Lawn Care Service Guide

Caring for a lawn can take a lot of work, which can be time consuming and energy draining. Whether you are a first time homeowner trying to figure out how to keep your grass alive or if you are someone who takes a lot of pride in a well manicured lawn, read on for a total lawn care guide.

Mowing

Perhaps the most basic of lawn maintenance jobs, mowing is also the most important when it comes to keeping the lawn looking nice for the neighbors and having a solid base for all other services. It is also one of the more affordable lawn care service options covered in this guide. When it comes to how often a lawn should be mowed, the focus should be on the length of the grass blades and not on any specific timeline. This is because if grass is cut too short, it can put stress on the lawn and weaken it.

The amount of sun and water a lawn has gotten can determine how fast grass grows in a given time period. Additionally, the faster that grass grows, the more often it needs to be cut. To cut through some of the confusion, a good rule to consistently follow is the One-Third Rule. According to this rule, one must never cut blades of grass more than one-third of their height. This typically times out to mowing every 1-2 weeks during spring and fall months and every week during summer months, but it is still very much subjective. There could also be some variations with different grass types. See the chart below for some of these differences.

1/4 – 1 inch

Bentgrass

11/2 – 2 inches

Annual
Ryegrass

&

Perennial
Ryegrass

3/4 – 11/2 inches

Bermuda Grass (standard)

11/2 – 21/2 inches

Fine Fescue

&

St. Augustine

1 – 2 inches

Centipede
Grass

&

Zoysia
Grass

13/4 – 21/2 inches

Kentucky Bluegrass

2 – 3 inches

Bahia Grass

&

Buffalo Grass

Tips for Proper Mowing

Maintain a high cut.

Switch up the direction in which you cut each time.

Do not remove more than one-third of the leafblades.

Recycle grass waste. Never send them to the dump. Grass clippings are extremely beneficial organic matter.

If it has been a while since your lawn was last mowed and the clippings are longer and heavier, bag them rather than leaving them in the grass. Small grassclippings can have a positive mulching effect, but larger ones can be harmful to a lawn.

Make sure your mower blades are sharp.

LAWN MOWER SAFETY

  • 1.

    Get familiar with the mowing equipment and its safety measures.

  • 2.

    Check the lawn for any debris before mowing.

  • 3.

    Wear long pants, heavy shoes, and clothing that is not loose or baggy that could get caught in the mower’s blades.

  • 4.

    Never leave a mower idling. Turn it off when you are walking away from it.

  • 5.

    Keep children and pets away when mowing.

Watering

Another basic of lawn care is watering. Watering is particularly important during those hot summer months when grass can easily dry out.For most homeowners with automatic sprinkler systems, overwatering is the reason why their lawns do not look at healthy as their neighbors and they have sky high water bills to boot. Sprinkler systems should not be set to water a lawn every day or every other day. They should only be activated if water is needed. A lawn care service company can guide you through the watering techniques needed for your specific grass type and climate conditions. Here is how to tell if a lawn needs to be watered or not:

State of the Grass

If a lawn has any of these indicators, then it is in need of water:

It is beginning to wilt.

It is losing its greenish color and is becoming more purple/blue.

Footprints are left behind in the grass when it is walked on.

Type of Grass

Certain types of grass are more tolerant of dry conditions than others

Cool season grasses need to be watered more often in hot summer conditions.

Popular cool season grasses include Bentgrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Rough Bluegrass, Fine Fescues, Perennial Ryegrass, Annual Ryegrass, and Wheatgrass.

Warm season grasses like Bahia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Buffalo Grass,Carpet Grass, Centipede Grass, St. Augustine Grass, and Zoysia Grass are equipped to withstand hot conditions and do not require as much water.

Season

SPRING

It can be tempting to begin watering the lawn as soon as spring hits, but it is actually better to wait. There is typically a significant amount of rainfall in the spring that can maintain a lawn. It is beneficial to wait and resist the urge to water when there is a break in rainfall, because this will encourage something called deep rooting in a lawn. If grass feels slightly deprived its roots will begin to grow deeper, helping it access more nutrients than it had access to with its shorter roots. This helps grass withstand droughts for longer periods of time and is therefore better equipped to handle summer heat.

SUMMER

More watering than normal is needed.

