Is this your first time being responsible for a lawn?
- Don’t worry, we’ve all been first-time homeowners before. Perhaps you just tied the knot with your long-time sweetheart, and now you’ve purchased a house with a white fence and a lawn to call your own. Or maybe you’re a single adult who’s only just recently leveled up from living in a one bed/one bath apartment.
Hey, both of those scenarios are great!
But you likely have no idea how to go about caring for a lawn of your own. Heck, you’re probably desperately lost at the moment! Where do you even start? How do you start?!
Fear not; for we’ve got you covered!
Scroll on down and learn how to take care of your new lawn.
1. First Things First, What Tools Do I Need?
Before we go over the hows of proper lawn care, we first need to review all of the potential tools and gadgets you’ll need to tend to your lawn and garden. After all, you can’t do yard work without having the necessary equipment to do so. And simply guessing won’t do you any favors here, either!
Each of these tools are divided into different groups, so we will be going over each of them one at a time for your convenience:
Most of the work that will be done in your yard will be done with tools which require you to use your own strength. Thankfully, you’ll find that most of these hand tools are used almost exclusively for gardening. Granted, some of the larger tools are used for other occasions...or at least can be, depending on what you want to do with your lawn. And there are quite a few hand tools to talk about, so you might as well grab a piece of paper and start taking notes!
Shovels and Spades: While these are technically two different types of tools, they both do similar things. They’re both long sticks with metal plates attached to the end, but their shapes vary--along with their intended jobs. Shovels have curved plates, making them ideal for digging up deep holes in your yard. Spades, on the other hand, have flat plates and are mainly only good for digging up shallow soil (a job needed for when your looking to plant new greenery around your garden).
Hoes: Hoes look similar to shovels and spades, but their metal plates are have more of a downward curve in their shape, allowing for more control in digging and shaping dirt. Similar to spades, hoes are used for digging up soil for the purpose of planting new seeds into the ground. However, hoes are primarily used for weed control and harvesting root crops. Depending on the crops you’re growing, it doesn’t hurt to use a hoe on your garden once or twice every few weeks.
Rakes: Built like a curved fork, rakes are used for scooping up leaves and other unwanted debris that might be lying around your yard. While this might not necessarily be a regular part of lawn care, it’s still something you should do periodically whenever you begin to notice that there’s a certain level of build up in your yard.
Trowels: Trowels are small, handheld tools with a metal--shovel-like--plate attached to the end. The most common hand tool you’ll find for gardening, trowels have two important jobs that they’re used for. For one, they’re used for flattening surfaces, such as plaster or mortar. Alternatively, trowels are used for digging up plants and weeds.
Your lawn’s gotta get wet somehow, which brings us to our section on watering tools. There are only a few options in this avenue, but they’re all super effective in moistening your soil and allowing your plants, flowers, and grass to grow to their fullest potential. Sure, you can rely on rainy days to give your lawn the nutrients it needs to grow. However, unless you live in areas where it rains a lot (like Florida), then owning one of these watering tools will prove to be more effective in the long run.
Watering Can: Okay, so this is an easy one to wrap your head around. Watering cans are canisters with necked nozzles attached to them. All you have to do is fill the canister up with water and douse your plants and flowers through the nozzle. It’s essential that you water your lawn with the nozzle, as too much moisture can actually damage your lawn. Moderation is key with watering cans!
Garden Hose: Garden hoses are another easy concept to grasp, ladies and gentlemen. They are essentially long tubes that are used for watering your lawn. One end of the tube is attached to a water tank of some kind, while the other end is equipped with a special spray nozzle. This spray nozzle comes with a special trigger that sprays water when pressed.
Lawn Sprinkler: Lawn sprinklers, like the one pictured above, are special devices that automatically water your lawn in shifts. When in use, they can either spout water in a circular motion, or they can spray in one (usually vertical) direction. Most lawn sprinklers operate with a humidity system, hence why a lot of them seem to go off after a heavy rain storm. Otherwise, they can be manually set to go off at certain periods of time
Lawn Fertilizers And Spreaders
We’re not gonna lie to you, folks: we seriously doubt this is anyone’s favorite part of standard lawn and garden care.
