Archive for the ‘Lawn & Grass Care’ Category

Early Spring Weed Control

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Focus on Defense

Spring weed control is important for a weed free lawn

Spring is just around the corner, which means many of us are starting to think about dusting off the lawn mower and gardening tools. But before you do, take the time to consider how you’re going to protect your lawn against weeds this year.

Sometimes the best offense is a great defense, and that applies as much to weed control as to football – if you take care of your turf, your turf will take care of the weeds on its own. If you properly fertilize your turf and raise the cutting height of your mower, your lawn will be healthier and the grass fuller, so that weeds have a harder time taking root. To protect your flower beds, you should mulch early in the year, which will serve the dual purpose of crowding out weeds while also fertilizing your flowers.


Herbicides are the most common option for getting and keeping weeds under control. You might consider using a pre-emergent herbicide early in the spring, which kills weeds before they have a chance to start sprouting. However, if you’re going to overseed your lawn, you’ll need to wait 6-12 weeks before doing so with some varieties. If you’re concerned about pesticides, corn gluten meal is an organic alternative that prevents weeds from taking root.

The window to catch the weeds before they start to sprout is limited, and varies by region. In the upper Midwest, that window usually opens around late April and closes in about early May. Check with your local extension office or lawncare supply store about what the window is in your area.

You should also keep in mind that the pre-emergent window can change from year to year. If your area had an unusually warm winter, you might want to start getting your herbicides ready a little early. In many areas, it’s common for the weather to go from winter to spring overnight, so plan ahead and be ready when temperatures start to rise. Typically, soil needs to be about 55 degrees Fahrenheit in order for the seeds to germinate, but again, check to see what the most common weeds in your area are and what temperatures are best for applying pre-emergent herbicides.

The best time to apply pre-emergent herbicide will also vary depending on the kinds of weeds you’re trying to kill. Early spring is the best time to get ahead of annual weeds, but for perennial weeds that lie dormant over the winter, like dandelions, applying herbicide in the fall may be a better option.

If weeds begin sprouting before you have a chance to apply any pre-emergent herbicide (or you have weeds that didn’t respond to the pre-emergent herbicide), you can pull by hand or treat with a selective herbicide that won’t kill your grass. For dandelions, you may be better off to spray than dig them out, due to their long taproot; if you don’t get at least two inches of it, they’ll grow back.

As a final note, don’t forget to check the label on whatever herbicide(s) you end up using, because that will tell you how long you can expect it to be effective and how long to wait between applying herbicide and planting grass, flowers, and shrubs.

What Size Mower is Right for Your Lawn?

Thursday, February 21st, 2019
an exmark mower cutting a lawn

Many homeowners want to mow their own lawn, but they would like to spend less time mowing. If you fall into this category, you may be considering just buying a larger mower and being done with it. But mowing efficiently is about more than just speed and deck size. Here are some things to consider as you think about upgrading your mower.

How Much Mower Does Your Lawn Need?

Your lawn size and terrain, not the amount of time you want to spend mowing, should dictate your mower size. A good starting point for a medium-sized yard – an acre to an acre and a half — is a 42” mower. With a larger mower, you’ll spend a lot of time maneuvering into position and around tight corners. For homeowners with one and a half to three acres to mow, a mower with a cutting deck between 42” to 48” is a good size.  Over three acres, you’ll want something larger.

Before buying a 72” mower for lawns greater than three acres, consider your terrain. Wide mowers perform best on flat, open ground. If your yard resembles a football field, a wide mower deck may be your best bet. However, if you have three acres of hills, dotted with trees and plantings, a wide mower may not be the right choice. Mowers that are too wide can scalp areas on uneven ground. A mower that’s too big will make mowing around obstacles, trees and shrubs more difficult.

If you have a large, hilly lawn, a mower with a smaller deck and a bigger engine may be the best option. You’ll be able to mow faster, without sacrificing precision or maneuverability.

What About Less than an Acre?

If you have between a quarter of an acre and a full acre, and are wanting a riding mower, you’ll want a deck under 40”, like a Quest zero-turn mower with a 36” deck. If your home is on an average U.S. lot (.35 acres) and you feel it’s too small for a riding mower, but a standard push mower isn’t working for you, consider a 30” self-propelled mower. It will cover a third more lawn on every pass, with less effort on your part.