FALL

Just because temperatures are starting to drop as fall arrives, this does not mean that grass no longer needs to be watered. It is a good idea to continue watering a lawn well into the fall so that the ground has a nice base of moisture to carry into the winter.

Weather

As the weather changes, as will a lawn’s watering needs. If temperatures are particularly high and/or winds are strong, then a lawn may need a little extra water that day. On the flip side, if rain is rolling through, then it probably should not be watered at all.

WATERING TIPS

Water a lawn only when it needs it. Overwatering can lead to higher water bills, weed growth, extra mowings, and fertilizer runoff.

Instead of watering every day, only water a couple of times a week depending on the need.

The water should go about 6-8 inches deep into the soil.

Watering in the morning is best to reduce the amount of evaporation that can lead to water waste.

Make sure sprinklers are not wasting water by watering the driveway or sidewalk.

Aeration

When soil becomes compacted, it can be harder for water and creatures to get through, which in turn can stunt grass growth. Aeration gives the grass easier access to air and water and allows for deeper and stronger root growth. Lawn care service providers aerate a lawn by using lawn care equipment called a core aerator that pulls plugs of soil out of compacted soil to loosen it up and stimulate growth.

 

Soil aeration is recommended at least once a year. The timing of that annual aeration varies depending on the type of grass and climate. For example:

Early SPRING or FALL are the best times to aerate cool season grasses.

SUMMER is the ideal time for aerating warm season grasses.

The key is to aerate during active growth times. Aerating before overseeding can improve the effectiveness of the overseeding efforts.

Overseeding

Overseeding is the adding of seeds and other growth-inducing materials to help fix a bare patch of lawn or an entire lawn that is struggling withgrass growth. There are many seed types that treat different lawn woes,climates, and grass types. Mixing grass types with different strengths can help build up a sturdier lawn. The best time to overseed is late summer.

Things that can lead to the need for overseeding:

Continued heavy foot traffic

High summer temperatures

Machinery or cars parked on your lawn during construction or other events

Old lawn tires out

Dethatching

Thatch is a layer of dead grass, leaves, and roots that builds up on top of soil and at the bottom of healthy grass. Thatch can encourage a healthy lawn if it is kept under half an inch. At this manageable level, it can act as a layer of protection for the grass, encourage moisture retention, and reduce the risk of soil compaction and erosion. If thatch grows over half an inch long it can start to detract from a lawn’s health by blocking nutrients from getting through to the roots, attracting bad insects and other issues, and making it less resilient in harsh conditions.

Natural Dethatching

Dethatching can occur naturally by worms and microorganisms making their way through a lawn and mixing organic matter. If natural dethatching is not taking place, possible reasons for this could be that:

The pH of the soil is off Pesticides have been used The soil is compacted

Worms and compost topdressing can be added to the lawn to encourage natural dethatching.

Mechanical Dethatching

If the thatch has gotten out of control, a lawn care service company can attack the problem through mechanical dethatching. The lawn care equipment needed for this is either a power rake or a vertical mower. Careful planning should be put into the timing of mechanical dethatching, because since the thatch resides at the base of the grass blades, the lawn is torn up along with the thatch when removed.

For cool season grasses, the best time to dethatch is SPRING or FALL when conditions are prime for regrowth.

For warm season grasses, late SPRING or early SUMMER is the ideal timing for dethatching.

Compost Topdressing and Mulching

Adding a compost topdressing to a lawn or mulching gives it a nice healthy boost by adding:

Organic matter which reduces
thatch and helps water retention

Adding beneficial nutrients

Neutralizing the lawn’s pH

Improving the overall health
of the soil

This is a very popular choice for those interested in organic lawn care. Compost can be purchased in a home improvement store or you can make compost at home. Lawn care companies recommend a half inch layer of compost when using it for topdressing purposes.

Fertilizing

Another lawn care service that can be crucial to a healthy lawn is proper fertilizing. Soil often lacks certain nutrients that fertilizers can provide, which help a lawn to grow lush and green.

Each lawn has different needs when it comes to fertilizers and this mostly depends on the soil and grass type. When lawn care professionals are determining what type of fertilizer is best for a particular lawn, they will first test the soil. A soil test will reveal the amount of organic matter present in the soil, nutrient levels, and the soil pH.

