Archive for the ‘Lawn & Grass Care’ Category

Is Lawn Aeration Really Necessary?

Thursday, August 6th, 2020
lawn aeration with an Exmark stand-on aerator

If you’re new to lawncare, you might be wondering, is lawn aeration really necessary? We find that when people ask “is it necessary” about lawn maintenance tasks, they’re really wondering if the benefit will be worth the time and effort it involves. The answer is, of course, it depends upon your lawn.

The goal of aeration is to improve oxygen, nutrient and water uptake by your lawn’s roots. Whether you rent a core aerator or use one of many kinds of tine aerators, all those holes will improve the air flow, lawn drainage and allow more nutrients to reach the roots. So even if your lawn is in good shape, it will be beneficial to aerate in the spring or fall. If you aerate and then fertilize, it will make fertilizing more effective.

Lawn aeration is really necessary when nutrients and oxygen can’t get to the roots. Soil compaction can prevent air flow and proper drainage. Compaction can be due to heavy foot traffic, or to machine traffic, such as mowers or construction equipment. Soil composition is also a factor; if you live in an area with heavy or high clay content soil, your lawn will compact more easily than light or sandy soil.

Sure signs of compaction are that it’s hard to dig, slow drainage, even after light rain, in low areas, and high run off. Stunted plant growth, shallow tree roots, and bare areas can also signal compaction. Lawn aeration can help your soil recover from foot or machine traffic. For heavy or clay soils, you may also want to work organic material into the ground to help change soil composition.

Aerating can also be beneficial if you have a deep thatch layer. Thatch is organic material, like grass clippings and leaf mulch, that sits on top of the soil. A small layer of thatch is beneficial, but more than half an inch will prevent air and nutrients from reaching the roots. If your grass feels springy or spongy underfoot, your lawn probably has too thick a thatch layer. Aeration will speed up decomposition of thatch by increasing bioactivity. If you’re aerating due to thatch, you should use an aerator that pulls plugs of at least 1” of soil.

Lawn Striping: How to Mow Stripes and Patterns

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
An Exmark mower striping a lawn

Nothing makes a lawn look better than crisp lines. Whether it’s a simple stripe or a complex pattern, lawn striping makes a lawn look like a professional mowed it. If you’re struggling to get the look on your lawn, here’s how to mow stripes or patterns in your lawn.

What Causes Lawn Stripes?

Lawn stripes are nothing but reflected light. What happens is when you make a pass with your mower, the grass is bent. When you make a pass in the opposite direction, the grass bends away in a different direction than the first pass. The grass bent towards you appears dark, while the grass bent away from you appears lighter.

Do You Need a Striping Kit or a Fancy Mower?

While a striping kit will push the grass over further, you don’t need one. And any mower, even a 21” residential walk-behind, can be used for striping, although zero turn and riding mowers will make complicated patterns, like diamonds, easier. Mowing slightly higher makes stripes more pronounced, as the grass will bend further. Shorter blades will bend less, so if you want to make the most of your stripes, set your mower about half an inch higher than usual.

Another thing that will make your stripes stand out is a healthy and full lawn. Taking the time for spring lawn maintenance will pay off later in the summer, when your lawn is lush and green, with beautiful stripes.

How to Mow Stripes in Your Lawn

Decide which directions you want your stripes to run. Stripes that are perpendicular to the street will be more noticeable than ones that are horizontal. Start on an edge of the lawn and mow a straight line; to keep your pass straight, look about ten feet in front of the mower, not at the ground right in front of you. At the end of your row, be sure to lift the mower deck as you turn. Mow in a straight line next to the first stripe.

How to Mow Checkerboards

To mow a checkerboard, start with your basic stripes. Then mow the lawn at a 90% angle to your stripes. Finally, mow a strip around the edges of the lawn.

