The Value of Do-It-Yourself Lawn Care

The Value of Do-It-Yourself Lawn Care

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Lawn care is a huge industry, one that provides plenty of seasonal jobs all across the country. But, it is also an expense that some homeowners are finding to be something they no longer want to bear, especially in the deep recession of 2009.

Lawn care is a huge industry, one that provides plenty of seasonal jobs all across the country. But, it is also an expense that some homeowners are finding to be something they no longer want to bear, especially in the deep recession of 2009.

The insistent knock at my front door one frigid February day was unmistakable: my neighbor’s landscaper was stopping by to offer me his services for the coming year. I guess he noticed that my front lawn — a patchwork design of grass, weeds and dirt — was in serious need of some tender loving care.

I’ve never had much success with growing anything out front, chiefly for the reason that by late April the shade trees block out most of the sunlight. Still, I try to put down shade tolerant grass seed but to no avail: birds swoop in before the grass takes hold and drought conditions have kept me from watering — twin problems that continue year in and year out.

Better Homes and Gardens

Truthfully, I’m not concerned that I don’t have a ‘trophy lawn’ but some of the people on my block are. One neighbor regularly puts in 50-60 hours at his high pressure management job Monday through Friday, but is up bright and early most Saturday mornings to tend to his lawn. He tells me that tending the lawn brings much satisfaction to him, helping him to relax and enjoy his property.

More power to him!

Pricey Bid With Not Much Else Included

I ended up turning down the landscaper’s offer to submit a bid, knowing that his pre-season and bi-monthly treatments of the lawn would cost me over $600. And, that price would not cover cutting the grass, removing clippings and leaves, or anything else. I don’t think he was surprised given the state of  the economy. He thanked me, quickly turned around and headed off to the next house with a distressed lawn.

Do It Yourself Lawn Care

If you’re looking for a detailed primer discussing do it yourself lawn care, I hate to disappoint you: you’d do better to go to your local home improvement store and pick up the appropriate bags of Scotts fertilizer (or a competing brand) and following their instructions.

But, I will tell you that in order to get the most from your lawn you’ll need to do the following:

Aerate — Yes, if your lawn is in fairly good condition, it can benefit from a yearly aeration. You can rent a machine that you can use to poke thousands of tiny holes in your lawn while also pulling up soil and leaving that on the surface. Basically, you’re turning over the lawn which prepares it for the next step.

Overseeding — My problem with the birds could be handled if I followed my own advice by purchasing plenty of seed and scattering it thickly across the lawn.  Birds will steal some, but not enough to make a difference. But, picking the right grass is important too — again, a visit to your home improvement store will allow you to compare seeds and to find out what works best for your lawn. Ask a knowledgeable sales person for help too — you don’t want to buy the wrong grass for your lawn.

Fertilize — You’ll be fertilizing throughout the growing season, as much as four times before the grass goes dormant in the fall. The first batch of fertilizer will help your grass take hold with subsequent feedings designed to promote growth, kill weeds and destroy insects.  A good lawn program will tell you when it is the best time to apply specific fertilizers.

Mowing — Once your grass has taken hold and grown several inches, you’ll be out there with your lawn mower to cut the grass back.  But, you’ll also risk damaging or even killing your lawn if you don’t do it right.  While your mower’s owner’s manual may offer some tips, you’ll want to follow the guidance from the grass seed company on how low to cut your particular grass. After all, if you scalp your lawn, then you’ll have more problems to deal with later. Some grasses require a 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inch height but those which are considered to be “warm weather” grasses can be cut as low as a half an inch high. Again, consult with the seed company to learn how to handle your lawn.

Watering — Oh, I wish some of my neighbors really paid attention to their watering!  From water that splashes into the street and immediately goes down the drain to automatic watering that comes on even during a strong rainstorm irritates me. I’m not against underground sprinkler systems — in fact, they can be one of the most efficient ways to keep a lawn green without wasting water. Still, over watering seems to be a problem as does wasted watering.

One of the drawbacks to do-it-yourself lawn care is the time you’ll have to put into it. In addition, you’ll need to purchase the grass and fertilizer, rent or buy equipment as well as water and cut the lawn on a regular basis. If this seems like too much work for you, consider doing part of the work yourself while farming out certain chores to someone else.

Then again, there is plenty of information online to encourage homeowners to explore other ways to maintain their lawns, some of which are friendly to the environment and much more natural in scope.

Adv. — Are you looking to save money on projects for your home? Shop for appliances, parts and other stuff online or look for a service contractor who can lend you a hand.

Photo Credit: Steve Woods

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