Typically homes are bought and sold with information such as the square footage of your house and a total lot size. However that doesn’t give us great lawn care information. We as homeowners and yard maintainers really need to know the grassy area eliminating the house, driveway, shed, and other non-grassy areas.
The great part about technology is we can now do that measurement from ANYWHERE! Lawn Serv built a tool leveraging aerial photography built off of the Google Maps database that you can use for free here — http://www.myyardsize.com/ . Below is a video on how it works.
It is very simple:
Put in your address
Plot points around the item you want to measure (cutting out your house, driveway, shed, etc).
Read the number in the top left
Measuring Tape – section off areas, do a length by width calculation, add them all together
Hopefully you’ve already Dethatched, Aerated, and Over-seeded (D.A.O.) after Labor Day and before the temperatures really drop in the cool season grass zones up north. If you’re in a transition zone (middle of country) and have fescues, rye, or kentucky blue grass and the temperatures are starting to drop, it is a great time to get out in the yard and start!
Here is a list of post D.A.O. fall fun:
Fertilize: the grass is going to benefit from ideal growing conditions and plant (especially the root) preparation before the winter. This is going to really help the grass bounce back in the spring. A fertilizer with all three N-P-K numbers is great but Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) are a must and generally available in many fertilizers without restrictions. The Phosphorus (P) is a great addition to newly seeded lawns but can be restricted around water and you may need to complete a soil test to use a product with P.
Water: water the lawn to help drive the roots down into the soil. Soak soil around trees and shrubs if rainfall has been light to ensure that plants enter winter fully hydrated.
Before winter fully hits and after your last mow (sad face!)….empty hoses, fountains, and sprinkler systems – ensure any standing water is removed from your watering equipment and store items in a dry place.
Remove the leaves: while the leaves may look nice and be fun to play in for the kids, they aren’t great for grass. They block the sunlight and trap moisture. So when the leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Even after the trees are empty, continue raking out the corners where the wind piles leaves up.
Clean out the gutters: leaves can build up if you don’t have guards and block drains leading to damaging ice buildup.
Protect Evergreens: Your boxwood, holly, rhododendrons, or similar often suffer in winter because their leaves lose moisture on sunny and windy days without replacing it from the soil when the ground is frozen. Surround these plants with a shelter of burlap or old sheets. The idea is to create shade and slow harsh wind, both of which help to retain moisture so the plant doesn’t dry out and die.
Provide additional protection by using an anti-transpirant spray on the plant after the first hard frost. The spray will dry into a thin film that reduces the moisture lost by transpiration.
Keep Mowing: keep going every week or so until grass has stopped growing. Feel free to mulch or bag leaves also to save time! You might have to switch to afternoon mows with damp grass in the early morning.
Clean tools and store them: Don’t throw your gardening tools in the garage or shed and forget about them until next year! Go that extra mile to clean and add a light coat of oil to mechanical equipment to prevent rust over the winter.
EXTRA FUN: Plant Bulbs: the fall is a great
time to plant crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and other spring-flowering
bulbs. Try a few, see how it works and add more the next year.
Everyone wants a weed free yard. Understanding where to start and setting realistic expectations is going to save you the frustration though as managing weeds in a lawn is an ongoing battle.
1.) Hand pulling weeds is going to help whenever you have established mature weeds already.
2.) Using a spot treatment is going to help on any weeds that are less mature or that are really hard to hand pull
3.) Preventing weeds is going to save you time on step 1 and 2, so be sure to apply your pre-emergent weed control religiously and using a broad post-emergent early is going to be more effective against less mature weeds.
We talk about attacking weeds in a bunch of ongoing mini-battles a lot here at Lawn Serv. We personally like to try to spend 5-10 minutes before mowing the lawn to walk the area, pick up sticks, and pull any mature weeds. After the mow take another 5-10 minutes pulling any mature weeds you saw while mowing while walking around with the spot treatment spraying anything too hard to pull.
After a few weeks of repeating that process you will have made a lot of great progress!