Other Mowing Patterns

For those that want to give their lawns the look of a ball field, there is the diamond pattern, which involves mowing one pass on a diagonal, then two passes in the other direction. Then mow in the same one-pass, two-pass pattern on a diagonal at 90 degrees to the first set of diagonals. For circles, start at the center of your lawn and mow in one direction. Lift the deck and mow a second circle in the opposite direction. Keep repeating until your entire lawn is mowed.

Want to see a pro mowing stripes? Check out this video of Brian Latimer lawn striping.

How to Top Dress and Reseed Your Lawn

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020
hand reseeding a lawn after top dressing

Any lawn, no matter how well cared for, can develop low spots, uneven patches and bare spots. Whether they’re caused by erosion or the ground settling around pipes or other installations, they can typically be resolved by top-dressing. Top dressing is also a good time to add organic matter to your soil. Here’s how to top-dress and reseed your lawn.

You can buy a high quality top-dressing mixture at your garden center, or make your own. To create your own, use a mixture of loam or topsoil, compost or peat, and sand. The proportions of these will vary depending on your lawn; for sandy soil, use more topsoil and compost, and for clay soils, increase the sand and compost to improve the soil composition.

If you’re top-dressing the entire lawn rather than a few problem areas, it’s a good idea to aerate beforehand. This will help the organic matter work its way into the soil, reduce compaction, and provide channels for air and water to reach the roots.

To apply the top-dressing, work in a few square feet at a time. Make a small mound of top-dressing on the lawn (2-4 shovels full) and spread it across the grass. The back of a garden rake is a good choice. Cover low spots and work it into the aeration holes. Ideally, you want a layer between half an inch and an inch over the grass. Work it until the grass begins to peek though the soil and the layer is even. Then flip your rake over and use the tines, raking until the top dressing settles on the soil.

For low spots that will require more than two inches of top dressing, remove the existing sod. Simply covering the existing grass can lead to underground decay, which can damage new grass and cause the ground to settle again. The sod can be replaced once you’ve filled the low spot. In extreme cases, you may need a multi-year plan, top dressing a couple of inches a year to gradually build the spot up to the level of the lawn.

Once the entire lawn is top-dressed and even, give it a gentle watering and check your low spots for settling. Smooth away bumps, and fill in any divots. If you dug sod out of low spots, replace it. (Learn how to choose the right sod for your lawn.)

The existing grass can grow through up to an inch of top-dressing, but if you had thin grass or bare spots, now is the time to reseed. The organic matter in the top-dressing will provide nutrients to the seedlings as they sprout and fill in.

Top dressing and reseeding is most effective in early spring, when cooler air temperatures and warmer soil temperatures will promote growth. Early fall is also a good time; you just need to allow enough time for new growth and to be able to mow three or four times before dormancy sets in.

For more lawncare tips, check out Exmark’s Backyard Life.

Landscaping Tips to Reduce Fire Risk

Thursday, June 25th, 2020
Homes with hardscaping around them can reduce fire risk

While we often think of wildfires as being a western problem, the threat from wildfires has increased in almost all areas of the U.S. California and the Pacific Northwest get much of the attention, however, wildfires burned hundreds of thousands of acres in the southeast, mid-Atlantic, New England, the Midwest, the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountain states in 2019.  For people living in rural settings, small towns or the farthest reaches of suburbia, wildfires are a real risk. Here are some landscaping tips to help reduce fire risk.

First, trees and shrubs close to the house provide the greatest risk to your home. They can catch fire and  easily spread to the walls and roof. Strong winds can also blow sparks onto your roof from tree limbs that are ten to fifteen feet away. Aim for a 30-foot safety zone around your house and any other buildings.  Relocate or eliminate existing trees that are less than thirty feet from your house.  Keep shrubs small, well pruned, and away from buildings. Prune tree limbs that come within fifteen feet of your roof or walls.

When possible, avoid highly flammable plants, including most pines, evergreens, junipers and fir trees. Two notable exceptions are Ponderosa pines and Western larches as they have thick bark and high water content in their needles. Additionally, deciduous shrubs are more fire-resistant than conifers. Consult with a garden center about good choices for your area. Choose low growing rather than vertical bushes, and prune back any dead branches.

