DIY Lawn Care Tips

You might have considered doing lawn treatments on your own. After all, how hard can it be, right? Before you get started, you need to first consider a few things. Here are our tips for you to be successful for your own DIY lawn care.

Timing of Applications

One of the biggest mistakes that anyone can make when planning a lawn treatment schedule is not understanding proper application timing. This is an easy mistake to make if just going off of what the big box stores sell through their standard packages. Some stores offer a 4 step program while others market a season control package.

Crabgrass pre-emergent needs to be applied before the seed can germinate. For the Wabash Valley that is typically around April 15th. The closer to this date the better control you will see. Post-emergence herbicide applications should only be applied when soil temperatures reach the stated level on the product label.

Some granular fertilizer products have herbicides included. Be sure to read and follow all instructions as some of these products require to be watered in to activate the ingredients for best control.

Mowing Practices

Some of the simplest things that a homeowner can and should do is to have proper mowing habits. These mowing guidelines are directly from Purdue Universtiy Turf Science Department and should be strictly followed.

  • Mow the lawn now shorter than 3.5 inches.
  • Mow in different directions every week.
  • Cut no more than 1/3rd of the grass blade off at a time.
  • Avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day.
  • Only mow if the lawn truly needs it.
  • Do not bag clippings from mowing.

Selecting Products

Looking at the lawn care aisle can be very confusing. So many different products with active ingredients that have every letter of the alphabet. What does all of this mean? Different active ingredients will target specific weeds. If you apply a product that contains 2-4D in hopes that it will kill crabgrass, you will be wasting your time and money. Be sure you properly identify the target plant and select a product that is labeled to kill that plant. All the information that you need to know about each product is listed in detail on the label. It is very easy to apply the wrong product and end up doing more harm than good.

Understanding Nature

When doing lawn care, you have to remember that you are trying to change what nature has been designed to do for years. Weeds will germinate over the course of months so do not be surprised if you make an application and a few weeks later more of the same weeds begin to appear. Rain, lack of rain, heat and cold all are out of our control. Some products can only be applied if they are watered in while others require the lawn to stay dry. It is also important to check temperature restrictions on products because applying them outside of what the label states is not only dangerous but against the law.

Fertilizer Selection and Application 

When selecting what kind of fertilizer you want to apply to your lawn you first need to understand what is in the bag. Every bag of fertilizer has a guaranteed analysis of 3 numbers in a 0-0-0 format. The first number is the percent of Nitrogen, the second number is the percent of Phosphorous, and the final number is the percent of Potassium. Each nutrient has different qualities that prove the turf with different benefits. We suggest following the guide published by Purdue University to determine what fertilizer you should apply.

After you select the fertilizer you want to use, you need to determine how much you need to buy. Most bags of fertilizer purchased from a major store will state how many pounds per thousand square feet should be applied. To determine how much fertilizer you will need to buy, you need to know how many actual square feet of turf you have. Once you determine that, you can almost begin your fertilizer application.

There are several pieces of equipment that can be used to apply fertilizer. Be sure that whatever equipment you use is properly calibrated and you fully understand how the equipment works. A hand spreader, broadcast spreader, or drop spreader can be used to apply products but are each unique and present different challenges when making applications.

Making the Application

Now that you understand proper mowing techniques, you have purchased the equipment you are most comfortable using, you have measured your lawn, you have all the right products, it is time to make your application. We recommend checking out the homeowner section of Purdue University Turf website for very detailed and specific instructions on how to best make your first application.

After you complete your application it is always a good practice to record time, date, products applied, and how much product was actually used. These records can come in hand should you see issues later on before your next application.

Final Thoughts

Doing a proper lawn care application to your lawn requires more than just any bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer and bottle of 2-4D. A real understanding and knowledge of plant biology is crucial to making successful applications to your lawn. This knowledge and understanding should come from accredited institutions with scientific research backing up everything and not just “some neighbor down the street.” When it comes to actually making an application of products to your lawn, be sure that everything is calibrated correctly and all pieces of equipment are in working order. The slightest miscalculation can result in disaster!

If you ever have any questions, we always recommend contacting a licensed professional. Purdue University is one great resource that anyone can access. They have very informative and easy to understand publications for homeowners regarding this and other topics relating to lawn care and maintenance.

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