Archive for the ‘Lawn & Grass Care’ Category

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.

Trapping

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.

What to Do with Lawn Clippings: Should You Bag or Mulch?

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
An Exmark mower micro mulching lawn clippings

What to do with all those lawn clippings? The average square foot of grass has an estimated 3,000 individual blades, meaning even a small lawn will generate millions of clippings each time it’s mowed. You have three options: Cut and bag, cut and rake, or cut and mulch.

Mulching is the easiest choice. You cut the lawn and leave the clippings where they lie. This is often the best choice for your lawn, too, as the clippings help add nutrients and moisture back to the ground. The drawback is that many people find the clippings unsightly.  If you’re one of these people, a micro mulching mower (or a mulching kit to add to your existing mower) may be the answer. With micro mulching, clippings are cut into fine particles that are less visible, and they break down more quickly than larger clippings.

Using a bagger to collect your clippings will give you an ultra-tidy lawn, but doesn’t return valuable nutrients to your lawn. If you would like the benefits of mulching and an immaculately groomed look, the Exmark Navigator might be the right mower for you. Its patented fill reduction system lets you choose how much of your clippings to bag and how much to mulch. With options for bagging all, a third, or none of your clippings, it’s a great choice for landscape pros who service customers with different preferences. And, during heavy growth periods or when grass is very wet, bagging only some clippings can be a good option.

If you bag your clippings, you’ll want to look for a bagger that comes on and off easily. Exmark walk-behind Commercial 21 and Commercial 30 mowers have bag designs that eliminate the need for levers and doors. A top-fill feature lets you check how much room you have during operation. And you’ll want it to be easy to empty, especially if you’re emptying it into lawn bags.

For larger zero-turn mowers, Exmark UltraVac Collection systems have large-capacity hoppers and are designed with larger diameter tubes to avoid clogging. Some UltraVac models include a quick dump release lever, while others can easily switch between bagging and discharging.

If you do bag your clippings, you can take advantage of the nutrients by composting them.  The composted clippings can be added to flower beds, vegetable gardens and around trees.  Just be sure to turn clippings periodically to promote decomposition and oxygen flow.

No matter what your preference for clippings, Exmark mowers will make it easier to handle them. Find an Exmark dealer near you to see the full range of mowers and accessories.

Early Spring Tasks to Get Your Lawn Off to the Right Start

Thursday, April 4th, 2019
Early spring tasks like aerating will get your lawn off to the right start

Check Your Lawn Mower and Perform Basic Maintenance

Late March and early April is a great time to start getting your lawn ready for another season. Early spring is the time to build a foundation for a lush, beautiful lawn. Take the time to complete these tasks and you’ll be looking at a healthy green lawn this summer

Now is the time go make sure your mower is in good shape and ready to go. Check to make sure it’s running properly and perform basic maintenance: Sharpen the blades, check the starter, belts, the air filter, battery, spark plug and tires. Replace worn or damaged parts now, rather than waiting until they fail.

The First Mow

For the first mow, set the blades about half an inch lower than you would normally set it in order to break up any light debris you might still have lying around your lawn. After that, you should raise the blade so the grass can grow tall enough to crowd out any weeds.

Check Your Irrigation System

Whether you have an installed irrigation system or just a hose and sprinklers, test those out, too. Make sure hoses aren’t worn and leaking, and that your irrigation system hasn’t been damaged by cold weather or rodents. Leaky hoses and damaged irrigation systems can waste water, driving up your water bill and potentially causing trouble if you live in an area with water restrictions.

Spring Clean Up

Take the time to tidy your lawn and inspect it for issues. Rake any remaining leaves and remove large sticks, and any trash blown onto your lawn by storms. Look for snow mold and the rings and dead spots that indicate fungal diseases, as well as bare spots you’ll want to fill. Note any issues with mole hills, as well as damage from water run off or animals, and make plans for fixing.

Give your lawn a good raking to break up the thatch layer and allow plenty of water and oxygen to reach the roots. If you had an unseasonably dry winter and your lawn is dry, you may want to water beforehand. Maintenance on dry soil can cause compaction, making root growth more difficult.

Aerating, Overseeding and Feeding

If you have a thick thatch layer, consider aerating or dethatching to help promote healthy root growth. If it’s warm enough, you may also want to overseed so new growth fills in thin spots and gives you a thick carpet of grass. If you notice bald spots from traffic or other damage as the grass begins growing, seed them as soon as possible to take advantage of spring growing season. The earlier you patch those bald spots, the more uniform your lawn will look when summer comes. And even if you don’t need to overseed or replant areas, you’ll want to provide your lawn with a good fertilizer to feed it during spring growth.  Early spring is also a good time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to keep new weeds from sprouting.

When Should I Start Mowing this Spring?

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019
When to start mowing your lawn will depend on local conditions

When to start mowing your lawn in the spring depends on your local weather conditions and the kind of weather pattern you’ve experienced. We can’t give you a date, but we can provide guidelines for determining the best time to start mowing your lawn.

Check the Temperature

Look for night-time temperatures consistently above freezing –ideally above 40˚– and soil temperature above 55˚ degrees. If you live in the Midwest, where it’s not uncommon for the weather to swing from winter to spring and back in the course of a weekend, this can take longer than you’d like. Once you can be sure the temperature can be relied on to stay above 40˚ Fahrenheit, then you can start dusting off your lawn mower.

Monitor the Grass

The other thing to consider is the height of your grass. Wait until grass is at least 2 inches tall before mowing. For the first mow, leave it longer, too. Don’t remove more than 1/3rd of the leaf.  If you cut the grass too short, you could leave it vulnerable to disease.

Fertilize

Spring is a great time to fertilize your lawn because the young grass soaks up nutrients more efficiently than it does later in the season. If you decide to fertilize this spring, make sure you give your lawn plenty of time to soak up those extra nutrients before you start mowing.

Are You Overseeding This Year?

Overseeding is the process of planting grass seed over existing turf. It’s a great way to patch up any bald spots your lawn may have developed over the winter, while creating a thick, lush lawn. If you are overseeding, you’ll need to plan the start of your mowing season accordingly in order to avoid cutting the young grass when it’s too short and hasn’t yet had chance to put down good roots. Come up with a schedule that includes overseeding, fertilizing, and mowing in such a way that all three of those things can work together, rather than working against each other.

Don’t Cut Wet Grass

Wet grass can be harder to cut efficiently, and it’s more likely to clump together when it has been cut. You’re also more likely to tear it, instead of cutting it cleanly, and torn leaves are more susceptible to disease.  If you’re having a rainy spring, it will be better to let the grass go a few extra days than to cut it wet.

Before that First Mow

Before you head out to mow your lawn for the first time, check your mower. Be sure that blades are sharp, belts are in good condition, and that everything is in working order. Dull blades can tear and damage grass, even when it’s dry. Take the time to sharpen or replace your blades.

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

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.