A Beginner's Guide To Lawn Care
The look of your lawn can make or break the feel of your entire property, so it’s no surprise that lawn care is at the top of many people’s gardening priorities. Lawns even have an array of benefits that you may not have even thought of!
However, if you’ve never had or cared for a lawn before, you may be feeling out of your depth. That’s completely normal as there’s a lot to remember, but you’ll soon get the hang of it, even if you weren’t born with green fingers.
If you’re a beginner to lawn care, this guide is for you as we’re going to take you through the basics of keeping your lawn looking clean and tidy throughout the year, from best practices and mowing to fertilisation and watering.
Lawn care best practices
Starting at the very beginning, even a novice can carry out lawn care best practices. These are things that you should be doing regardless of the type of lawn you have and we’ll take you through the majority of them throughout this guide.
- Allow grass clippings to decompose naturally on your lawn.
- Fertilise correctly.
- Aerate when appropriate.
- Cut your grass as frequently as the time of year requires.
- Edge as per your personal preferences.
Following these practices as a beginner will put you in good stead for having a happy and healthy lawn.
How often should you cut your grass?
One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to lawn care is how often you should cut it. Sadly, there’s no definitive answer to this as it does depend on the climate where you live (even throughout the UK) and the type of soil that you use.
However, there are some guidelines that you can follow and we’ve detailed them below. Bear in mind that, if you live in the south, you may need to start a couple of weeks earlier and, if you live in the north, you may need to start a couple of weeks later:
Your lawn should start to grow again in the spring, prompting the first cut of the year. Start your mowing on dry grass if possible and using a high cut.
The temperature should increase during this time and, along with it, the growth of your lawn. Dependant on the growth, aim to mow your lawn once every two weeks, 10 days, or week.
May & June
This is the time for frequent mowing, so aim to mow your lawn on a weekly basis. You can also lower the cut height during this time, but aim to go no lower than 4 cm.
July & August
If your lawn is still moist, continue mowing as per May and June. However, your lawn may become dry during this time of the year and, in this case, its growth may slow; try to ensure that you’re still mowing at least every two weeks. If your lawn is both hot and dry, still ensure that you’re mowing at least every two weeks, but raise the cut height.
The autumn rain at the end of August and beginning of September encourages lawn growth, so mow frequently with a low cut. However, if your lawn is prone to moss, you should be heightening the cut as opposed to lowering it.
This is when you should start to wind down your lawn mowing activity. This is also the time that you should change your cut to the winter height.
More than likely, the November cut will be the last one of the year. If you have a rotary mower, you can use it on your lawn to suck up leaves if it’s dry.
Regular mowing should have stopped by this point, but tidying up your lawn with a high cut every once in a while is encouraged. If the grass is wet, squeegee it. You should never mow a frosty lawn or mow if frost or freezing is due within 24 hours.
How do you get perfect edges?
Perfect lawn edges don’t just improve the overall aesthetic of your garden, they also make mowing much easier. There are plenty of products on the market that can make getting perfect lawn edges really easy. You could buy:
- Lawn edging stones.
- Wooden lawn edging.
- Plastic and metal lawn edging.
Installing these around the edges of your lawn will give a smart finish, however, there are ways that you can get perfect lawn edges without the use of these products.
After every time you mow, use a pair of lawn-edging shears to tidy up ragged lawn edges that are growing past the border.
Using a spade or a half-moon edging iron, you can create perfect lawn edges. We recommend doing this about once a year to keep your lawn looking in ship shape and using a hose pipe or piece of wood as a cutting guide can make your job a lot easier.
How often should you water your lawn?
How often you should water your lawn massively depends on (1) the type of soil you have and (2) the conditions of where you live. As a ballpark figure, you should be watering your lawn at least once a month.
However, you know your lawn better than anyone else, so recognising the signs of when you need to water it is the best way to gage when to get the hose out. Some signs include:
- The grass losing its springiness.