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
Pre-Emergent Herbicides are used in the early Spring Season to prevent weed seeds from germinating
Post-Emergent Herbicide is used once the Spring Season has begun to target established weeds
Application timing is important in the success of weed control
More mature weeds will need more attention – Like manual pulling
Nobody likes weeds. They are hard on the eyes and usually end up killing the lawn by sucking up all the nutrients from the surrounding grass and eventually dying themselves making the lawn patchy and bumpy. In order to prevent weeds from growing there are two types of product commonly used called Pre-Emergent and Post-Emergent Herbicides. It is ideal to understand the difference between the two to get the best results for your effort.
Note: There is NO SUCH THING AS ORGANIC weed control!
These products are typically meant to be applied in the early Spring season. The “Pre” in Pre-emergent is its focus on stopping weed seeds (or any seeds, grass included) from germinating. Typically that means from February to May depending on where you live or when the soil temps are getting up to 55 degrees. Based on where you are in the country and particular years climate this can change slightly.
Post Emergent products are meant to address established weeds such as dandelions, thistle, bindweed, nutsedge and many more to kill them. The products can be applied with spot treatment for small problems, with a hose end sprayer for great leaf coverage, and as a granular product for a slower release and control. Be careful as application rates should be limited throughout the year. You can’t always get them all at once! Hence the manual process below…
Manual Weed Pulling:
Because you should really limit your weed control applications in a given year, as to not stress the good grass you want to keep. The best thing a homeowner can do is hand pull weeds or use a de-weeding tool to help in that process. You can get a mixture of seed and soil to back-fill any holes you create in the process to make sure no weeds just fill that spot again.
Lastly: No matter how much you treat your lawn, weed control is about consistency and perseverance. Because weed seeds can travel several different ways from distance sometimes very far away you can never truly stop weed prevention and intervention. Keeping a healthy full lawn fed to crowd out weeds is the best practice.
Think about taking this time to sharpen the blades for the new year
If you get sustained below freezing temperatures in your part of the country you need to think seriously about simple maintenance if you plan to extend the life of your machines. Grass clippings in bags can ruin them, so turn them inside out, rinse and let dry in the sun. You should clean your mower deck after each use, but especially before winter. Grass holds moisture and can rust parts of the mower quicker.
Gas only has a couple months shelf life. You should run that out if you don’t plan on mowing in the next 60 days and put new gas in.
Sharpe blades are going cut more efficiently and cleaner. This will improve the health of your lawn. Now that you have a few winter months off go take the blades to a local shop and get those sharpened. It’s short money for the saved headaches they can cause by creating lawn problems.
We often have customers reach out to ask whether they should tackle any of these complex-sounding lawn procedures. Does my lawn need to be aerated? When should I dethatch my lawn? How do I overseed…if I need to?
The good news is that these are actually much more straightforward than they seem. And, we’re here to help along the entire way!
Read on for an overview of the benefits of aeration, dethatching and overseeding, as well as one of our favorite videos highlighting some of the key steps.
And, as always, feel free to get in touch anytime with questions!
FIRST: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LAWN AERATION, DE-THATCHING, AND OVERSEEDING?
Aeration loosens compacted soil. Loose soil allows grass roots to plunge deeper into the soil, providing better access to vital water resources, particularly during times of stress (hot sun!).
Aeration (and de-thatching!) reduces thatch. Thatch is basically grass stems and roots that accumulate faster than they breakdown. Excessive thatch creates an environment that pests and diseases love!
Aeration opens access to the root zone. This allows much better circulation of air, moisture and food to the root zone, where nutrients are absorbed.
Aeration yields greater seed germination. Aeration holes (from “core aeration”) provide a great little spot for seeds to settle and germinate.
Overseeding introduces new grass variety and thickens existing turf. By diversifying your grass plants over time, you’re protecting against disease, drought, and pests. And, overseeding increases grass density, filling in bare spots, and crowding out weeds and pests!
Overseeding builds resistance to disease. By incorporating different blends of grass seed, you reduce your risk to diseases that can wipe out the entire lawn.