To ensure that plants and flowers grow up to be healthy and strong, you need to feed them more than just sunlight and water. Some substances give plants the sufficient amount of vitamins and nutrients they need to contain all the sunlight and water that they receive. These substances are known as fertilizers, and they are essential to keeping your greenery looking fresh and healthy. So why is the act of fertilizing such a drag to most homeowners, you ask?
Fertilizers: There are about three different types of fertilizer that you can choose from. One type of fertilizer is known as “phosphate fertilizers”. These fertilizers have a salt base to them and can be used through organic origins or solely chemical based. A very common approach to using homemade phosphate fertilizer is using bone-meal; also known as grounded up bones. Before you start thinking this sounds like a horror movie, we promise you that’s not where this is going at all. In fact, we’d highly recommend using leftover chicken bones, instead. They’re MUCH easier to get!
The second type of fertilizer is known as “nitrogenous fertilizers”. This type of fertilizer is very simple to use, as you can simply grind up vegetables and fruit into an almost powdery form. The vitamins in the fertilizer source work with your soil in enhancing the overall health of your plants and flowers. They also smell better than any other type of fertilizer, which is an absolute win in our book!
Which brings us to the last type of fertilizer, “organic nitrogenous fertilizers”. This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the most popular (and easiest to attain) kind of fertilizer comes into play. When it comes to providing nutrients to your plants and flowers, there is only one source that’s more abundant in vitamins than fruits, vegetables, and bone-meal; manure. Not the best smelling option, but it’s widely popular amongst gardeners and farmers alike.
Spreaders: Considering that your top fertilization options are bones or feces, chances are very high that you DON’T want to handle the fertilizer with your bare hands. We don’t blame you in the slightest! Thankfully, you can purchase a spreader (like the one pictured above). All you do is pour the fertilizer into the opening, close it up, and activate the machine. Just be mindful to not get yourself (or anyone else) caught in the line of fire!
A part of the long line of grass-cutting devices, lawn edgers are used to cut grass in areas where it shares a border with a non-grassy area. For instance, take the picture above. This lawn edger is being used to cut the grass that shares a border with a paved cement walkway. As you can see, the end result is a very nice, clean look that really makes the lawn pleasing to look at.
Gas Edgers: Lawn edgers that are powered by gas and oil are said to be more powerful than the lawn edgers that are powered by electricity. However, they are harder to take care of maintenance-wise. Sure, powering them up is a no-brainer so long as you have gas and oil to fill into it. But because of the fluid nature of gasoline, there’s a possibility of clogs and potential misfires.
Electric Edgers: Unlike gas powered lawn edgers, ones that are powered by electricity are much easier to take care of. Because they’re lighter and don’t rely on fluids to power them up, maintenance-related tasks take far less time to complete. However, you need to keep in mind that these models aren’t as strong in terms of long-term use. Gas powered lawn edgers can last for many years while these particular models may die out within a year or two.
Trenchers: Regardless of what kind of lawn edger you own, each can possibly come with a trenching tool attached to it (or at least has the capacity to). What trenchers do is edge landscapes that border with cliff-like gaps. This is can found with people who own backyard ponds, wishing wells, or really anything that might involve holes in your yard. The reason normal lawn edgers aren’t recommended for these kinds of jobs is because they don’t have a digging function at base value. With trenching tools, you can cut the grass and level the terrain simultaneously.
String Trimmers And Weed Eaters
When too much plant growth occurs without the proper care and attention being given to it, that growth has the potential to become what is known as a weed. Weeds are dangerous when left alone for too long, as they tend to become an invasive species. To avoid this from happening, you need to weed your garden frequently by pulling them out manually with your hands. Or, alternatively, you can purchase a weed-eater or string trimmer.
What’s the difference between the two, you ask? String trimmers are often treated like handheld lawn mowers, as they’re used to trim your grass as opposed to simply cutting it. Weed eaters, on the other hand, are specifically built to trim or cut unwanted weeds. Technically both can be used for the same purposes, and in some instances the two names are used interchangeably. But there is a slight difference when it comes to results that you should keep in mind at all times.