Is My Yard Large Enough for a Wide-Area Mower?

For most homeowners, no. Wide-area mowers are designed for commercial use, especially for mowing parks, cemeteries, recreation fields and other wide, flat properties. If you run a residential lawn mowing service, you’ll need to calculate whether you have enough large properties among your mowing customers to make the expense a good investment.  Getting the right size mower is critical, whether you choose a 42” zero-turn or a 30” self-propelled walk-behind. For help determining which size mower is right for your residential or commercial needs, your local Exmark dealer can help you figure out the best mower type, deck width and engine size.

Spring and Summer Maintenance with a Rotary Broom

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

A rotary broom is useful for much more than sweeping grass clippings off the sidewalk. Whether you typically mow large open spaces, like parks, playing fields and extra-large lawns, or handle multiple residential lawns, there are lots of tasks a rotary broom can accomplish.

A rotary broom can be used to clean gravel, leaves, litter left by runoff, or other debris from grassy areas. With the bristles adjusted for the right height, a power broom can also sweep embedded straw and other mulch out of re-seeded areas once new grass is well established. And with the brushes set low, you can dethatch lawns to provide more air and water to the root systems.

If you offer core aeration, you know that the plugs can be unsightly and take several weeks to dissipate. For places that demand manicured grass, like golf courses, using a rotary broom after aerating will break plugs up. (Plugs can also be swept up for collection and reclamation.)

Trees create lot of litter, and it’s not just fall leaves. Pine needles can quickly build up into a slippery carpet, but with a rotary broom they can be swept onto a tarp for collection and composting. Use a rotary broom to clean away acorns, locust and catalpa seedpods, and sweet gum balls, either leftover from last year or as they drop. You can also sweep away sticks and leaves after high winds or other storms.

If you provide landscape construction or sprinkler installation in your service offerings, a rotary broom is a useful tool to backfill holes or trenches. And if your crews leave dirt, mulch or gravel piles on customers’ driveways while they’re working, a rotary broom can make clean up afterwards faster and easier.

Rotary brooms can also be used on tennis courts without damaging the clay surface, and to clean other hard surfaces like outdoor basketball courts, playgrounds and concrete decking.

Exmark’s 36-inch Rotary Broom features easy to operate controls and simple height adjustment. The broom height can be fine-tuned in 1/8-inch increments, so you can get the right height for any task, and the broom angle can be adjusted 20 degrees left or right with a simple thumb latch. Additional bristle discs for concrete or turf expand the brooms versatility, and the commercial-grade Kohler Command engine can be adjusted for multi-season use by rotating the air intake. Accessories include a high-capacity debris box to collect sweepings, dirt deflectors, and even a snow cab for winter use.

With its wide variety of tasks and capabilities, a rotary broom can expand your offerings and make your landscaping business more competitive and profitable. See your local Exmark dealer for a demo.

When Should I Start Mowing My Lawn?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

As days get longer and temps warm up, homeowners start looking at their lawn and wondering when they should start cutting it. This is especially true now that long-standing weather patterns are fluctuating; where in seasons past, you may have known you could wait until April to start cutting the grass. But if you’re faced with an unseasonably mild winter, you should pay close attention to what the grass is doing.

What you want to look for is height, not a specific date. You should have cut the grass short at the end of the fall growing season; now, you want to wait to cut it until it is at least 2 inches tall. Cutting it when it’s too short will make your lawn susceptible to disease; waiting until your lawn is at least 2 inches protects the roots. And don’t cut your grass too short in the spring. Never remove more than a third of its length in a single mowing.

With unpredictable spring weather, you may end up with a week of above average temperatures that starts the grass growing, then a period of freezing temps at night again. If grass is long, you should wait until the frost is off the leaves and temperatures have warmed up for the day. You may be better off waiting until the period of freezing temperatures ends, however.

Before you go out to mow for that first time, take the time to check your mower setup. Make sure blades are sharp and that your mower height is adjusted correctly. You should also check that the mower is leveled front to back and side to side; a mower that is not level may scalp some of your lawn and leave other parts too long.

When Should I Fertilize My Lawn?