- The lawn’s colour becoming dull.
It’s important to remember that having wet grass at night promotes disease, so the best time to water your lawn is in the morning before it starts to get warm. Try to avoid watering your lawn later during the day as the sun can evaporate the water before it’s fully absorbed.
How should you keep your lawn fed/fertilised?
The best time to fertilise your lawn is in the spring when the grass begins to grow, this means that the soil’s temperature is gradually increasing.
We recommend using a slow release fertiliser as the nutrients will be broken down over a longer period, so you won’t have to apply it as often. In fact, with a slow release fertiliser, you may only have to apply it once every 6-8 weeks.
Pay attention to the numbers on the fertiliser packaging, they tell you how much nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate (these are essential for lawn care) are in the product. A 20-5-10 bag is a good starting point for most lawns.
Professionals do tend to use spray on fertilisers, but it’s very difficult for someone who is less experienced to get an accurate and even coverage. Because of this, we recommend that you use granules and apply them with a spreader.
After your first feed, aim to feed again 4 weeks later, then every 6-8 weeks after that. Using an organic fertiliser is recommended for the third feed of the year, as opposed to a traditional fertiliser.
Fertilising your lawn is a fairly simple process, but there are some things that you should keep in mind:
- The more you water your lawn, the more it will need fertilising.
- Fertilising is crucial in the autumn as this is when your lawn’s roots will be going down.
- Read the label before you begin fertilising as different products will require varying levels of lawn watering before or after application.
- Always sweep up stray granules and dispose of them because, when it rains, the fertiliser can contaminate rivers and streams.
Shop bought fertiliser can be a little bit pricey and can even damage your lawn if you put too much on, however you do have the option to make your own. Many household items can be really beneficial for your lawn, including (perhaps surprisingly!) mouthwash, beer, fizzy drinks (not diet, though), shampoo and soap, and ammonia.
The most important thing to remember with fertilisation is that, although it’s important to do it, having too much of a good thing can be damaging. Nutrients is great for your lawn, but applying too much will almost always do more harm than good.
How do you aerate your lawn?
Aeration is the practice of perforating the soil of your lawn with small holes to allow air, nutrients, and water to penetrate the roots. Aeration helps your lawn to strengthen and its roots to grow deeper. The usual reason for needing to aerate your lawn is because the soil is compacted.
The most common way of aerating a lawn is by pressing a manual aeration tool into the soil every foot or so.
You should consider aerating your lawn if:
- It dries out easily and feels spongy.
- It was established by sod and soil layering exits.
- It was established as a part of a newly constructed home.
- It gets heavy use, such as having children and pets running and playing on it.
Before you begin aeration, you should make sure that the soil is moist. Because of this, it’s advised that you aerate after a rainy day or water your lawn the day before.
When using your aeration tool, make sure that you go over the most compacted areas a few times to cover a higher percentage of the soil surface. The tools with excavate soil plugs which should be left to dry. To make your lawn to appear cleaner, go over the soil plugs with your lawn mower or crush them with a rake.
After aeration, it’s important that you continue with proper lawn care, such as mowing, watering, and fertilising.
How do you fix a yellow lawn?
There are many causes of yellow lawns, many of which you can troubleshoot here, but there are some ways in which you can turn your yellow lawn back into a green lawn. One of your first points of action should be to follow the lawn care best practices detailed at the beginning of this post.
However, there are some other actions you can take to get your lawn back to looking pristine:
- Keep your lawn mower blade sharp and aim to only mow a yellow lawn when it’s dry.
- Thin out and trim surrounding trees so adequate amounts of light can get to the grass.
- Improve the lawn’s drainage.
- Water infrequently but deeply in the morning so that the blades have time to dry.
- Rake up leaves and excess grass clippings as they can harbour disease and be home to pests.
Hopefully, this guide should have you well on your way to caring for your lawn properly. If you’re looking for some tools to get you started with your lawn, you can find plenty on our garden tools page.