The A-Z of Lawn Care (you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood!)

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Lawn Care

Lately, your lawn has been a sorry sight. Although you’d like to keep on top of maintenance, it’s difficult because your lawn is a living thing, continually growing and changing.

Brown patches appear suddenly, and you have no idea where they came from. Your lawn looks nice when you mow it, but within a few days, dandelions have sprung up all over your yard, giving it an untidy, overgrown look.

Here at Pure Turf, we’ve been helping lawns stay healthy and thriving with our Nashville lawn services for fifteen years. In this article, we’ll pass along our best lawn maintenance tips, giving you some basic information about ways to keep your lawn healthy and thriving! 

Keep reading to learn more

Evaluate your priorities

We all want a nice lawn that looks well-cared for. An overgrown, weedy lawn lowers property value, destroys curb appeal, and is an eyesore and constant frustration. 

At the same time, we all want different things from our lawn. When it comes to lawn care, it’s important to understand our priorities, so we know where to focus our energy.

For some, a lawn is an expanse where children and pets can play or a place to walk barefoot and enjoy nature. For others, a lawn is mostly ornamental, a pristine decorative feature to set your house or business off to its best advantage. 

But it’s important to remember that no matter what you use your lawn for, it’s an ecosystem worth investing in and caring for.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want a decent lawn, or do I want the best lawn in the neighborhood?
  • Do I enjoy yard work, or is it a frustration I try to avoid?

There is no wrong answer to these questions, but it’s important to think them through. Ultimately, if you want a pristine lawn but hate yard work, you’ll probably want to hire a reputable lawn care service. But if you enjoy yard work, you might as well do the lawn care yourself, especially if you are content with a decent lawn. 

Keep reading to learn the basics of lawn care so that whether you do the work yourself or hire a lawn care service, you’ll know the ins and outs of what a healthy lawn entails.

beautiful green lawn

Weed Control

Is there anything more frustrating than stepping on a thistle barefoot or watching dandelions spring up immediately after you mow, making your once-tidy lawn look unkept and overgrown? 

If you’re frustrated with your lawn, weed control is probably your first priority.

Maybe you dream of a completely weed-free lawn, or maybe you don’t mind a bit of clover but want to eliminate dandelions, thorny plants, or invasive species. Perhaps you’re looking for natural, organic weed-control options, or maybe you just want to use whatever is most effective. 

Let’s examine the various methods of lawn weed control, so you can explore the pros and cons for yourself and decide what’s right for you. 

Hand pulling

The most straightforward way to control weeds is to pull them by hand. Hand-pulling allows you to eradicate the weeds without worrying about what chemicals you add to the soil. It also allows you complete control over what plants go and what plants stay.

On the flip side, pulling weeds by hand is so much work.

Hand-pulling is a good option for you if

  • You enjoy yard work
  • You only wish to eradicate specific weeds
  • Your lawn is already relatively weed-free, or really small, so you can stay on top of the task

If you choose to hand-pull your lawn weeds, you may want to invest in good weed-removal tools such as a dandelion digger, a radius pro weeder, or whatever weeding tools you prefer.

DIY herbicides

Are you worried about harsh chemicals in herbicides? Are you the type who prefers to know every ingredient of every product you use?

We’ll go over the pros and cons of commercially-available herbicides later, but for now, let’s look at some DIY options you can try using common household ingredients.

First, you can make your own weed killer using vinegar, salt, and a little dish soap. This combination will draw moisture from the weeds and is most effective when applied during the sunniest time of day. Just spray the weed liberally and you should see results in a few hours.

Another DIY method of killing weeds is to pour boiling water on them. The heat from the water will cause the plant’s cell structure to collapse, killing it. 

Both methods kill weeds, but remember, a DIY weed killer will never perform like a specially-formulated chemical weed killer. DIY weed killers don’t differentiate between “good” plants and “bad” plants (weeds), so be very careful to only apply them to plants you wish to kill.

Also, since DIY weed killers are not formulated to travel throughout the weed’s root system, it may take several doses before those weeds are gone for good. 

Organic herbicides

Organic herbicides use naturally occurring chemicals, as opposed to inorganic herbicides, which use chemicals synthetically created in a lab. 

Organic herbicides break down easier and are less likely to be toxic. However, when using organic herbicides, you run into some of the same issues you face when using DIY herbicides. 

Organic herbicides kill plants, but they don’t differentiate between different types of plants, so you must be very careful where you apply them, so you don’t kill the good plants too. They are not as effective as inorganic herbicides and require multiple doses. 

Also, read the labels of your organic herbicide before buying. Some of them are simply a combo of vinegar, salt, and soap, something you could easily make yourself.

Inorganic herbicides

You may be nervous about applying inorganic herbicides to your lawn, but they’re often the best option. Let’s get into why.

It’s easy to think of toxicology in black-and-white terms. Either something is “organic,” “natural,” and “good,” or else it’s “toxic,” “harmful,” and “full of chemicals.”

In reality, it’s not so simple. Everything is made of chemicals, and many natural things, like hemlock and snake venom, are full of harmful toxins. On the other hand, plenty of synthetic chemicals are harmless.