A good rule of thumb is that plants with strongly scented oils are likely to be highly flammable. An exception is lavender, provided it is kept well-watered. Drought-tolerant plants are another good choice, as they will be less likely to turn dry and brown. The more green and lush your annuals and perennials are, the more fire-resistant they will be.

When designing planting beds, keep them five feet from the house. Create gravel or rock borders between the house and planting beds, and keep them clear of dead vegetation. Ground cover vines, like ivy and vinca, are good choices for creating visual interest and differentiating between lawn and beds, but be sure that they don’t start growing up walls or other structures.

Rather than tall ornamental grasses, which dry and can be fuel for a wildfire, consider planting sedges. They grow in short, tidy clumps, rather than spreading like grasses do, and they can be evergreen.  Succulents, like sedum, hens and chickens, and yuccas, are also good choices, as they store water and will be less likely to dry out.

Bark mulch can be a fire hazard if it dries out, so consider choosing gravel or rock instead. If you do opt for bark mulch or wood chips, be sure to water frequently enough to keep it damp. Rock gardens with a variety of succulents and perennials are a good choice when landscaping to reduce fire risk.

When designing outdoor living spaces, avoid wooden decks, especially if they’re built adjacent to the house. Choose brick or paver patios instead, with low (2-3 foot) walls that can act as a fire break. And rather than using stepping stones to connect areas, create gravel or paver pathways. If wide enough, they can help stop fires from spreading to your house.

With thought and care, you can design a beautiful landscape that helps reduce fire risk. But the most important step will be to maintain it. Keep grass mowed, debris cleared away, and trees and shrubs pruned.

Lawn Care: How Much and How Often Should You Water Your Lawn?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020
Watering the lawn

Now that the temperatures have soared and the sun is blazing, you may be wondering how much and how often to water your lawn. Watering the grass may appear simple, but your lawn’s water requirements change with the season. It’s important to find the balance between under-watering and over-watering to ensure your grass is obtaining all its necessary nutrients.

When considering what the right amount of water is, you need to take into consideration both regional and seasonal issues that can impact your growing. Water needs will vary depending on the type of grass in your lawn and the current weather patterns.   


Cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, fescues and perennial ryegrass, grow across much of the Midwest and northern US. They can survive both freezing winters and hot summers. The ideal growing periods for cool-season grasses are the spring and fall.


Heavy seasonal rainfall will keep soil moist, and grass will flourish as it emerges from dormancy.

You should only need to water if temperatures are above average, or there is below average rainfall.


Cool-season grasses need a recommended 1 inch of water per week to flourish and be healthy. If there is a constant rise or fall in temperature, then you may need to adjust this number accordingly. A best practice is to water once in the morning and once before sunset to ensure a full release of nutrients


Begin to cut down your watering by about 50%, but still focus on maintaining healthy levels of moisture. Grass will begin to turn brown as it goes dormant.


Warm-season grasses like Bermuda, St Augustine and zoysia, cover most of the Southern United States. They survive best in hot tropical regions that have elevated temperatures and high levels of moisture. These grasses grow best during warm summer months.


Warm-season grasses will begin their growing periods during mid to late February. Grass needs a recommended 1 to 1.25 inches of moisture per week (includes physical watering and rainfall). Start watering early to ensure full growth.


Pay attention to local conditions to maintain safe water levels. Unless there’s lower than average rainfall, warm-season grasses will flourish on their own.  Aerate your lawn if you’re not seeing desired growth.


Rainfall will increase, and temperatures will begin to fall so your lawn shouldn’t need much watering. Grass should not be getting more than 1 inch of water per week. Be sure to rake leaves to ensure grass is still getting sunlight.

If you’re in a drought-prone area, local restrictions may make it hard to get your lawn adequate water. Consider creating a drought-tolerant lawn that will stand up to your conditions better than a traditional lawn.