Key Nutrients Needed for Lawn Care:

N

Nitrogen

This nutrient is the main element in fertilizer that helps grass growth.

P

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is key to photosynthesis, which is particularly important when starting a new lawn.

K

Potassium

An important nutrient for grass development,growth, and survival.

Sod Installation

When starting a lawn from scratch, sod installation can provide a lush green lawn very quickly. The alternative option is to lay down seed directly in the dirt and wait for it to grow, which is why one of the main appeals of sod is that there is very little waiting involved comparatively. Before sod is installed, the soil needs to be tested to determine the best game plan for effective growth and properly prepared.

Leaf Removal

In the fall, dead leaf accumulation in a yard can be an eyesore and a huge pain to clean up. Calling in a leaf removal service team to clear your lawn of leaves can help if you are not up to the task yourself. A leaf removal team typically only needs to visit a home 1-2 times during the fall, which is why they can act as a simple fix to take some of the stress out of fall lawn care after a long demanding summer.

Be sure to schedule the leaf removal team as close to the city’s pickup schedule as possible as it will allow less time for wind and traffic to displace the leaves back into your yard.

Leaf removal services typically use blowers and rakes to clear the leaves from the lawn and leave them on the curb for the city to pick up. If your city offers curbside leaf removal, it is recommended that you utilize it because it will save you money by choosing the more basic service. If your local municipality does not offer free leaf removal, you may want to consider getting a leaf removal service that will vacuum up your leaves and take them away after they clear your yard.

Hedge Trimming Service

Some people like perfectly manicured hedges and others just trim them right before they start to look unwieldy. Most lawn care companies typically offer hedge pruning. If this interests you, make sure to map out specifics with the lawn care service company to be sure that their timing and pricing meet your needs. This is another service that is only needed a couple of times per year.

If you are pruning hedges yourself, the frequency at which you need to trim them depends on the hedge type. It also depends on the age of the hedge.

DURING A HEDGE’S FIRST FEW YEARS OF IMPLANTION,

They will need what is called formative pruning, meaning that they will need to be trimmed more often to establish a shape.

This type of pruning typically occurs in the winter or spring.

AS FOR HEDGES THAT ARE MORE ESTABLISHED,

They will need what is called formative pruning, meaning that they will need to be trimmed more often to establish a shape.

This type of pruning typically occurs in the winter or spring.

Formal Hedges

  • Cleaner design
  • Require more regular pruning
  • Often used along the edge of a path, to create a division in gardens, and to add structure to a garden

VS.

Informal Hedges

  • Shape is a little more loose
  • Do not need to be pruned as formal hedges
  • Often used for privacy/to block views

Hedge Trimming Tips

  • 1.Always wear safety goggles and gloves when trimming hedges.
  • 2.Use hand pruners to remove any plants or dead limbs that you do not want in there. Try to cut branches as clean as possible to encourage better growth.
  • 3.Keep an eye out for small branches growing at the base of the hedge trunk and branches growing vertically out of base branches. These hog nutrients that are needed for the health of the hedge.
  • 4.Access to light can make a big difference in hedge growth so it is better for the plant if you make the width consistent from top to bottom. If the hedge is a lot wider at the top, then it will block sunlight from the bottom portion and restrict growth.
  • 5.To help ensure a more structured, straight cut, the use of a taut string tied to evenly positioned sticks around the hedges can help act as a guide.
  • 6.Different species react differently to deeper cuts into the hedge. Some perform better if this is done and some perform worse. Ask a lawn care service professional for care tips that best apply to your hedge type.
  • 7.When using a hedge trimmer, keep the blade parallel and cut slowly. Always cut from the bottom to the top.
  • 8.Take breaks to check your work.

Weed Removal

Some people like perfectly manicured hedges and others just trim them right before they start to look unwieldy. Most lawn care companies typically offer hedge pruning. If this interests you, make sure to map out specifics with the lawn care service company to be sure that their timing and pricing meet your needs. This is another service that is only needed a couple of times per year.

