Hello and welcome! If you’ve never had a lawn before and you’re looking for advice that covers every aspect of lawn care, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, Lawn Care for Dummies, I’ll tell you everything you need to know so you’ll look like a seasoned lawn care pro! From how to seed and keep out the weed(s) to trimming, feeding, and the best time of day to give your lawn water.
I’ve been a lawn care expert for a long time and I can tell you that a thick, beautiful lawn doesn’t happen on its own.
It takes care, dedication, and persistence, and a good bit of TLC too.
In the end, however, when you’ve got a lawn that’s luscious and green and feels so good between your toes it will all be worth it! So grab your fave beverage, get ready to take mental notes and I’ll tell you everything you need to know to have the loveliest lawn in your neighborhood!
Are Lawns Necessary?
Indeed they are, yes!
Lawns play an important part in controlling soil erosion in cities and towns across the country!
Not only that but they provide excellent flood control when it rains by absorbing and holding water.
Maybe one of the most important things that lawns do, however, is sequester carbon dioxide. That means they take carbon dioxide and ‘put it away’ where it’s held safely instead of being released into the atmosphere.
Lawns have been utilized by humans to enhance their environment for more than 10 centuries.
Most homeowners don’t realize noise and air pollution are reduced in most suburban areas because the grass ecosystem serves as a natural filter for the environment. That’s amazing!
Here are a few other amazing things that lawns do for us and or communities:
- The trap and help biodegrade synthetic organic compounds
- They protect groundwater and improve its recharge
- They help dissipate heat in urban areas to keep temperatures lower
- They serve as fire breaks to prevent and reduce fire hazards
- They contribute to home security by providing visibility zones
Do I Have to Mow My Lawn?
In many communities and municipalities across the United States, it’s required that you mow your lawn, by law.
Besides that, it is a good idea to mow your lawn even if it isn’t required by law.
Mowing your lawn prevents it from going to seed. When this happens, it will look more like you have a yard full of weeds then a beautiful, thick lawn of grass. Also, the longer your grass becomes the more insects including mosquitoes can hide and thrive in it.
Mowing your lawn stimulates the growth of new grass and makes it lusher and more healthy.
It also helps to combat weeds and keeps them from going crazy.
The mulched grass that you leave behind after mowing your lawn is also broken down and acts as a natural fertilizer, giving your lawn much-needed nutrition.
Here are a few other fantastic reasons to mow your lawn:
- It’s a fantastic workout. Mowing the lawn gets your muscles moving, your heart pumping and your body sweating, which removes toxins
- Mowing your lawn is good for your state of mind, including the “soothing aroma” of freshly cut grass
- Mowing your own lawn can save you hundreds of dollars a year
- Some people make mowing their lawns a hobby and keep their lawns pristine and practically perfect
Why Do We Mow Lawns?
This is more of an esoteric question than most of the others I’ll answer for you today. I know that for me I mow my lawn because I like the way it looks, clean and crisp. It’s my little slice of heaven, if you will, with me in control of the outcomes.
I take pride in my lawn and many others do also.
I also love the way a freshly cut lawn smells and, more than anything, I love walking in my bare feet on my lawn and feeling Mother Earth as she courses through my veins.
Lawns give us all a place to enjoy life.
I don’t know about you but playing Bocce ball on my lawn is one of my favorite things to do. Many of you no doubt play with your children and your dogs on your lawns, entertain family and friends or toss around baseballs, footballs, and frisbees.
The simple act of laying in the grass and watching the clouds drift by is something that I have enjoyed many times and I’m sure many of you reading this have as well.
Yes, like many of you, I must mow my lawn because if I don’t I’ll get a fine from the city. A lot of HOA’s have lawn care rules that compel you to mow your lawn too.
The truth is, however, that for many of us mowing the lawn is something we truly enjoy. For me, I love the time I spend mowing and tending to my lawn because I can clear my head and get rid of any negative thoughts that might be clouding my mind.
The satisfaction that I get from seeing my beautifully manicured lawn is palpable.