Not every lawn will follow the same watering and maintenance pattern, so it’s best to tailor a schedule that works for you. A local lawns specialist can help develop and maintain a watering schedule that works for your lawn, location and conditions.

How to Get a Lush Lawn after Flooding

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Exmark Lazer Z sitting on a lush lawn

2019 was a record year for flooding, and they caused serious damage and hardship. If you are a homeowner whose lawn was affected by flooding last year, you may just be getting around to your lawn, and you will have your work cut out for you. And if your lawn was under water for an extended period of time, had more than an inch of silt, or was flooded by salt water, returning it to its former beauty will take a lot of work. Follow these steps to get a lush lawn after flooding.

In extreme cases, you will likely have to re-sod your lawn because the turf has died. Ornamentals and trees may survive, but that will depend on their hardiness and species.  But there’s a chance your lawn can survive with attention. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to get it lush and green again.

Step One: Clear out any silt and items left behind by flood waters. You may find that silt was deposited unevenly, giving your lawn new contours and grades. Scrape off and haul away silt, even small amounts, as it will likely contain contaminants like petroleum products and industrial chemicals.  Fill in any washed out areas with top soil. You want your lawn to be as level and even as possible, so rake top soil into low areas.

If you had areas that didn’t drain well prior to the flooding, this would be a good time to address those. Installing a dry creek bed can provide visual interest and funnel high waters away from your property.

Step Two: Aerate your lawn. After being waterlogged, the root system needs help. Core aeration will increase oxygen and nutrients uptake by the roots.

Step Three: Consider your lawn a new one, and apply a starter fertilizer to support root redevelopment. This will also support new growth as you complete step four.

Step Four: Seed and/or over-seed. Seeding is best done in late spring or early fall. Look for hardier grass strands if you think flooding will be a recurring issue. Kentucky bluegrass, red fescues, and crested wheatgrass may be good choices, but consult with a garden center for grass types that would work well in your area.

It’s a good idea to take it easy on your lawn. Keep off the grass as it reestablishes itself. Avoid overwatering, and when you mow, cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade length off. Make sure that your mower blades are sharp because dull blades can tear grass; once torn, the grass can be susceptible to disease.

It may take some work to get your flooded lawn back into shape, but it will be worth it. In a few weeks, you will be able to enjoy your outdoor living space and your beautiful new lawn.

Tips for Getting a Professional Looking Lawn

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020
Stripes help make a lawn look professional

Wondering how to get a professional looking lawn this year? We have six professional lawn tips to make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood.

Keep Blades Sharp: It doesn’t matter how powerful and technologically advanced your mower is if the blades are dull. Dull mower blades tear grass and result in an uneven, ragged edge, rather than a clean cut. Hundreds of thousands of grass blades with ragged edges will result in a ragged and uneven lawn. Mower blades should be sharpened every 20 to 25 hours, so for most homeowners, that’s once or twice a year. Pro tip: Make sharpening blades part of your spring mower maintenance.

Wondering how to get a professional looking lawn this year? We have six tips to make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood.

Mow Often, Cut Less: Trimming less from the grass but mowing more often will mean that your lawn doesn’t get long and look overgrown. And nothing looks less like a professionally mown lawn than one that’s overgrown and weedy. Additionally, even sharp blades can tear long grass, especially if you didn’t adjust the mower height correctly. Never mow more than one-third of the grass blade at a time.

Don’t Get in a Rut: Over time, using the same starting points and path to mow your lawn will create wear patterns. This can create ruts and uneven spots that cause scalping. Make a practice of mowing rows one week, and diagonals the next.

Show Your Stripes: Nothing makes a lawn stand out quite like stripes or patterns, and pros are masters at this. Adding a striping kit—a roller that pushes the grass down after it’s cut—will make your stripes stand out and accentuate patterns.

