Lawn maintenance tips and tricks

Once all the landscaping tasks have been accomplished, basic lawn care is not as difficult or labor-intensive as most people imagine. In short, caring for your lawn throughout the year mostly includes grooming practices such as trimming, edging, mowing and watering.

However, in the spring, there are a few additional tasks you’ll want to consider performing to make lawn care easier throughout the summer months. Thankfully, these chores aren’t too difficult, either.

These are some of the best practices for lawn care this spring and summer.

Spring lawn care

Preparing your equipment Early spring — ideally the end of winter — is the best time to assess your lawn equipment. Give your lawnmower a tuneup: change the oil, air filter and spark plug. It’s also important to sharpen or replace the lawnmower blade — a dull blade tears grass instead of cutting it, which can allow for fungus to set in. If it’s been a few years, you may want to consider purchasing a new lawnmower to stave off midsummer frustrations.

Clean the area After the last snow has melted away and the ground is dry, take a stroll around your yard with your favorite rake and a pop-up garden bag. Scoop up any small debris and place it in your garden bag so it can either be added to your compost pile or disposed of properly. For larger items such as tree branches, you can toss them in a chipper or schedule a waste pick-up with your town.

Dethatch Thatch is a dense layer of living and dead organic material that accumulates on the surface of your soil. This layer can block vital nutrients as well as air and water from getting to the roots of your grass. To have the healthiest lawn possible, break up this material so your grass can thrive. The most affordable way to dethatch is with a thatching rake that you move back and forth over the surface of your lawn to accomplish the task.

Take control of the weeds If you have problematic weeds such as crabgrass, spring is a good time to get a head start with a preemergent herbicide. This product interrupts a weed’s growth process and prevents it from germinating. The only catch is it must be applied at the right time, when the soil reaches a steady temperature of about 55 degrees — too early and it won’t last all season; too late and you’ll miss your window of opportunity.

Fill the bare spots Before filling any bare spots or overseeding your lawn, read the directions on any preemergent herbicide that you may have applied. This is because most of these products will also stop grass seed from germinating, so there may be a waiting period before you can seed your lawn. For best results, it’s important to purchase grass seed that matches the climate and growing conditions of your region.

Summer lawn care

Don’t mow too low The trick to having a healthy lawn is only removing the top third of the grass blade when you mow. If you remove too much of the blade at one time, you may get brown patches and invite weeds to take over. In general, you’ll need to mow your lawn once each week to keep it in its healthiest condition.

Trimming and edging keep things neat No matter how skilled you are at mowing, to get that head-turning lawn all summer long, you also need to trim and edge. A battery-powered grass trimmer allows you to cut those hard-to-get areas such as near your fence or under your deck. Running an edger along your driveway and walkways gives your yard a fresh, neat look. It can also help keep weeds from encroaching on areas you want to keep weed-free.

Don’t forget to water When you walk across your grass and the blades don’t spring back up, it’s a sign that your lawn needs more water. The best time to turn on the sprinkler is in the early morning, after the sun comes up but before 10 a.m. Your lawn only needs roughly 1.5 inches of water each week, which is enough for the top 6 inches of the soil to get moist — if you can easily slide a screwdriver 6 inches into the soil, you’re good. Also, it’s better to water your lawn twice a week (if it needs it) rather than all at once.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




Winter is a challenging season for property managers. The ice, snow, salt, and grime can make it challenging to keep your property looking attractive, even for the most diligent property owners and community managers. But don’t give up! Here are some winter landscaping tips to keep your property’s grounds looking good—and to set yourself up for success once spring finally comes.

#1: Know Your Zone

The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes a climate map that can help you to select which plants are best for winter landscaping within your zone—as well as which plants will have a hard time thriving where you live. You can find out which of the eleven regions you’re in with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map.

#2: Continue Watering

Don’t neglect watering grass and shrubs. When the weather gets cold, we often stop maintaining landscaping features—but the need for water doesn’t go away just because the weather is cold. Failure to keep your fruit trees, lawns, and hedges hydrated over the winter can result in a host of issues, including increased susceptibility to disease. If the temperature is below 40 degrees, however, you’re off the hook for a day or two.