Of course, that doesn’t make herbicides harmless to use. Anything that’s designed to kill can have harmful side effects. 

When evaluating the potential dangers of inorganic herbicides, here are two vital things to keep in mind:

  1. The dosage. As the old saying goes, the dose makes the poison. Any substance—even “harmless” things like water and oxygen—can be toxic if the dosage is large enough. And things that seem toxic are often harmless in small enough doses. If you’re worried about toxins in herbicides, you can reduce the amount you use them, spot-treating stubborn areas instead of using the herbicide on your entire lawn.
  2. The instructions. Herbicides are regulated by the EPA, so they shouldn’t be harmful if used correctly. Make sure to follow all safety instructions.

With that in mind, let’s look at the different types of herbicides you may use and what each kind of herbicide does. 

Pre-emergent herbicide

Pre-emergent herbicides are designed to prevent seed germination altogether. While they’re useless on weeds that you can see growing, they’re an excellent way to prevent weeds from sprouting in the first place. 

You can use pre-emergent herbicides in the winter or summer dormant season to spot-treat places in your yard that are known weedy patches. 

graphic about pre-emergent herbicides

You can buy both organic and inorganic pre-emergent herbicides. Typically, the inorganic herbicides will be more effective and target a specific type of weed, such as grassy or broadleaf weeds.

Post-emergent herbicide

On the other hand, post-emergent herbicides kill weeds after they’ve already shown their faces. The DIY weed killers we mentioned, as well as most organic herbicides, are post-emergent herbicides. 

The best time to apply post-emergent herbicides is when the plant is actively growing.

Many inorganic herbicides are designed to be sucked down into the roots of the plant and kill the plant from there, where it’s most effective. These types of herbicides work well when they’re applied in the fall when plants are storing nutrients in their roots.

Like pre-emergent herbicides, most inorganic post-emergent herbicides are designed to target a specific type of weed, such as grassy weeds or broadleaf weeds, without harming the lawn.

The real secret to weed prevention

Do you want to know the truth?

The real secret to weed prevention does not lie in weed killer at all.

Weeds can’t grow in places where something else is already growing, utilizing the space and soil nutrients. The best way to prevent weeds is to grow desired plants in their place. 

When you focus on growing a thriving, robust lawn, you’re preventing weed growth in the most healthy natural way possible.

But how do you maintain a lush, healthy lawn?

Let’s get into it in the next section. 

weed control

Grow a Robust Lawn

Are you ready to grow a healthy, robust lawn—the kind of lawn your neighbors envy?

Let’s start with the basics!

Fertilization

Your lawn needs nutrients to grow and thrive—nutrients that go beyond what’s found in soil, water, and sunlight. That’s why you should fertilize your lawn regularly. 

The fertilizer you choose will vary somewhat depending on your local climate and what type of grass is in your lawn. Talk to someone at your local garden center about what options they’d recommend for your area. 

Like herbicide, fertilizer comes in both organic and inorganic options. However, while organic herbicides tend to be less effective than inorganic herbicides, the opposite is true when it comes to fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers are cheaper and less effective overall, while organic fertilizers, while being more expensive, also provide better nutrients. Typically inorganic fertilizers contain things like potassium sulfate, potassium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, or ammonium phosphate, while organic fertilizers contain things like worm castings, seaweed, or compost.

Spreading fertilizer is easy, but you’ll need to acquire a simple hand-held fertilizer spreader. Make sure the settings on your spreader match the recommended settings on your bag of fertilizer.

Typically you should spread your fertilizer in March or April after a good rain or lawn watering, but again, this may vary based on your climate, and it’s best to follow the instructions on the bag.

Aeration

Sometimes lawns struggle because the soil is too dense or the thatch has built up to the degree that nutrients have trouble penetrating deep into the ground.

In such cases, the lawn needs to be aerated. 

Aeration involves poking holes into the lawn to loosen up the soil and allow nutrients to penetrate. There are many methods of aerating the soil—everything from aeration machines to spiked shoes.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

First, your lawn might not need aeration, although almost all lawns will benefit from it.

Second, there are two types of aeration: spike aeration and core aeration. Most of the easier aeration options involve spike aerators, which create holes by driving spikes into the ground. However, while this can be helpful, it can sometimes compact the soil more. 

On the other hand, a core aerator removes small plugs of dirt from the ground, so that the soil isn’t compacted at all. While core aeration is highly effective, you typically either have to rent the machine or hire a lawn care company to do it for you.

You should go over your lawn twice with the core aerator for best results. 

Seeding

Over time, lawns develop bare patches, and weeds take root. That’s why it’s important to overseed your lawn, keeping it consistently lush and full.

Remember, “overseeding” is different than “re-seeding.” When you re-seed your lawn, you dig it up and start over. When you overseed, you add seeds to an existing lawn to keep it full and healthy.

To overseed your lawn, choose seeds that are right for your climate and grass type. Your local garden center can help you pick the best option.