Edge After You Mow: Edging really adds that professional finish. The pros typically use a string trimmer with the guard removed to edge along fences, sidewalks and garden beds, and that sharp line is the difference between mowing your lawn and manicuring it. Whether you use a trimmer, a power edger or the old-fashioned step edger, taking the time to edge will help your lawn stand out.

Spot Treat Weeds: Spot treat weeds early to prevent them from spreading. Ideally, you want to spray weeds like dandelions and clover before they flower and go to seed.

Following these six professional lawn tips will go a long way to keeping your lawn Instagram-worthy all summer long. Of course, a professional grade mower will also help. Whether you need a 21” self-propelling mower or 60” residential zero-turn mower, Exmark mowers offer durability, comfort, and legendary quality of cut. Find your local Exmark dealer.

How to Keep Nuisance Animals Away from Your Yard

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
Deer can be a nuisance, so keep animals away from your yard

If you put time and effort into maintaining your lawn, the last thing you want is for it to turn into a playground for local critters. If raccoons, skunks, rabbits, squirrels, or stray cats are using your lawn and leaving behind a big mess, there are steps you can take to make your lawn less appealing so they move elsewhere. Here are some strategies for keeping animals out of your yard.  

6 Ways to Keep the Animals Off Your Lawn

Fencing is the most common and effective way to deter animals away from your yard. Fencing can help to keep both large and small animals out of your grass, provided you choose the right materials and set the posts at the right height and width. If you need to restrict only part of your yard, say a garden, chicken wire can be an effective and affordable solution.

Many small animals seek out dens in the late fall and winter, so be sure to block access to areas under decks and porches. Chicken wire and lattice are good options, but be sure to choose materials with small openings, as stray cats, raccoons and skunks can fit through surprisingly small holes.

You can purchase non-toxic commercial repellants for the type of animals using your yard.  These are mostly made of a mix of plant-based chemicals that irritate an animal’s nasal passages, and will likely irritate human nasal passages, too. Follow the directions carefully, and keep pets and small children away from treated areas.

A homemade remedy is to use cayenne pepper, which contains capsaicin, a primary ingredient in bear sprays. To apply, sprinkle cayenne pepper in areas nuisance animals frequent. You can also make a solution of water and cayenne and spray shrubs and plants to prevent them from being eaten. Capsaicin has dual benefits: It also it also acts as a natural insecticide against grass destroying grubs. Again, keep pets and kids off treated areas.

Most animals strongly dislike the smell of white vinegar. To use, put vinegar in a bottle and spray the perimeter of your lawn as if you’re creating an invisible fence. You must be careful however because vinegar has the potential to destroy and damage most plants so keep it away from any that are nearby.

Mothballs are another scent animals dislike; the drawback to using them is that most people dislike the smell, too. You probably won’t want to use them right around your deck, but if you have animals causing damage in areas far from the house, mothballs may be a good choice.

Scare devices are an easy and harmless way of frightening animals away from your lawn. Some examples of common scare devices include noisemakers, motion-activated sprinklers, pinwheels, and items that mimic the shape of predators.


You may be tempted to start out by trapping the animals making a mess of your lawn, but ideally, you’ll want to try and change the conditions that are attracting the animals first. If none of these solutions have worked, you can trap the animal and release it in a park or forested area. You can also contact a specialist to do the trapping for you.  

One final tip: Raccoons, skunks, opossums and stray cats are scavengers, so don’t accidentally provide food. Be sure to clean grills and outdoor tables after using, keep garbage cans tightly closed and bring pet food bowls inside in the evenings. Once their food supply dries up, they’ll likely move on.

Need additional tips on how to keep unwanted animals off your lawn, or out of your garden and trash? Watch Exmark’s Original Done-In-A-Weekend episode, “How to Keep Unwanted Animals off Your Lawn.”

How to Get Your Yard Ready for Spring

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020
Radius X Series mowing a lawn in the spring

If you’re getting cabin fever and get a mild day, why not work on getting your yard ready for spring? Even if you already started mowing this spring, your yard could probably use some clean-up. This is also a good time to identify longer term projects and improvements you want to tackle this year.