IDENTIFY THE WEEDS

Knowing the type of weeds growing in your lawn can give you insight on how to best attack them. Examples of weeds:

  • DANDELIONS
  • CHICKWEED
  • THISTLES
  • YELLOW WOOD SORREL
  • WHITE CLOVER
  • CREEPING CHARLIE
  • YELLOW NUTSEDGE
  • CRABGRASS
  • HENBIT
  • PURSLANE

PRACTICE GOOD LAWN CARE

It is very difficult for weeds to grow in prosperous lawn environments, so taking good care of your lawn is another great place to start to fight off weed growth. For example, improper mowing or fertilizing practices can actually be what causes weeds to pop up in the first place, which is why using all of the lawn care maintenance information in this guide can help fight weeds.

HAND WEEDING

Using hand weeding tools to pull weeds out by the root is a good method for weed removal, but there is a chance that they already spread their seeds so it might not be goodbye forever.

SPOT SPRAYING

Broad-spectrum herbicides harm every plant they come in contact with, which is why it is a popular choice for weed spot treatments.

Chemical and organic herbicides can be extremely harmful and dangerous if used improperly, so it is very important to follow the instructions on their labels exactly. Using them at the wrong time or in certain conditions can do a lot of unwanted damage

The active chemicals in many of these sprays are glyphosate and polyethoxylated amine (POEA), which if they get carried away with water runoff into streams and rivers can be very toxic to aquatic life.POEA is also being studied for potential damage to human embryos.The best lawn care service teams are trained to work with chemical herbicides in a safe and smart manner. Be sure to also ask your lawn care provider if they have natural alternatives.

HOMEMADE HERBICIDES

Some things found around your home that can provide a safer approach to weed spot treatments include vinegar, soap, and essential oils.

VINEGAR

  • Spray on weeds to get rid of them.
  • Can hurt any plant it touches so use wisely.
  • Only hurts leaves and will not attack the roots so weeds could return.
  • Vinegar breaks down quickly so safe to use all around a lawn and pavement.

SOAP

  • Similar to vinegar in that it is a good quick fix, but the weeds will likely grow back.
  • Most are considered safe for the environment.

ESSENTIAL OILS (Citronella, Peppermint, Pine oils)

  • These also do not hit the roots, so not as effective as others.
  • Oils can have their own individual harmful effects so take care when using them.

Corn Gluten

  • A dry powder to sprinkle around the lawn twice a year, effective at hindering growth of new weeds, but cannot take down established weeds.
  • It is very safe for people and pets.

TIPS FOR SAFE CHEMICAL USAGE

  • 1.

    Pay close attention to the warning label.

  • 2.

    Follow label instructions exactly.

  • 3.

    Avoid purchasing products that leave “other” or “inert” ingredients off of the label. If they do not want to display certain ingredients, it could be because they are hiding something.

  • 4.

    If it is supposed to rain, do not apply an herbicide. The rain will quickly undo your work and potentially hurt nearby plants and animals.

Lawn Disease and Pest Control

Some insects, animals, and lawn diseases can pose serious threats to the health of a lawn. Below is more information on some of these pests and how to protect your lawn from them.

LAWN DAMAGE FROM ANIMALS

There are a whole host of animals that love to dig up gardens and lawns including birds, moles, skunks, and racoons. When you see that damage has been done, act as quickly as you can to repair the holes. The most effective ways to deal with some of these animals are repellents and traps.

One of the most common cases of animal damage to lawns is when dogs urinate on a lawn, which damages grass and turns it into a brown patch. This is a more significant issue with female dogs because they typically return to the same spots over and over making the problem worse, whereas male dogs venture into new areas.

The simplest way to avoid this is to prevent dogs from urinating on your lawn. Some waysin which you can reduce the effects of the problem is pouring water directly on the spots right after a dog has urinated on them in hopes of diluting the urine as well as adding grass seed on the damaged areas.

LAWN Insects

Some of the insects that could be causing harm to your lawn include white grubs, chinch bugs, aphids, cabbage worms, caterpillars, and certain types of beetles. To learn more about the good and bad insects in your lawn, view our lawn insect management page.

The simplest way to avoid this is to prevent dogs from urinating on your lawn. Some waysin which you can reduce the effects of the problem is pouring water directly on the spots right after a dog has urinated on them in hopes of diluting the urine as well as adding grass seed on the damaged areas.

