Not all of us work on landscaping for a living, but we still need to take care of our lawns. Even if you don’t know the difference between an N-P-K and a perennial, you can make some small changes to your lawn care routine to get better results. These tips will help you address the most common lawn care mistakes, so you can get a better looking yard with minimal effort.
Mistake #1: Not Testing the Soil Before Adding Fertilizers
Is your soil low in nutrients, like nitrogen or phosphorus? Is it too acidic or basic for your grass to thrive? Could your weed problems be caused by soil conditions that make your lawn easy for weeds to grow? The only way to find out is with a soil test. Attempt to fertilize your lawn without this information, and you’ll either get poor results from lack of nutrients, or damage your plants by adding too much.
To get the best results, get several soil samples across your lawn. Dig several holes 6-8 inches deep, and mix the soil from these holes together in a bucket. Spread out the soil and let it dry before sending it to your local extension office. Do this long before you plan on fertilizing your lawn: it will take at least two weeks to get the results. The report will tell you what’s missing from your lawn, including nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and trace minerals. It will also warn you about anything that may be hazardous to plants and people, including aluminum and lead. From there, you can choose the right combination of fertilizer and adjuncts to bring your soil’s nutrients and pH into balance.
Mistake #2: Cutting the Grass Too Short
The shorter you cut the grass, the less often you have to mow it, right? While technically true, you’ll probably end up mowing less often because you damaged the grass. Do a little research into the grass varieties you have on your lawn. Each type of grass has its preferred minimum height, which can range from ½ inch to two inches.
When mowing, never cut more than 1/3 of the total height of the leaves at one time. Cutting any more is too much of a shock to the plant, stunting its growth. If you’re dealing with tall grass, mow in stages, giving the grass a couple days between cuts to recover.
Mistake #3: Mowing with Dull Blades
A dull blade tears instead of cuts. These jagged edges are effectively wounds that offer a pathway for diseases to enter. Your mower’s blades should be as sharp as a butter knife and have a consistent edge from center to tip.
How often do you need to sharpen your mower’s blades? That depends on where and how you mow. A typical homeowner may only need to sharpen once per season, while landscapers may need to sharpen their blades every week. Running over rocks and scalping the ground wears the edge down prematurely. It’s a good idea to inspect your blades after either of these happens. Likewise, you should always sharpen your blades after using your mower to cut up soil plugs left over from aerating. No matter how carefully you mow, blade wear will always be faster in areas with sandy soil.
Mistake #4: Always Bagging Lawn Clippings
Bagging leaves the best finish, but it’s rarely the best method for keeping your grass healthy. For most mowing, you should mulch. By slicing grass up into small pieces, it can be broken down quickly, returning nutrients to the soil.
Bagging should only be used if you need to eliminate weed seeds, or you’re getting ready to cut away the turf to replace it with sod. It’s also useful for removing excess leaves in the fall.
Side discharge mowing is a good option if the grass is too thick to mulch properly. However, it doesn’t mean you have to leave lines of clippings on your lawn. Make a second pass to chop up the clippings, so you can return them to the soil.
Mistake #5: Using the Wrong Equipment
Buying the cheapest thing on the shelf at your local home improvement store is a surefire strategy for frustration. The next time you need outdoor equipment, visit Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’ve been in the power equipment business since the 1980s, helping homeowners and professionals with their lawn care tools. We carry most major brands, including Honda, Cub Cadet, Echo, Billy Goat, and Troy Bilt, so we have exactly what you need to get the job done. We also have a full service department and a massive parts warehouse to help you keep your equipment running. Visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA, or online at www.shankslawn.com. We ship parts and accessories across the U.S. and Canada.