Look for damage to trees, especially broken limbs that should be taken down by an arborist. And check that any fencing is in good repair. Prune small shrubs and tidy flower beds. If you have mulched areas, add a new layer of mulch to help control weeds and to provide nutrients as those perennials and bulbs begin to grow.

Next, turn your attention to the grass. Rake out beds with ground cover and under bushes. Look for snow mold and other fungal infections, and identify low spots or thin areas. Check the thatch layer – if it’s more than ½” deep, plan on dethatching once the grass begins to grow.

If it’s warm enough, you can aerate. Ideal soil temperature for spring aeration is 50-65 degrees. Aeration helps break up compacted soil and allows for better nutrient and water absorption by the roots, allowing your lawn to take full advantage of its prime growing season.

Once the soil temps reach 55 degrees, fertilizing your lawn is also a good idea. Take the time to identify the grass types in your lawn, as well as your soil type. A local lawn and garden center can help you identify an optimal fertilizer for your grass blend and soil type.

If you won’t be overseeding or reseeding areas of your lawn, you can treat it with a pre-emergent herbicide.

Now that your yard is spring ready, you can look forward to the busy mowing season ahead. If you haven’t starting mowing yet, learn when you should mow your lawn for the first time in the spring. For a list of lawn tasks by month, check out our month-by-month lawncare infographic at Exmark’s Backyard Life.

Rethink Your Landscaping to Make Mowing Easier

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Before lawn care season begins for most of the United States is a good time to rethink your landscaping to make mowing easier. Especially if you had trouble mowing around plantings, or worse, mowed over low-growing plants because you couldn’t see them.

Think back on your mowing over the last year and identify any persistent problems. Were there areas where you couldn’t get your mower between two trees, and were forced to trim that spot by hand? Does your lawn have awkward low spots that were hard to mow? Did odd angles make certain spots difficult to move in and out of? If you answered yes to any of these questions, use these design tips to create a more ‘mower friendly’ yard.

Use borders to separate plantings and lawns. Choose landscape stone, pavers, edging, or wood depending on your style. Whatever you choose, a clear border will help you avoid mowing plants. They will also provide a clear transition between lawn and garden areas and give plantings more visual impact.

Center your lawn. If you keep plantings and shrubs on the perimeter of your lawn, you will eliminate obstacles to mowing. Keep edges straight for a more formal look, but use gentle curves for more casual landscaping. Straight lines and gentle curves will make your mowing easier; avoid creating tight angles.

Plant in groups. If you currently have several disconnected small beds or small shrubs, consider connecting them in a larger, mulched grouping. You’ll have fewer things to mow around, and your plantings will have more visual impact.

Use vertical space, as well as horizontal. Create raised planting areas or plant taller shrubs or ornamental trees. These will be easier to see and avoid while mowing while adding an additional element to your lawn.

Dig stepping stones in. Ideally, stepping stones or paver paths should be flush with the ground so you can mow over them without hitting the blades. If you have stepping stones that sit on top of your lawn, add digging them into the lawn to your early spring to-do lists.

Use planters and pots if you have a deck or patio. Choosing large containers rather than planting in the ground will let you skip having to mow around plants entirely. Container gardening has some definite benefits, too. For one, you can rearrange plant layout simply by moving the pots. letting you change how your yard looks. And in colder climates, pots let you grow more tropical plants, like citrus, fig and even banana trees, and move them indoors to overwinter.

If you have an uneven lawn with holes or low spots, plan now to fill them in. You could also consider smoothing out steep grades that make mowing difficult.

If you’d like fewer hassles when mowing, re-evaluating your landscaping is a good first step to make mowing easier. Minor adjustments to create beds, add borders, and even out tight angles can pay off with easier access for your mower, less hand trimming, and a yard with more curb appeal.