#3: Keep Raking

Everybody rakes in the fall, but it’s a good idea to keep on raking lawns and gardens over the winter as well. Plant debris continues to build up, and when it mixes with snow, the environment is conducive to mold and fungus, particularly where leaves have accumulated.

#4: Cover Thin-Barked Trees

Put a light-colored wrapping around younger trees with thin bark in sunny areas. This helps to control frost and prevents sun scald.

#5: Fertilize Lawns

Ideally, you’ll want to use a fertilizer rich in phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium. Put it in the ground prior to the first freeze. This will help your lawn to grow rich and green in the spring, maximizing curb appeal (and minimizing work later on!).

#6: Protect Against Road Salt

Cover evergreen shrubs and small trees near high-traffic areas. Don’t over-apply road salt near tree roots unless it’s necessary to eliminate safety hazards.

#7: Mulch Garden & Tree Beds

Mulch is an excellent insulator and can help to protect roots against frost. If you have the storage space, the leaves you raked up in the fall will be perfect to use as mulch by the winter—and they’re completely organic (and free!).

#8: Keep Grass Short

Cut your grass extra short as you head into winter—between 1 and 2 inches shorter than usual. This reduces frostbite risk and snow mold, and can also prevent mice from digging nests in the grass as cold weather approaches.

#9: Winterize Sprinkler Systems

This is nearly common sense, but every year, hundreds of property managers and landlords get stung by bursting pipes when freezing weather expands the water inside. Make sure your outdoor sprinkler systems are winterized by forcing compressed air through the system to push out any water that’s accumulated. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to reserve the next day when the temperatures are above freezing to get this done ASAP. See our recent Winterization Checklist and Extreme Cold Tips for more advice on protecting your units from freezing temperatures.

#10: Add Pots

Closely-trimmed boxwood trees in large pots can bring a hint of fresh greenery to walkways and entryways all year long in most climates.

#11: Use Bark & Berries

Trees with highly textured bark, such as birch and dogwood, are great for winter landscaping, whether planted or used for decor. Crabapple trees look great, too, because they retain their fruit even in cold weather. Holly, of course, is a beautiful winter plant, but we don’t recommend it for residential settings because holly berries are toxic—as few as 20 berries can be lethal to a child.

#12: Emphasize Winter-Blooming Flowers

Which flowers you should choose for your winter landscaping depends on your latitude. Ideas include: kaffir lilies, daphne, Christmas roses, winter jasmine, witch-hazel, sweet alyssum, honey wort, winter honeysuckle, violets, and pansies. Further north, you can try Lenten roses, Oregon grape, heather, and snowdrops.

#13: Plant Winter Trees

Maple trees and evergreen hollies do well when planted in winter months.

#14: Prune Trees

Now that the leaves are gone, it’s easy to spot damaged branches. Remove these for a healthier, stronger tree come spring.

#15: Use Lighting

Outdoor lighting can look especially beautiful in winter, even past the holiday season. Consider subtle tones to bring warmth to winter landscaping, or try lighting up walkways and driveways with attractive ground lanterns.

Whether you have a green thumb when it comes to your home garden, or you can hardly tell the difference between a rose and a weed, you should know that there are certain landscaping tasks that need to be done right to keep your home exterior looking its best.


FALL LANDSCAPING



Timing is everything, especially when it comes to keeping your landscaping top-notch. For instance, autumn is great time to plant trees, but a terrible time for pruning certain shrubs. Don't wait until spring to find out that your fall garden maintenance did more harm than good. Read on to learn what not to do in the garden this fall.



FORGETTING ABOUT SPRING


After a long winter, who wants to wait until April for the first spring flowers? Don't forget to take steps now to make sure your garden gets some early color next year. These cool fall days are ideal for planting bulbs like snowdrops, which look great arranged in small clumps, and crocuses, which are lovely along a walkway or even scattered randomly throughout the lawn. In early spring, when these bright flowers pop up from beneath the snow, you'll know that warm weather can't be far behind.




Compacted clay soil needs to loosen up a bit from time to time, and that's where core aeration comes in. This is commonly done in the spring, but at a cost: Weed seeds love the holes left behind by the aerator. Head off a weed assault by aerating in the fall, when the grass is still growing and weed seeds are minimal.