So you’re a new homeowner, huh? Congratulations! Purchasing a home is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of life, and we can feel your enthusiasm from here. But once the box dust has settled and your couch is placed just right, you might start to realize that you didn’t just buy a house; it seems you also have to contend with the lean, mean, and (hopefully) green landscape that your house sits on.
If you’re not completely sure how to wrangle the beast, you’ve come to the right place. The experts at Gecko Green have put together this ultimate guide to lawn care for new homeowners just like you and learn the tricks of the trade.
Soon enough you’ll have a lawn that you can take as much pride in as your house, and an outdoor extension of your home that you can enjoy every day!
First things first--it’s time to break out the lawnmower. The best place to start when getting your lawn’s life together is getting the yard cut down to size, and this will certainly become a regular chore for you. Although it might seem like a simple task, proper mowing entails a bit more than you might think. Before you start hacking away, consider the following:
Ensure that your mower blades are sharp. Dull blades won’t cut the grass--instead, they will just pull and tear the blades of grass and you will end up with a messy, not-so-polished look (unless that’s what you’re going for).
Set your mower blades to a higher setting. Although setting your mower blades lower in order to have to mow less often may seem tempting, cropping your grass too short puts a whole heap of pressure on the turf. It’s better to mow more often at a higher setting than the other way around.
For more details on mowing and common mowing problems, check out our guide to mowing.
Alright, you must be thinking, how hard can watering be? Does it really warrant a section on a lawn care guide?
Well, unless you want your lawn to be either a soppy mess or an arid desert, listen up. Watering your lawn might seem like a no-brainer, but under and over-watering, or otherwise watering improperly, can cause serious issues down the road. To make sure your lawn maintains a happy moisture medium, follow these tips:
Water your lawn early in the morning instead of during the day. This practice, although a nuisance to your sleep schedule, will ensure that the moisture actually gets down into the soil and to the roots of your grass before the sun evaporates it away. The best time to water will be in the early morning hours, between 6 AM and 10 AM.
When you water, look for signs of improper moisture. If you see areas where water is pooling, or areas where the grass is discolored and brittle, adjust your watering accordingly. Areas with pooled water are oversaturated, so you should water less in that area. Conversely, areas with discolored or brittle grass are likely not receiving enough moisture.
Water deeply and less often. In general, your lawn will need between 1 and 1.5 inches of water total per week. Water a few times per week and make sure that you are watering deeply so that the water is getting to the roots of your plants. In addition, watering deeply encourages plant roots to grow deeper into the soil, which creates a landscape that is more resilient to pests and disease.
Have you ever seen someone walking around with a little machine that pokes holes in their lawn? That practice is called aeration, and it is one of the most important lawn care tasks that not a lot of people do. Think of aeration and thatch removal as an annual lawn rejuvenation-- a way to let your lawn breathe.
Aeration is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep your lawn healthy and happy. When should you aerate your lawn? We recommend this lawn practice in the fall after your lawn has suffered heavy foot traffic and drought throughout the summer.
Benefits of aeration include:
- Breaking up thatch
- Increasing fertilizer efficiency
- Improved irrigation and moisture
- Stronger roots
- A healthy and happy lawn
Regardless of the season, every lawn could use a little TLC in the form of fertilizer. Even the healthiest lawns can use a boost now and again, and keeping a fertilization treatment on your lawn care to-do list is a sure fire way to ensure that your landscape stays happy all year long. To revitalize your lawn after stressful seasons, feed it a fertilizer rich in nutrients like nitrogen to replenish lost nutrients and give it a healthy kickstart to make it into the next season.
Trees and Shrubs
Once you’ve mastered your grass, you can move on to trees, shrubs, and other decorative ornamentals. When it comes to trees and shrubs in your landscape, it’s all about the species. Be sure to check which plant species grow the best in your area, so you don’t wind up with an unfortunate situation--like a dead lemon tree in the middle of Minnesota.
Follow these steps to ensure tree and shrub success:
- Pick the right plant for you. If you don’t have the time to devote to pruning or grooming your plants, be sure to buy one that requires minimal maintenance.
- Pick an area with the right ratio of shade to sunlight for the plant. Take the time to examine your yard before you decide on placement so you know where the full, partial, and low sun areas are. Your future happy plants will thank you.
- Make sure you water your trees and shrubs properly. They may have differing watering needs than your grass, so be sure to pay attention to how much--or how little--you are watering them.
In its simplest form, a weed is any unwanted plant growing in your lawn or garden. Here in Texas, homeowners will mainly deal with two different types of weeds in their lawns: broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds.
Within these two categories we have two subcategories of weeds: annual and perennial.
Perennial weeds are obviously the peskiest weeds you’ll face, as they live the longest and keep returning, but don’t worry! They are treatable. Broadleaf weeds are the easiest to identify in your lawn because they do not resemble grass; their leaves are broad and flat.
Examples of broadleaf weeds you may encounter include henbit, dandelions, thistle, or chickweed. Grassy weeds however can be a little trickier to spot. They have long thin blades, no flower, and generally resemble grass. Examples of a few grassy weeds you may find in Texas include crabgrass, rescuegrass, bluegrass, and dallisgrass.
The best way to keep weeds away, no matter what kind, is to maintain a happy, healthy lawn. When your lawn is stressed, it is most vulnerable to these unwanted plants.
There are over 100 species of beetles in Texas alone, most of which, aside from being a general nuisance, do no harm to your lawn, garden, or ornamental plants. A few of these species however, including the grub worm, feed on the roots of your turfgrass and can do significant damage to the health of your lawn.
Damages areas of your lawn will lose color and turn brown and thin, and in the worst case scenarios, will damage your lawn so deeply that the turfgrass could be rolled up like a carpet. If you do find yourself facing a grub worm infestation, there are several treatment options available to you, depending on availability and preference.
If you prefer a non chemical treatment, you can purchase and spray your lawn with Nematodes. Nematodes are tiny worms that attack and kill grub worms as well as other harmful insects that may be eating at your grass root. Chemical options are also available, and should be chosen based on the size and maturity of the grub worms you are dealing with. Different chemicals will be required for larger, more fully grown grub worms, but can be effective if properly applied, and with careful timing.
Need help with all of this?
Taking care of your first yard is a part of the experience of owning your first home. With a little help from this list, and perhaps a little trial and error, you can have a landscape that brings you as much pride as your home does.