (or 20N-10P-10K).  That is the percentage (by weight) of the three major nutrients required for healthy grass growth, always in the same order nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K). Why don’t the the percentages equal 100 percent? That is because there are other nutrients and filler product in fertilizer mixtures. This filler helps to apply the nutrients evenly over an area.

N-P-K Organic Fertilizers (plant-based):

If you are looking for an organic option, your best bet is to find a plant-based, manure-based, or blended version of the NPK fertilizer. This allows for a balanced fertilizer that stimulates through beneficial soil microorganisms and improves the structure of the soil providing long term benefits. Some plant-based NPK fertilizer are developed with alfalfa meal, soy meal, seaweed based, and cottonseed meal. These organic plant based fertilizers break down easier and have faster absorption than most.

So, What Do These “Fertilizer Numbers” Mean For Your Lawn?

These numbers are very important as your grass needs different percentages depending on what time of year, climate, and soil composition.  For example, your lawn may need a boost of Phosphorus if you’re applying new seed, or may need a boost of Potassium late in the season to promote deep root growth for the winter.  The best way to determine exactly what your lawn needs is through a professional soil test, which we offer free as part of our Lawn Serv subscription box! And, as always, feel free to reach out with any questions; we’re here to help!

Cheers!

The Lawn Serv Team

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The Benefits of Soil Testing, Why & How!

Quick Pro Tip:

  • Soil can be tested at any time of the year, but for optimal results get your soil tested in fall or early spring this gives you ample time to make adjustments before you start planting.
  • Use a soil composition (soil from around your yard combined) as most amendments are going to be deployed broadly around the yard and there are not likely huge swings in nutrient levels to warrant super specific small tailoring of amendments.  
  • Test every couple years to see how the amendments you have made are affecting the soil.
What is NPK

Why:

Testing your soil is incredibly beneficial to the everyday home-owner with a lawn. Testing your soil allows you to understand the fertility of the lawn and its specific nutrient levels and what it needs in order to prosper.  You can then tailor your applications to target the specific needs of your lawn. This should save you time and money while being more effective and better for the environment.

How to test your soil:

Hands down the best way to test your soil is through either an extension school/university or through a private lab.  The prices can range from $15 if you drop it off to $100 if you ship it in. The biggest problem is knowing what to do with the results.  They will provide you with a lot of language such as 3 lbs of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft. If that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you it might make sense to use Lawn Serv.

Things you will test for:

There are many different types of nutrients or lack thereof in a yard, and they can differ city to city or state to state based on a lot of different factors.  Some of the main lawn related items you should see in a soil test result are:

  • pH level
  • Organic Matter
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium

You will see recommendations regarding nitrogen levels based on these factors and where you are located in the country also.

How to with Lawn Serv:

With Lawn Serv it is as simple as clicking a button.

Start by Clicking Get Started and we will go through the rest with you online!

Cheers!

The Lawn Serv Team

Best Practices for Lawn Care