Then, cut your lawn short and rake it, loosening soil and removing debris. Use a spreader to sprinkle seeds across your lawn, and then water your lawn immediately. You should continue to water once or twice daily until seeds germinate (up to 2 weeks) and then every few days for the next few weeks. 

You should overseed your lawn at least every 3-4 years, before your lawn thins out too much. For best results, overseed every year. In the northern states, fall is the best time to overseed, but in the southern states it’s best to overseed in the spring or early summer. 

For extra-weedy or bare patches in your yard, re-seed that area by removing the weeds, adding some topsoil, and planting grass seeds, watering regularly until the grass has grown full and lush to match the rest of your lawn. 

If this seems daunting, you can always call in a professional lawn care company to take care of the process for you from start to finish!

Mowing

One way to keep your lawn thriving and weeds at bay is to set your mower deck to a higher height. Yes, keeping your grass a little taller will mean mowing more often. However, the longer grass blocks sunlight, keeping weeds from sprouting. 

Leaving your grass clippings on the ground also helps with weed control, as it snuffs out weed seeds and adds nutrients to the soil.  

Watering

The best way to water your lawn is to water it infrequently and deeply, such as once a week for 45 minutes at a time. This will inspire your grass to grow deeper roots, which will result in less space and fewer nutrients for weeds. 

It both chokes out weeds and prevents new ones from sprouting. 

With these tips and tricks under your belt, you can now grow a lovely, healthy lawn that looks amazing and keeps the weeds at bay!

Deal with Dead Patches

Dead patches in your lawn can be caused by a host of things, including grubs, dog urine, and fungal disease. 

The first step to dealing with the dead patch is to diagnose the problem. An irregular dead patch or a ring of brown grass around some green grass is likely due to fungus. If you have a small uniform brown patch that feels sponge-like and lifts away when you tug on it, it’s probably caused by grubs. 

Then, apply the proper solution, whether it’s a fungicide or grub killer. 

Brown patches may be caused by heat or drought, in which case you should water more. If your pets are urinating on your lawn and causing dead patches, you can try watering the grass right after they do their business so the harmful chemicals dissipate into the soil. 

Then, once you’ve taken care of the issue, you can remove the old turf, add some topsoil, and re-seed the area. 

Unfortunately, while grass is a highly versatile plant that can grow almost anywhere with the correct maintenance, sometimes parts of your lawn may seem insufferably challenging to grow. 

Instead of tearing your hair out, it may be time to think outside the box. If grass doesn’t want to cooperate in that area, what else can you do with it?

The sky is the limit! Here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Raised beds to grow vegetables
  • Mulched flower beds
  • A patio
  • Other garden features, such as a fish pond or waterfall feature
  • If the stubborn area is in a semi-secluded area, like the back of your lawn, consider fencing it off and growing native wildflowers to help the local bee population. This also creates a fun place for children to explore and interact with wildlife.

By utilizing these stubborn areas for other purposes and only growing grass in the areas where grass thrives, your lawn will overall look healthy and amazing. 

graphic about accurate diagnosis for what is causing dead patches of lawn

Professional Lawn Care vs. DIY Solutions

How did you feel reading this article? Were you inspired and excited to get out and care for your lawn, or did the process seem labor-intensive and overwhelming?

There are many advantages to doing your own lawn care. Working in nature is good for mental health, and there’s great satisfaction in looking at your property and knowing you created something welcoming and beautiful.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages. You may struggle with allergies that flare up if you work directly with nature for too long. You may not have the tools you need or places to store those tools. 

And frankly, you may not have the time.

While we recommend that you spend some time working in nature, it may be best to limit it to the things you love doing most, whether that’s growing vegetables in raised beds or tending to the heirloom roses you inherited from your grandmother. 

Getting a professional to do your lawn care frees you up to work on the outdoor projects you love instead of stressing about the projects you hate, and feeling guilty when your lawn thins out, begins to die, or becomes weedy.

But what professional lawn care options do you have?

Here at Pure Turf, we offer three plans that cater to various lawncare needs. 

Our standard plan includes all the basics to make your lawn outstanding, including:

  • Balanced Fertilization
  • Pre-Emergent weed control
  • Broadleaf Weed Control
  • Micronutrients
  • Armyworm Protection
  • Grub Control
  • Double Core Aeration
  • Premium Seed Blend

We also offer a premium plan, which provides the same benefits as the standard plan, but goes a step further by offering you your choice of either lawn disease prevention services, or elite custom fertilizer and liquid soil conditioner.

You can choose which one you want based on the needs of your specific lawn.

If you feel like you need both lawn disease prevention and elite custom fertilizer and liquid soil conditioner, you’re in luck! Our premium plan is our most prestigious plan and offers all of these services.

Conclusion

If you are looking for professional lawn care in Nashville, we would love to help out!

Here at Pure Turf, we will help you transform your lawn from a patchy, weed-riddled space to the lush green expanse of your dreams.

But don’t just take our word for it. Check out our reviews and see what everyone is raving about!

More on the Blog…

Aeration and Seeding

Every homeowner wants a lush, healthy yard. We want to introduce you to one of the secrets of a beautiful yard: aeration and seeding.