A Basic Guide to DIY Lawn Care
Maintaining a lawn can seem like an overwhelming task. Advertisements display huge irrigation with timers that have to go off at an exact time each day and tons of chemicals that have to be on the ground during the absolutely perfect time of year.
The truth is that you don’t need a Ph.D. in botany to have growing grass. Healthy lawns and gardens come down to being provided with three things: ample sunlight, healthy soil, and adequate water.
You can keep reading for an easy-to-read schedule that will help, whether that’s you performing the work yourself, or better understanding what your lawn care provider is talking about when they start making recommendations for treatment.
The first step to understanding how to care for your grass is knowing what type of grass you have. Here's a map that shows the general zones for the types of grass that grow best there.
If you're near us, in the Elgin, Oklahoma area, your grass is likely of the warm-season variety. This article will have directions based on that assumption.
Make sure your tools are ready to go.
· Sharp blades cut the grass rather than tearing it, leading to healthier, more disease-resistant grass.
· Fresh oil ensures that your equipment runs better and longer.
If your lawn has gotten a little bushy since you put your tools up last year, you can get a jump by edging and trimming any spots that look a little unkempt.
Advanced - If you’ve had problems with your lawn growing in the past, and the sunlight and water are correct, you may have an issue with your soil health. You can use an at-home test or collect a sample and bring it to your local agricultural center, to find out whether or not your soil is healthy.
· If you’re in our area, near Elgin and Lawton, Oklahoma, you can take a soil sample to the Comanche County OSU Extension Center, located at 611 SW C Ave in Lawton, OK.
Get rid of things that don’t belong on your grass. This means walking the grass and gathering any rocks, sticks, or stray debris.
· Rocks and sticks tear up your equipment and can potentially cause damage to your house and injury to yourself or others.
Advanced - For that perfect lawn look, this is the time to lay down pre-emergent herbicides. These are herbicides that specialize in killing unwanted seeds as they germinate.
Time to cut.
· You’ll want to cut the grass a bit shorter than normal.
· We recommend mulching the grass. It contains nutrients and water that are absorbed into the ground and help promote healthy growth.
o The only time we do not recommend mulching is if you suspect disease. If this is the case then you want to dispose of your grass clippings.
Advanced - If you’re applying fertilizer, we recommend four applications throughout the season. March/April, June, August, and November.
Advanced - If you tested your soil back in January, now is a great time to add any needed amendments. You can find these at your local hardware store or co-op.
If you need to plant more grass, now is a good time for that. Whether you opt for seed or sod, ensure that it stays watered. Insufficient water is one of the leading causes of early grass death.
Mow at normal heights and make sure you’re leaving those disease-free clippings to nurture the grass.
Advanced - Now is the time to dethatch your lawn. This reduces soil and root compaction and allows for better water and nutrient absorption.
Grass will start to green up now. Ensure that it’s receiving adequate water. Grass needs an average of one inch of water each week, including precipitation.
· Watering deeply once a week is better than watering shallowly each day. Grass root systems will grow deeper and healthier.
· If you’re unsure of how much water your grass is getting, we recommend a water gauge. However, a tuna can is a more economical, tried-and-true method. Simply put a 1” tuna can wherever your area of concern is and run your sprinkler or irrigation system. Once your can is filled, you’ll know that you’ve watered long enough.
It’s starting to get hot. Start raising your HoC to fight the heat.
· Taller grass blades help keep the soil cool and reduce water loss. Thick, tall grass also helps to choke out any weeds that might want to break through.
Your HoC should be about 1” – 1 ½” higher than normal.
The heat is still here and stronger than ever. Keep that HoC up there and reduce your mowing to every other week.
· If you’ve opted for not watering the grass (and we don’t blame you) try to avoid cutting too frequently in drought conditions. Your grass is already stressed from heat. No need to add to it.
Make sure that you’re not watering over the 1” mark each week.
Advanced – This is a good time to dose your lawn with another round of pre-emergent herbicide. Cooler-season weeds will start to germinate in September and October.
Advanced - Overseeding gives you a small boost of color into the colder months, prevents bare spots from growing weeds, and helps promote a healthy lawn come spring.
· Just like putting down new seeds in April, the key to good growth is adequate water. You don’t want to drown the lawn, but, after the initial watering, drying out will kill it.
· In short, keep your seeds moist.
Continue mowing warm-season grasses until they stop growing. The final cut is typically in late October or early November. Make the final cut shorter than normal.
Advanced - If you’re feeling feisty, go for another soil test. If you’ve been keeping up with it then it should be greatly improved since your first test in January.
· Make any amendments that you need to.
Advanced - Spot treat existing weeds with post-emergent herbicides. Similarly to the pre-emergent, these can be found at your local hardware store or co-op.
Leaves are falling or have fallen. We recommend mulching leaves to add to soil health, but raking them for disposal is also a viable option.