Gas weed eater: Like lawn edgers, string trimmers/weed eaters that are powered by gasoline do not require any batteries or cords to operate. Just keep their tank full of gas and oil and you’ll be all set. While these models last a longer amount of time than their electrical counterparts, they are unfortunately a lot more expensive to purchase. If you can afford to purchase a gas trimmer, go for it. Otherwise, you might want to look at the alternative.
Electric weed eater: A much less expensive alternative to gas trimmers, electric trimmers come in a number of different styles. They can either be corded, in which they are required to be plugged into an outlet to operate, or they can be completely cordless. The cordless models require batteries to work, but they’re usually rechargeable. In fact, most models are rechargeable! So if your trimmer quits on you during a job, don’t sweat it. Just plug it up and wait a little while!
Hedge trimmers, much like lawn edgers, are used for touching up greenery around your yard. However, unlike lawn edgers, hedge trimmers are used for sprucing up your shrubs, bushes, and hedges (obviously). Hedge trimmers are typically built to be a lot stronger lawn edgers, but not quite as strong as string trimmers/weed eaters. So long as they can chop unwanted growth on hedges and shrubs, they’re winners in everyone’s book.
Gas Hedge Trimmers: As you’ll come to expect by now, gas hedge trimmers are powered by oil and gasoline. While normally a lot more expensive than electric hedge trimmers, they are also a lot more powerful and long-lasting. But alas, like all gas powered lawn equipment that’s been featured in this guide, gas powered hedge trimmers are known to spout out toxic fumes into the air that won’t necessarily harm you, but they will harm the environment around you. So, as always, be cautious when using these types of hedge trimmers!
Electric Hedge Trimmers: Alternatively, these types of hedge trimmers are powered either by batteries or pure electricity. The way to differentiate between the two, of course, is by whether or not it requires a cord to operate. As with other types of electric gadgetry, the effective of corded trimmers versus cordless trimmers depends entirely on your preference. Corded trimmers are harder to work with due to the cord limiting how far its reach can extend, but they don’t die after prolonged use. Cordless trimmers, on the other hand, can be used wherever you want. However, they have a shorter runtime and may need to recharge their batteries after a while.
Last but not least, we present to you the big bads of lawn tools: the lawn mower. We’re sure that most of you are already perfectly aware of what lawn mowers are used for, but we’ll still go over it briefly for convenience's sake. Lawn mowers are used for cutting unwanted grass in your yard. They are much stronger than any other type of grass-cutting machinery, so it’s recommended that you only use these for when it’s necessary.
Like the other grass-cutters on this section, lawn mowers can be powered by either gasoline, battery or electricity. We won’t go over those since it would essentially be us repeating ourselves. But we will go over the different lawn mower BUILDS that exist on the market!
Push Mowers: Push mowers are the most standard type of lawn mower. Whether they are built with a motor or not, all you have to do to get them to work is push them around your lawn. Granted, most push mowers seem to be limited in their inability to mow backwards. When this becomes the case, just mow in a circular pattern until the unwanted grass is taken care of.
Self Propelled Mowers: Build wise, these lawn mowers are very similar to the push mowers. However, there are two major differences that make it stand out. For one, self propelled mowers are capable of mowing backwards. Secondly, as per their title, they can mow without you manually pushing them.
Riding Lawn Mowers: Easily one of the most popular types of lawn mowers, these bad-boys are essentially the mixture of vehicles and grass-cutters. You sit on the cushioned seat, turn on the engine, and let it rip. Some models differ from each other in terms of capabilities and power. For a more detailed list on these, there are plenty of sources online that can help you out.
Robot Lawn Mowers: Probably one of the rarest types of lawn mowers on the market, robot mowers are AI controlled machines that automatically mow your grass once you turn them on. They’re basically roombas, but for your grass. While robot mowers are certainly cool, be mindful of the risks that come with them. For one, they’re very sensitive to weather such as rain and snow. Furthermore, some models have been notoriously known for not updating their apps whenever their battery dies.
