Lawn care is a complex process that involves a lot of different tactics. For beginners, there is a lot to consider when it comes to keeping your lawn healthy. Still, even the most experienced lawn care enthusiasts can make mistakes from time to time. In this article, we’ll be discussing common lawn care mistakes beginners make and how to avoid them. If you have more experience with lawn care, be sure to corroborate your methods here.
Mistake: Waiting too long to start your lawn care plan
The first mistake beginners make when it comes to lawn care is waiting too long to start their season. It’s easy to think that lawn care is only necessary for the summer months, but in reality, great summer lawns start in the spring. Starting early gives your lawn plenty of time to establish healthy roots and prepare for the seasonal challenges ahead. Waiting until June to start your lawn care plan is a surefire way to end up with a lackluster lawn in July.
Start your lawn in May. This includes mowing, fertilizing, and seeding the bare and thin spots.
Start your lawn in October with a fertilizer application and continue to mow through November. Then follow beginner recommendations in May.
Follow both beginner and intermediate recommendations but address the soil in April. This includes leveling, filling holes, removing road salt, and an April mow & blow.
Mistake: Mowing your lawn too short
Another common mistake is mowing your lawn too short. While it may seem like cutting your grass lower will help get rid of weeds, this is not the case. In fact, cutting your grass too short will stunt the grass and allow weed growth. Aim to keep your grass at a height of around 3-3.5 inches, and avoid cutting more than one-third of the blade at a time. This means mowing twice a week during May and September if you’ve fertilized these months.
Mistake: Throwing seed on your lawn
Many beginners make the mistake of sprinkling seeds over their lawn every week. This is actually a waste of money, overseeding is an entire job in itself. Over-seeding your lawn has several benefits but to reap these rewards you’ll need to put in the work overseeding properly. Although haphazardly seeding won’t cause your lawn damage, instead, focus on seeding your lawn at the appropriate times of the year. Seeding is an all-or-nothing lawn care practice.
Mistake: Spreading fertilizer by hand
Spreading fertilizer by hand may seem quick, easy, and cost-effective, but it’s more likely to burn the lawn. Fertilizing needs to be evenly broadcast over your lawn using a fertilizer spreader. Many fertilizer products are so concentrated, they will burn the grass. Most spreaders you can find are not prohibitively expensive, so don’t buy fertilizer until you have one.
Mistake: Watering your lawn with a hand hose
While watering your lawn with a hand hose may seem like plenty of water, the reality is that you’re patience will run out well before the grass is happy. A lawn sprinkler will ensure that your lawn gets the appropriate amount of water, without testing your patience.
Mistake: Trying to grow grass in poor conditions
Most beginners do not understand the limitations of grasses. Shady areas or areas in high traffic require more experience and care. Lawns need proper sunlight to grow, so trying to grow grass unsuccessfully for more than a few years under a tree is an indicator of excessive shade. It may be time to reconsider grass in such an area.
Lawns constantly being trampled can lead to unhealthy and unsightly grass. On home lawns, this is usually only seen as narrow paths to a shed or pool. As a beginner, consider stepping stones in these areas instead of reseeding twice a year.
Mistake: Dethatching when it’s not necessary
Dethatching your lawn can be helpful in some rare situations, as it will remove debris preventing healthy grass growth. However, many beginners make the mistake of dethatching when it’s not necessary. Dethatching causes a lot of collateral damage to the lawn.
Dethatching is recommended in the spring because the lawn will be able to recover from the damage, but this does not mean that you should dethatch every spring. The only way to identify a thatch problem is by extracting soil plugs.
You cannot visually diagnose a thatch problem by looking down at your lawn. A thatch layer thicker than 3/4 inch can be addressed but in most cases, aerating is a better solution for a thatch problem.
Mistake: Neglecting tree care
Tree care is an often-overlooked part of lawn care, but it’s important to remember that trees are a part of your lawn ecosystem. Neglecting tree care can lead to problems of excessive shade or uneven grade. Make sure to include regular tree trimming as part of your overall lawn care plan, and level your lawn as needed.
Mistake: Leaving clumps of clippings on your lawn
Many beginners know by now that leaving clippings on your lawn returns valuable nutrients and moisture to the soil. The mistake is leaving clumps or streaks of grass clippings on your lawn after mowing. While it may seem harmless, leaving clumps of clippings will smother the grass lying underneath. Make sure to either blow the clippings in or use a mulching mower to ensure that clippings are redistributed into the lawn.
Something to point out here is if you often see thick layers of clippings on the lawn, it’s recommended you increase your mowing frequency. Thick layers of clippings accumulate when cutting off large portions of the grass and can even happen with a mulching mower. Mow more often.
Mistake: Forgetting to inspect your lawn
Regular lawn inspections are an important part of lawn care, as they can help you catch and address problems early on. A simple visual inspection can identify the start of a pest infestation or a disease outbreak. Catching these issues early is important to help prevent the spreading of damage to your lawn. If certain problems persist every year, you can tailor new strategies to mitigate the ongoing problems.
Mistake: Walking on a frosted lawn
You know spring frosts are detrimental to your garden plants but frost can also be a risk to your lawn. Walking on a frosted lawn can rupture the cells of your grass, as it causes ice crystals to form and penetrate healthy grass tissue. If you need to walk on your lawn during frosty weather, don’t panic, your lawn will survive but try your best to avoid this damage when possible.
Mistake: Thinking fertilizer is food
While the average person may think of fertilizer as “food” for their lawn, it’s important to remember that plants make their own food. Fertilizer provides essential nutrients to your lawn to help with growth, but it’s photosynthesis that supplies energy for growing lawns.
This is important to know because light and water scarcity will harm your lawn much faster than a lack of fertilizer. Adding more fertilizer cannot make up for shortcomings in growing conditions.
Mistake: Getting a soil test
While soil testing can be a valuable tool for professionals it is not necessary for most home lawns, especially for beginners to lawn care.
While sand-based golf greens are manufactured and may experience nutrient deficiencies, it is not the same case for home lawns.
- In most cases, you cannot alter the chemical properties of your existing lawn without injuring the grass.
- Some important nutrients need to be specially tested throughout the year. This can make sense for agricultural operations but is cost-prohibitive to homeowners.
- Optimizing micronutrients usually does not translate into visual quality.
- Nutrient toxicity can occur when adding individual nutrients to your lawn.
Mistake: Synthetic and organic nutrients are not the same
Both synthetic and organic fertilizer sources provide the same essential nutrients to the lawn such as nitrate and potassium. Fertilizer differences lie in their delivery. Organic fertilizer needs to be broken down and recycled into the soil, slowing the availability of lawn nutrients. An additional benefit when using organic fertilizer is the addition of organic matter. Synthetic fertilizer is cheaper and readily available to lawns by design.
While synthetic and organic fertilizers both provide essential nutrients to plants, organic fertilizers provide the most benefit to soil health. Understanding these differences can help you choose the right fertilizer for your lawn based on your budget and goals.
To a beginner, lawn care can be a complex and sometimes confusing process. By avoiding these common mistakes and following our tips, you can develop a consistent lawn care plan to ensure your lawn stays healthy and vibrant all season long.