Spring fertilization is important because it provides the nutrients that your lawn needs as it comes out of dormancy and begins to grow for the season. It’s a good idea to fertilize the lawn between late February and early April, before you start to mow for the season. If you plan on overseeding your lawn, be sure your fertilizer doesn’t include a weed killer, as this will prevent grass seeds from germinating.

How Often Should I Water My Lawn?

Spring rains typically mean you won’t need to water your lawn much in the spring, unless your area is experiencing a drier than average spring. If that’s the case, you may want to wait until the grass starts to droop slightly. Experts suggest that this can help signal to the roots that they should grow deeper to deal with a dry period. Water deeply, about an inch at a time, once a week.

Following these guidelines can help you get your lawn off to a great start this year.

How to Prevent Spring Weeds from Taking Root in Your Lawn

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

As the snow melts and temperatures warm, it’s not just your grass that springs back to life. Weeds and especially dandelions are just waiting to take root in your lawn, plantings and other areas. While weed killer has a definite role, it shouldn’t be your main line of defense. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so here are other ways to prevent weeds from taking over your lawn.

Weeds, especially dandelions, are opportunists, so minimize the opportunity. As soon as you can this spring, you’ll want to aerate, dethatch and overseed your lawn, paying particular attention to any bare spots. This will provide more oxygen to your lawn’s roots, and make it easier for nutrients to reach the soil for absorption. The result will be a healthier, fuller lawn that provides less opportunity for dandelions and other wind-dispersed weeds like milkweed, as well as perennial pests like broadleaf plantain.

If you live in an area where wind-dispersed weeds are a particular problem, be sure to mulch flower beds and bare areas around trees or other plantings early in the spring. A good mulch layer will make it easier to remove any dandelions or other undesirable plants before they turn to seed and spread across your lawn.

Once new grass growth is well established, fertilize your lawn. Besides keeping your grass healthy, this will help prevent weeds that are attracted to low nitrogen or poor soils, like white clover or creeping Charlie. As trees leaf out and create thin or bare patches due to shade, seed those areas with a shade tolerant seed to help prevent violets and other shade-loving weeds.

Your watering and mowing habits can also prevent weed growth. Under watering your lawn creates ideal conditions for weeds like purslane, especially in newly seeded areas, while broadleaf plantain loves an overwatered lawn. Similarly, scalping your lawn by cutting too short creates conditions where crabgrass can take over, so be sure your mower settings are right for your type of grass and region.

Once weeds start to appear, you’ll need to treat them. Some weeds, like chickweed or broadleaf plantain, can be pulled by hand if there are just a few plants. You may need to dig out small patches of clover or creeping Charlie and then seed the area immediately. For dandelions, cut the flowers off to prevent them from going to seed. You should also dig them out, being sure to get at least 2-inches of the tap-root.

Should your lawn go from a few weeds that can be managed by hand to a full-scale invasion, get out the post-emergent herbicide and apply directly to the plants. If the weeds are taking over tender new grass that is trying to establish itself, it may be best to dip a paintbrush in the herbicide and paint the leaves of the weeds, rather than spraying.

One final note: If your lawn is really weedy, it may be a good idea to clean off the mower when you’re done, to prevent seeds from being deposited back into your lawn the next time. That’s because seeds can cling to the mower; starting up and mowing the next time can then disperse them into your lawn again, canceling out any efforts you made to clean up the weeds between mowing. To avoid transporting and dispersing seeds to another lawn, it’s a good idea to clean the mower before you move on to the next job site.

Plan Now to Get the Lawn and Landscape You Want Next Spring

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

It’s December. Your lawn may be covered with snow, but now is the time to start planning. Whether you have bare patches you need to fill in or you’re planning a new landscape design, starting now will ensure you get the lawn you want next year.

Make note of the problems you need to fix. Bare patches, mole hills, crab grass: Whatever ails your lawn, research both the issue you have and the best time to address it. Also decide whether you’re the right person to take care of it – not everyone wants to trap moles, after all—or whether you’d be better off hiring a contractor. You may have multiple issues to address, in which case, schedule them out, even if it’s as informal as aerate and fertilize in the spring, then over-seed.

Once you have the basic projects scoped out, an idea of when to do them, as well as their costs if you’re  hiring someone to do them, start thinking about the other projects. Do you want to add outdoor features, like a patio, fire pit or water feature? Take the time now to look at designs and figure out exactly what you want. That way, you’ll be ready to go when the weather warms up and work can begin, and you’ll be able to get more use out of your yard than if you’d waited until July to decide what you wanted. You may also be happier with the results, if you take the time to research options and pick the design and materials that you like best.