LAWN DISEASE

There is an abundance of lawn diseases that can wreak havoc on a lawn. Some lawn diseases are specific to grass type or region, but there are certain diseases that most lawns are susceptible to. These diseases include:

Dollar Spot: This lawn fungus looks like small patches of tan grass that can grow into much larger patches as it spreads. Dollar spot succeeds when grass roots are dry and the tips are wet, so for example when the grass roots are in need of moisture and the rest of the blades are wet from dew or rain. Deep watering and proper mowing are key to preventing dollar spot.

Fairy Ring: Due to the release of excess nitrogen from the fairy ring fungus, thicker patches of grass sprout up to form dark green circles in lawns, typically accompanied by a ring of mushrooms. This thick layer of fungus can block water from getting through to blade roots and kill the grass. Proper watering, aeration, and topdressing with compost are some prevention tacts.

Pythium Root Rot or Pythium Blight: This lawn disease appears as dark, wet circles that spread and sprout a cotton-like substance. Grasses that are frequently overwatered, have poor drainage, or have experienced an abundance of heavy rainfall are most vulnerable to this disease. Prevention strategies include improving drainage and avoiding mowing over any of the cotton-like spores, which will only spread the lawn disease.

Slime Mold: Slime mold looks like a layer of white dots growing on top of your grass blades, which start turning more of a gray color after a few days. This lawn disease rarely causes serious damage. Simply use a rake or water to remove the mold spores and continue proper lawn maintenance practices.

Landscape Design and Installation

Some popular landscaping additions to a yard include:

  • shrubs,

  • hedges,

  • bushes,

  • trees,

  • retaining walls,

  • walkways,

  • fountains,

  • and patios, to name a few.

Whether you want to add a line of hedges along your front walkway or if you are looking for a complete landscaping reboot, there are landscaping design and installation professionals that can help you. Garden lawn care service also falls under the landscaping umbrella if you would like a bed of flowers to care for or a well placed spice garden.

Lawn Care Service Prices

Due to the wide range of services available, lawn care service prices can vary significantly. Below are some price averages for common services to help you find the best lawn care service for your budget. Keep in mind that the prices for each specific service can also fluctuate drastically depending on the size of the jobs, location, and how much work is being done at a given time.

LAWN MOWING: $150

LAWN FERTILIZATION: $250

LEAF REMOVAL: $300

LAWN AERATION: $150

SOD INSTALLATION: $0.14 to $0.60per square foot

LAWN SEEDING: $800

For total lawn care service, you can consult a professional to determine what services your specific lawn needs and map out a lawn care schedule. Landscaping services like the addition of retaining walls and patios can be significantly higher than the above services, because more manpower and more expensive materials are typically needed to complete those projects.

Compare prices from your local lawn care companies to determine the affordable lawn care options. Keep in mind that in some cases lower prices can mean lower quality.

Seasonal Lawn Care

With each season’s change, lawn care adjustments need to be made. Below is a lawn care schedule as well as lawn care tips for each season.

SPRING
LAWN CARE

Mowing

Every 1-2 weeks is generally appropriate, but focusing on grass length is more important than sticking to a schedule.

Watering

Less watering in the spring is generally better, because heavier rainfall during that time is typically adequate and any mild deprivation of water can encourage deep rooting to help it withstand the coming summer months.

Aeration

For cool season greasses, early spring is a good time to aerate.

DETHATCHING

Spring is one of the best times to dethatch for cool season grasses. Late spring into summer is better for warm season grasses.

HEDGE TRIMMING

Spring or winter are prime times for formative pruning.

Summer
LAWN CARE

Mowing

Typically a mow is needed every week during the summer.

Watering

Watering more frequently is needed to offset the hot conditions of summer.

Aeration

Summer is the best time to aerate a lawn for warm season grasses.

DETHATCHING

Early summer is a great time to dethatch warm season grasses.

Overseeding

The most effective overseeding occurs in late summer.

Fall
LAWN CARE

Mowing

Mow every 1-2 weeks depending on grass length.

Watering

Contrary to popular belief, watering through the fall is important for a lawn’s health.

Aeration

Besides early spring, fall is another great time to aerate a cool season grass lawn.

DETHATCHING

Fall is another season with good conditions for dethatching cool season grasses.

Leaf Removal

With leaves pouring out of trees into lawns in the fall, it is a popular time for leaf removal service.

Following the above lawn care tips and dedication to lawn maintenance will keep your grass looking healthy all year long.