Aeration and overseeding will help to reduce weeds. Opportunistic weeds germinate in areas where they can be successful. Crabgrass grows in thin areas, nutsedge pops up in thin/low spots, and broadleaf weeds spread where there is little desirable grass. The best defense is to have a thick lawn.
Aeration and overseeding will give your lawn an immediate, beautiful boost! If your lawn was attacked by fungus, insects, or animals this year a core aeration and overseeding will help. You’ll be able to see seed germination in 7-10 days.
AERATION, DETHATCHING, AND OVERSEEDING EXAMPLE: IN THIS VIDEO, THIS OLD HOUSE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR ROGER COOK BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO AN OLD LAWN.
Lawn Renovation Steps: 1. Put on hearing protection and mow the lawn to a height of 1½ inch. Be sure to collect the grass clippings. 2. Run a de-thatcher across the entire lawn to remove dead plant matter. 3. Use a leaf rake to collect and remove all the thatch pulled from the lawn. 4. Run a gas-powered core aerator across the lawn. 5. Rake up and remove the soil plugs extracted by the aerator. 6. Spread compost over the lawn and rake it down into the holes. 7. Analyze the physical structure of the soil with a soil test kit; amend the soil as necessary. 8. Use a broadcast spreader to over-seed the lawn with new grass seed. Adjust the spreader to dispense seven pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet area. 9. Use backside of leaf rake to lightly work the grass seed into the lawn. 10. Lightly water twice a day to keep the lawn damp, not soaking wet.
Get at least 1” of water per week (25-30 minutes) minimum, best twice a week
Using a sprinkler will save you time and money
Don’t – water small amounts every day, it keeps the roots at the surface (NOT GOOD)
For more information on our Pro Tips keep reading!
What Time to Water & For How Long:
Every season there is a perfect time of day to water your lawn and how you should water it for the best results possible. The preferred method to get the best results in watering your lawn is in the morning. This is when the wind has died down and the air is much cooler. The best time would be anywhere between 4 AM to 10 AM allowing for the water to not evaporate too quickly giving it ample time to be absorbed. You need to water long enough for it soak down into the soil around 6-8 inches and you need enough water to get down that far. That amount is typically 1 inch of water over about 20-25 minutes. One way you make sure that your soil is reaching 6-8 inches deep is by lifting up the sod. But let’s be real that’s too much time and energy. If the water is being absorbed it needs more water, if it is sitting up slightly you can stop (it will take a minute to absorb deeper into the soil), and if it is pooling you’ve gone too far.
You want to be sure to not over water your lawn, this being said most lawns need at least 1 inch of water per week from either rain or your watering system. Understanding that watering your lawn in the morning is the best time because if you water at night your lawn is subjected to getting a disease and/or fungus. If you also don’t water enough your lawn will not grow properly due to the grassroots not allowing them to grow to full length. Interesting enough, watering your lawn everyday is not necessary due to its resilience. Although this does not mean you can just forget about it, once it starts to turn a dull green color it’s time to start giving it some more attention.
How to Water your Lawn:
Within the first year of your newly seeded grass it is important to know that your watering schedule is crucial. That is because the roots have not developed deep enough yet to withstand weather extremes. Early on lighter more frequent waters are needed. While towards the second half of that new lawns seeding you should water less frequently and with a larger amount to drive water deeper into the soil enticing the roots down.
It’s good to know what type of grass you have. For “cool-weather” grass, specifically Tall Fescue in the north, we see that grass being more resilient towards shade with great deep greens in spring and fall and a winter survivor. However it needs some love in the summer as it is prone to drying out in the summer. To grow it sufficiently you need to water irregularly and deep and be a good friend to it in the summer months.
For “warm-weather” grass such as Zoysia, St. Augustine, Bermuda and Centipede grass they do not need as much water as “cool-weather” grass. They are meant for the heat but will brown out fast in a cold weather climate during fall and winter months.
If you take ANYTHING away from this content…..USE A SPRINKLER TO WATER YOUR LAWN! It does a way better job watering your lawn more evenly that a person watering by hand. Set that sprinkler up and tell your smartphone to set a reminder for 20 minutes. Go enjoy something (or fold laundry), move and repeat.