In a world where so many things are out of my control, my lawn gives me at least a little and, I’m not ashamed to admit, it feels good. It’s also a decent workout and gets me out of the house and in the sun, which is always a good thing.
How Often Should I Mow My Lawn?
It’s been my experience that mowing the lawn once a week from springtime through the end of fall is a good plan. However, it depends on your lawn because all of them are unique and some areas of the country are much different than others.
What you need to keep in mind is that cutting your lawn too short is almost as bad as letting it grow too long.
Also, if you want extremely short grass you’ll need a special kind that you find in putting greens on a golf course. Check out my range of articles on grass varieties to find that special grass.
Here are a few tips to know when to mow:
- If the grass is getting yellow you should mow more often
- Don’t cut off more than a 3rd of the lawn’s average height
- If it grows fast mow more, and vice versa
- Keep your mower’s blades sharp to avoid tearing the grass. You want to cut it, not tear it
- When the weather is the hottest mow less to provide shade for the grass’s roots
- The healthiest height for grass is about 3 inches
Is it Against the Law to Not Mow Your Lawn?
The answer to this question is yes.
In many towns, cities, and municipalities there are laws on the books that say homeowners must mow their lawns.
If you break these laws you can get a citation and a small fine.
While it isn’t technically ‘illegal’ and you (probably) won’t go to jail, not mowing your lawn can (and sometimes does) get you into legal trouble. By that, I mean lawyers and lawsuits and judges and that whole rigamarole.
In some municipalities and jurisdictions, you will find that they have “nuisance ordinances” that allow them to enforce lawnmowing rules.
Laws govern anything that “amounts to an unreasonable interference with the health, safety, morals, or comfort of the community. Most municipalities have ordinances about the upkeep of private property, including “minimum maintenance requirements on residential or commercial lots.”
Sadly, for some people the ignorance (or refusal to follow) these laws has led to some severe consequences, including huge fines, home foreclosures, and even jail time.
Yes, this is the extreme, but it goes to show that some cities and towns don’t mess around when it comes to mowing your lawn!
Then there are HOA (Home Owner Association) laws and regulations.
While these do not have the force of the law behind them, if you have signed an HOA agreement that says you must mow your lawn and keep it at a certain height, they can fine you.
If you decide not to pay their fine they can then suspend your community privileges (no pool for you!) force your compliance by calling in a company to mow your lawn for you (and send you the bill) or take you to court.
In extreme cases, the violation of HOA lawn care rules has even led to home foreclosures!
Is it OK to Mow the Lawn When it’s Wet?
While you can certainly mow your lawn whenever you like, mowing it after it rains (or after the sprinklers have done their thing) isn’t a good idea.
Even mowing your lawn in the morning when it’s wet from dew is a bad idea. It’s bad for your grass and your lawnmower and could ruin both.
Here are the reasons why:
- Wet grass is heavier than dry grass and ‘hugs’ the ground. If you mow it when it is wet, many of the blades won’t be cut correctly.
- When you mow wet grass you tear it rather than cut it which allows fungi to spread. It’s a great way to give your lawn a fungal infestation.
- Grass clippings mat into big clumps when they’re wet, leading to brown spots due to fungal disease
- Wet grass clumps on your mower and can spread fungal disease the next time you mow
- The wheels of your lawnmower will sink into moist grass and can make a mess, causing ruts, compacting the soil and damaging the grass
- Moist grass can cause the metal parts of your lawnmower to corrode and rust more quickly
- Wet grass can cut down on your lawn mowers ability to function correctly and overwork the engine, reducing the life of your lawnmower
- It can be dangerous to mow wet grass, especially if you’re on a slope. You could slip, fall, and seriously hurt yourself and even get run over by your lawnmower!
- Mowing the lawn when it’s wet is also a lot more work and can cause a lot more grass stains (which are seriously difficult to get out of your clothes).
Do I Have to Rake Up the Grass Clippings?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. If, for example, you mow your lawn regularly, the clippings will not be long enough to warrant raking or bagging. In this case, the clippings won’t pose any harm to your lawn and will break down into compost and provided some nutrition.
On the other hand, if you let your grass grow too long it might overwhelm your lawn when you cut it and pose a problem with thatching.