January and February are also a great time to gather plant catalogs and think about plantings that will make your lush green lawn stand out. Spend some time with nursery and plant catalogs, or go online to nursery websites. Think not just about which plants will enhance your house and lawn, but what’s the best way to arrange them and how much effort you want to put into maintenance. If you don’t want to do the labor yourself, it’s best to start looking for a landscape designer well before the temperature warms up. Even if you’re going with a designer and contracted labor, you should have an idea of how you want your yard to look. A good landscaper will take your ideas and work with them so that your plantings grow in and look great in five years, not just the year they were planted.

Don’t forget to budget carefully, especially if you have ambitious plans. You may want to prioritize which features you have to have, and which would be nice but are optional. Or you can make it a several season process, installing the most important features first, and saving the optional ones for next year.

With planning and care, your yard can be the envy of the neighborhood, so use the cold weather months to your advantage. Don’t know where to start? Check out these lawn and garden DIY videos for project ideas and lawn care tips.

Why You Should Rake and Bag or Mulch Your Leaves in the Fall

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

As leaves fall, you may be tempted to just leave them, especially if your property has a lot of trees. For a variety of reasons, this is a bad idea. While it may look okay at first, as rain and snow begin to break down the leaves, they will blacken and become a slick mess. The longer you leave them, the wetter and harder to clean up they’ll become.  The extra moisture on your lawn can also lead to diseases like snow mold, which will result in circular brown patches on your lawn next spring.

Why You Should Mulch Your Leaves

Leaves are full of nutrients. Your lawn needs nutrients. Mulching your leaves delivers those nutrients to your lawn, and involves less work than taking the time to rake and bag leaves. And, you don’t have to pay for nitrogen-based fertilizers. So, it’s better for your lawn, less work, and less expensive.

If you’re a gardener, you may want to consider composting your leaves, and use the compost on flower or vegetable gardens. Simply place the leaves into a large bin, add other compostable material like vegetable waste, plant and garden trimmings, and rake or stir once or twice month to speed up decomposition.

Aren’t Leaves – Especially Oak Leaves—Bad for My Lawn?

No. This is an old wives’ tale that may have come about because wet leaves left on lawns over winter can cause damage or disease. All leaves, even oak leaves, contain nutrients that are beneficial to your lawn. Finely mulched leaves will deliver those nutrients to you lawn.

When You Should Rake and Remove Leaves

If you regularly fertilize your lawn, mulching may be too much of a good thing. In this case, you may want to rake and bag leaves. Some communities will collect leaves for mulching and make the mulch available to residents for use in their gardens.

How Often Do I Need to Remove Leaves?

You’ll need to remove leaves throughout the fall. Depending on where you live, this may last four to six weeks. Doing it in stages, rather than waiting until all the leaves are down, may end up being less work in the long run. If you’re mulching the leaves, your mower may be unable to handle a thick carpet of leaves as efficiently, leading to more passes and larger pieces of mulch.

When to Stop Mowing in the Fall

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

When to stop mowing in the fall is a perennial question. Some homeowners stop as soon as the frost hits, but as warm weather is pushing frost dates from early- to mid-October into late October and early November, this is a bad idea.  Leaving your lawn too long over the winter can leave it vulnerable to disease and will make your first mow in the spring more challenging.

Rather than focusing on a date when you think you it is okay to stop mowing, make the decision to stop based on what your grass is doing. This will depend on both your zone, the current weather patterns, your microclimate (urban heat islands versus rural areas), and whether you have a cool season or a warm season grass. Cool season grasses like fescue, rye grass and Kentucky blue grass will grow at a faster rate through the cooler fall days than warm season grasses like bermuda or zoysia grass.

While your grass is growing, you should keep cutting it. If growth has slowed, you may be able to stretch the period between mowing, or you can adjust the mower height and take a little less off. Once the grass has stopped growing, give it a final, shorter trim—about two inches for cool season grasses—to keep it tidy through the winter and to protect it from diseases like snow mold, which can occur if it snows before the grass is completely dormant. Be sure your mower blades are sharp before that final trim, as torn or damaged grass leaves can lead to disease.

