Care for Your Lawn This Summer
Jul 06, 2013
Even a top-performing walk-behind mower, lawn tractor, or rider won’t make your lawn the belle of the block if your mowing is too random. Here are some tips for smarter use of your mower or riding machine, along with some finishing touches to help your yard look its best before you fire up the grill this Memorial Day weekend.
Mind the mower. Keep your blade sharp, getting it sharpened monthly or at least twice a year. (Alternating between two blades means no waiting.) Adjust deck height to about 3 inches. Moreover, don’t neglect the deck’s underside. Cleaning out clippings and debris after mowing helps maintain cutting quality as well as prevent rusting.
Plan your cut. Mow only dry grass. For best results, don’t rush cutting either with a walk-behind mower or a riding machine—especially if mulching, which needs extra time to process the grass. Don’t try to follow your exact wheel tracks for quicker completion; some overlap in the cutting swaths makes for more evenness. And alternate directions, which helps disperse clippings for a cleaner, healthier lawn.
Cure for the summertime browns. Once summer gets its hottest, change your approach. If you’ve been cutting shorter than 3 inches to avoid having to mow more often, stop—too short a lawn, and the midday sun will scorch it. (The higher grass shades the lawn, protecting the roots.)
Take care on slopes. Even if you’re keeping safe, higher speeds and sudden turns over hills tend to tear up turf. With a walk-behind mower, mow side-to-side. With a tractor or rider, mow straight up and down slopes unless your manual says otherwise. Go especially slow down hills if you own a zero-turn-radius mower.
Fine-tune with a string trimmer. Hold the trimmer so that its cutting head and path are at a slight angle (leaning in the direction you’re going) for more precise cutting. Assuming the head spins clockwise, you move from right to left—check the manual—letting the tip of the line do the work. With growth over about 8 inches, cut in stages to keep the line from wearing prematurely.
Should you need to replace any of your lawn gear, see our buying advice for mowers, lawn tractors, and string trimmers before checking the results of our tests for mowing equipment and string trimmers.
5 Lawn and Landscaping Tips for Spring
Jul 06, 2013
Put your sweaters and blankets away and dig deep into your drawer to find your landscaping clothes. It is time to feel the warm sunshine and get your hands dirty.
Add these five landscaping tips into your spring project plans to improve the appearance of your property, increase the value of your home and – best of all – make your neighbors jealous!
1. Clean up – The first thing you must do to prepare for any spring landscaping project is to clean up the lawn, beds and garden. Pick up all branches that may have fallen during the winter, leaves and debris that may be on the lawn, in the garden or beds, and clean up the area you are preparing to work with.
2. Plant and feed – If you plan on planting new grass seed or installing sod, make sure you do not apply any pre-emergent with the early spring lawn treatment. Just apply a balanced organic based fertilizer in these areas.
If you plan on waiting until the fall to do your annual grass planting or sod installation, then I advise you to apply a crabgrass barrier pre-emergent plus fertilizer to the lawn. A natural pre-emergent plus fertilizer is corn gluten meal.
For all plants and garden vegetables, make sure the soil is in the proper condition for planting. I would advise a soil test before planting anything to make sure you know what nutrients the soil is deficient in.
Add organic matter or compost to the soil at the time of planting to improve the soil structure and to promote deeper roots. This will mean less stress from insects, disease and heat. It will also result in a lower water bill, as you’ll need to water these areas less.
3. Sharpen your mower blades – If you winterized your lawn mower and didn’t sharpen the mower blades, sharpen them now. There are plenty of professionals that can do this for you for a fee of around $20 to $30. If you plan on doing this yourself then make sure to remove the spark plug before attempting to take the blades off.
Sharpening your mower blades will help you cut the grass instead of tearing it. Tearing the grass blades can cause an unsightly tan or brown color to a freshly cut lawn. It also can promote fungus development.
4. Set a higher mowing height – Make sure to mow your grass high. For warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda or St. Augustine, the height should be 3/4 inch to 1 inch after being cut. For cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass or fescues, the height should be 2-1/2 inches to 4 inches high after being cut.
5. Mulch – Apply a 4-inch layer of fresh mulch over all beds to help reduce the amount of weeds that will pop up. Hand pull or carefully spray a glyphosate product such as Roundup on any weeds that have emerged after mulching.
If you would like to use a natural non-selective weed control, then try using a vinegar or citrus oil based product. Be very careful not to spray any desirable plants though.