That’s when your clippings form into big patches that sit on top of your lawn.
Thatching can cause mold and brown spots in your lawn that are ugly and unhealthy for it. However, most experts agree that your lawn would need to be quite tall for this to happen and that, in most cases, leaving your trimmings on the lawn is a better choice.
In short, if you keep your grass short and mow it regularly, there’s no need to rake the clippings. Leaving them on your lawn is good for your grass and less work for you too!
Does Mowing the Lawn Build Muscle?
The answer to this question depends on the size of your lawn and the equipment you use to mow it.
For example, if you use a ride-on mower then you aren’t using your muscles at all (except maybe a little to steer). But, if you have a relatively large lawn and you mow it using a push mower with no added help, you can certainly build up some muscle.
It won’t turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger by any means but any exercise of this type can build muscle.
Many lawnmowers today are self-propelled however and, if you have one of them, you won’t need to use nearly as much muscle power. For me, I love a self-propelled lawnmower because it makes cutting the lawn much easier and faster.
Frankly, I get my workouts at the gym and the last thing I want is to have to shove and strain to make my lawn look beautiful.
Of course, if you want an intense workout when mowing your lawn you can always get an old-fashioned push mower.
Your neighbors might think you’ve lost your mind but you will certainly get one heck of a workout!
Your leg and arm muscles would likely build some nice definition with a push mower, and you’d sweat like mad which is good for your health!
Does Mowing the Lawn Count as Cardio?
Heck yes, it does! Mowing the lawn is a very efficient form of cardiovascular exercise.
Using a typical lawnmower for 30 minutes burns almost 140 cal for a 125-pound person, 170 cal for a 155-pound person, and 200 cal for a 185-pound person. Plus, if you use a hand mower with no gas or electric-powered engine the number of calories you burn will be almost 20% higher!
Mowing the lawn improves your heart health, increases calorie burning, and boosts metabolism.
Plus, the longer you mow, the more healthy cardio benefits you get.
It goes without saying of course that, if you use a ride-on mower, the cardio benefits will disappear. That being said, if you push any other type of mower for 20 minutes or more it not only counts as cardio it’s an excellent cardio workout on its own merits.
Can You Lose Weight Mowing the Lawn?
Yes, you can but, let me be perfectly honest, the amount of weight you lose will be minimal unless you have a massive lawn and you mow it at least once a week.
Mowing the lawn helps you burn calories, and when that happens, you lose weight.
That’s a scientific fact.
But, if you’re serious about losing weight (or it’s been recommended by your doctor) you’ll need more than just your weekly lawn-mowing routine to do it. Since I’m not a human nutrition expert I won’t give any advice on that except to say that you should ask your physician.
Will Fertilizer Improve My Lawn?
Yes, it will. I’ve talked about the fact that you should leave your grass clippings on your lawn so that they will break down and improve the soil. However, in many cases adding some extra fertilizer is not only a good idea but necessary to maintain a beautiful, healthy lawn.
Here’s a fact; your grass gets three of the most essential elements it needs to thrive from either water or the carbon dioxide in the air, including carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. All the rest come from the soil and, if your soil isn’t as healthy as it should be, your grass won’t be healthy either.
If that’s the case, using fertilizer to improve your lawn is your best choice.
Here are some of the macronutrients and micronutrients that you will find in a quality lawn fertilizer to help your lawn stay healthy and green:
Is Organic Fertilizer Any Good?
Yes, they are and for many reasons. Organic fertilizers add organic matter to the soil which increases the nutrient exchange by inserting billions of microorganisms into the soil.
With healthy soil, the moisture levels in your lawn can be maintained much better which increases the population of earthworms. These amazing little critters naturally aerate your soil and help it to drain.
Organic fertilizer also lasts much longer because it takes longer to break down.
Even with heavy rainfall or watering organic fertilizer will remain in your soil and help your grass to grow strong, healthy, and beautiful.
Organic fertilizers also release their nutrients into the soil much more slowly than non-organic fertilizers which means that your grass will never be overstimulated and will grow evenly.