In the event of a freak snow or ice storm followed by a return to warmer, dryer temperatures for an extended period of time, use caution. Be sure that the grass has dried thoroughly before you try to mow, and do not do so immediately after, while the grass is frozen or wet.

If necessary after your final mow, you should continue to rake or mulch your leaves; if you rake, you may wish to use a quick-release fertilizer on your lawn. The roots will absorb the nitrogen over the winter, giving your lawn a boost in the spring. Use a quick release rather than a slow release formula, because you don’t want too much nitrogen in the spring when grass will have its main growth period anyway. Aerating the lawn will allow the fertilizer and oxygen to penetrate deeper into the soil. Aerating will also break up the thatch layer, which will result in better growth in the spring.

While you may be tired of mowing by late-October or early-November, keep it up so long as your grass grows. Doing so will help protect your lawn from disease over the winter, and set you up for a healthier, lusher lawn in the spring.

How Often Do I Need to Water?

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Watering the lawn is trickier than most people realize. Even with an automated sprinkler system, it can be difficult to strike that perfect balance between under-watering and over-watering the grass. This is especially true once you take seasonal and regional issues into consideration. After all, what works in Georgia in the summer won’t necessarily apply to Utah in the spring.

Although you should always consult a specialist in your area to set up a truly accurate course of landscaping care, this general guide to seasonal watering should give you an idea of where to start.

Cool-Season Grasses

Cool-season grasses are those that can survive hot summers and freezing winters. They’re mostly found in the northern regions of the United States, and the bulk of their growth takes place in spring and fall.

Spring: Most cool-season regions experience heavy rainfall in the spring, which means you won’t water your lawn as often or as much. Spring is when the grass will do most of its growing since it’s awakening from winter hibernation and taking advantage of all the natural moisture.

You may need to water if you are experiencing less-than-average rainfall or if your lawn is covered in areas (because of trees or other growth). As temperatures rise, you may need to start watering more frequently.

Summer: By the time June hits, your lawn should be getting 1-inch of water per week (from both rainfall and your watering). Your grass will stay green for as long as you maintain this water level. Rising temperatures and lawns in direct sunlight may require watering more often and on a different schedule. It’s best to water cool-season grasses early in the morning so that the grass holds its moisture for longer.

In especially dry summers, maintaining this much water can be difficult—especially if you live somewhere with water restrictions. Fortunately, it’s okay to let your cool-season grass turn dry and brown if needed. This doesn’t mean your grass is dead; it’s merely dormant. It might not look great, but growth should pick up again in the fall.

Fall: Fall tends to be less wet than spring but not as hot as summer, so you can typically cut your watering regimen in half. You’ll still want to maintain a healthy level of moisture, especially if you’ll be doing any seeding or planting at this time.

By the time temperatures are below freezing overnight, you can stop watering for the year. The grass will go into dormancy until spring hits and the cycle starts all over again.

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses thrive in tropical regions, where temperatures are high and there is a lot of natural moisture in the air. Unlike cool-season grasses, most of the growth will take place in the heat of the summer. During fall and winter, the grass will turn brown and lie dormant until spring.

Late Winter/Early Spring: Spring comes early in tropical regions, so expect the growth cycle to start sometime in January or February. Depending on how much humidity your region is experiencing, this may mean you’ll need to start watering early on.

Spring: By the time May hits, your lawn should be getting between 1 and 1.25 inches of moisture every week. This number includes both the watering you do at home and natural precipitation, so bear in mind what’s happening in your region regarding the weather.

Summer: Your grass is likely to flourish during the summer with or without your assistance. The best thing you can do during this time is paying attention to local conditions. If it’s been an abnormally dry year, you may have to do some watering; however, most homeowners will find that warm-season grass performs well in an atypical year.

Fall: Come September, it’s time to reduce the amount of watering you do. As rains increase and temperatures drop, chances are your lawn is going to get more water than it needs—not less.

Winter: Although your lawn may be dormant by the time winter hits, a lawn that’s been recently seeded or is continuing to thrive may need watering during November and December. This should be done to supplement any natural rainfall.

Remember, every lawn and every region is different, so it’s best to tailor your watering schedule to your climate and grass species. Contact a local expert and come up with a plan of action. Your lawn will thank you!