Last but certainly not least, organic fertilizers don’t use dangerous chemicals that can pollute the local water system. They are ecologically friendly and much healthier for the surrounding environment.
Will Sticking Spikes Into My Lawn (Aeration) Make It More Healthy?
Yes, spike aeration is the most cost-effective way to aerate your lawn. It can be achieved with a pitchfork or a set of aerating shoes.
When it comes to aeration if you want the most benefit by reducing soil compaction then you should really look at using a core aerator, a core aerator will remove lots of small cores that look like apple cores. Professional core aerators can cost a small fortune but there are more affordable manual core aerators if you look for them.
Should I Water My Lawn? What are the Benefits?
The answer to this question depends on where you live in the United States and how much rainfall your lawn receives regularly.
The fact is most homeowners over-water their lawn.
The average lawn only needs about an inch of water each week. If it rains enough to provide that, watering it more not only can damage your lawn but simply wastes water.
Of course, if you live in an area of the country where it doesn’t rain that often (or you’re going through a dry spell), then watering your lawn so that it gets the needed 1 inch per week is recommended.
Best Time to Water a Lawn?
The best time of day to water your lawn is early in the morning or early in the evening.
Those are the times of the day when you will typically have less heat and also less wind. What this does is gives your lawn time to let the water evaporate and let it penetrate deeper into the soil. There will also be less runoff which is good for both your grass and your water bill.
By the way, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to water your lawn thoroughly. Any more than that and you’re simply wasting water and possibly damaging your lawn. Also, you should let your lawn dry out completely between watering times.
Here’s a really neat tip; if you walk on your grass and, 30 minutes later, you can still see your footprint, it probably needs to be watered.
Find out the answer to the question of whether watering your lawn in the sun will burn it.
Will Kids Playing on My Lawn Ruin It?
Yes and no. For example, if you have a party and a bunch of kids are running around on your lawn for an afternoon, the damage will be minimal at best.
On the other hand, if you have children playing on your lawn in the same area all the time, it can get damaged and have a hard time repairing itself and growing back.
One suggestion, especially during the summertime when the kids are off from school, is to move things around from one spot to another so that they aren’t trampling the same part of the lawn all the time.
Also, at the end of the day move larger toys like slip-n-slides off the lawn completely.
Is It True Pet Urine Can Ruin a Lawn?
It would be a stretch to say that pet urine can ruin a lawn but it can certainly damage small parts of it. The reason why is that pet urine is naturally rich in nitrogen and salt which can burn your grass.
Both acidic and alkaline urine can also damage grass where a pet urinates. (By the way, male or female pet it makes no difference.) So pet urine can damage your lawn but, unless you had a lot of dogs urinating all the time, it won’t ruin an entire lawn.
Are Lawns Bad For the Environment?
There’s a lot of debate around this last question and most of it stems from using harsh, non-organic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides on lawns.
When it rains these chemicals go into the surrounding water system and then into lakes, rivers, streams, and finally into the ocean. They contaminate everything along the way and get consumed by fish that, eventually, get consumed by you and me.
Also, watering uses a lot of water and that is a cause for alarm for many folks.
Maintaining lawns also means using gasoline-powered equipment that contributes to greenhouse gases.
On the other hand, studies have shown that a well-watered and fertilized lawn could become what’s called a “carbon sink”. What that means is that the lawn stores more carbon and thus that carbon won’t be released into the air.
In this way, lawns are much better than, say, gravel, asphalt, and concrete. As we mentioned earlier lawns also decrease noise pollution and keep temperatures lower during hotter times of the year.
I think I also have to mention that when it comes to the enjoyment that many people derive from their lawns, this has to be a factor in whether lawns are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
In my opinion, if we used more grass clippings and organic fertilizers, and watered our lawns correctly, the damaging aspects of lawns could be substantially reduced.
In short, there are good things and bad things about lawns that have to be considered.
Thanks For Reading
Well, my friends, I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed this article and that it answered all of your questions about starting and maintaining a beautiful lawn. If you have more questions, would like to get some advice, or want to leave a nice comment, please do so in the space provided. Best of luck with your lawn!