2. Tending To Your Yard
Now that you’ve got your tools together, you’re ready to dive right into some proper lawn care techniques. Depending on the time of year and present weather conditions outside your door, you’ll need to take precautions accordingly. In sporadic weather conditions, such as rain, it’s best to stay indoors until the showers have passed. There’s no sense in catching a cold just for the sake of making your lawn look great, after all!
Once the rain has subsided, your job will be to watch the effect on your grass and plants. Depending on the amount of perspiration, you may need to keep an eye out for newly grown weeds. Some homeowners own a rain gauge that they strategically place in a spot where it’s sure measure the amount of incoming perspiration. This isn’t required, and thus why it’s not mentioned in our section on lawn tools. However, it’s an optional approach you can take if you’re interested.
As for more frequent weather, such as hot and cold, we’ve got two sections dedicated solely to them for your convenience.
Scroll down to read more!
Spring & Summer Care
In the midst of warm and hot weather, you’ll find the time of year where most of your yard work must be completed. This is when your grass is growing its tallest and your flowers are blooming at rapid speed. All of the growth can be quite intimidating for a first-time homeowner, but that’s why we’re here to assist. And luckily for you, we’ve compiled your spring/summer time lawn care advice into just six simple tips!
#1 Observe Your Lawn: The first step to caring for a lawn, regardless of the weather, is to first look out your window. What’s the current condition of your yard? Is it covered in weeds? Do the flowers need watering? Could the grass go with a little cutting? These are all questions you must ask yourself before you go out and work.
#2 Know What Tools You Need: Assess what you’ve just seen outside. What’s on the gardening agenda for today? You thinking about doing some flowering? Weeding? Mowing? Depending on what your lawn needs at the present moment, be sure to bring out all of the essential tools that you’ll need to get the job done. If you ever find yourself confused on what tool you need, feel free to refer back to our first section listed above.
#3 Watch Your Grass: In the case that your grass looks to be needing a good cut or trim, now’s as good a time as any to fire up your lawn mower or string trimmer. Everyone has a particular preference for the ideal grass length. Some like it really short, and others are okay with it being a little on the longer side. In our professional opinion, two and a half inches is the ideal height for grass to be. Anything above that, such as three inches and more, warrants a cutting.
#4 Pluck Any Unwanted Weeds: Invasive plants such as dandelion and nettles spread seeds much faster than any other plant, increasing the speed of growth by a large margin. In order to stop them from completely taking over your lawn, you need to be vigilant in spotting them and removing them. Whether you own a weed eater or you prefer getting your hands dirty is entirely up to you. Just be mindful of any particularly thorny weeds you might come across!
#5 Spruce Up That Garden: Once you take care of those pesky weeds, check the status of your garden. You’ve hopefully placed your garden in a spot which ensures your flowers get a sufficient amount of sunlight. If they are, then be sure to fertilize and water your flowers accordingly. You don’t have to fertilize your garden every single day, but preferably do it at least once or twice a week.
#6 Touch Up Those Edges: After your grass is cut and your plants are attended to, don’t forget to make sure your edges are perfectly even. When grass grows, it can make your flower-beds look particularly shaggy and messy. If you use your nifty lawn edger, you can make any grassy borders look even and clean. If you have areas where the borders are steeper than normal, be sure you have a lawn edger that seconds as a trencher.
Fall & Winter Care
You’ll all be thankful to know that lawn care is much easier whenever the weather is colder. In fact, most of the work is done during the fall season! As soon as the air dries and snow and/or frost becomes a common occurrence in your neck of the woods, most of your yard work is put on hold until Spring. So for this section, we’ve compiled a list of three simple tips for taking care of your lawn in the fall and winter time.
There are as follows:
#1 Dethatch, Dethatch, Dethatch: You may be wondering what thatch is, and how you would go about removing it. Well, you know those dry, straw-like trimmings that you see lying around your yard every once in a while? They look sort of like hay? That’s thatch.
While thatch technically accumulates all year long, it’s most important to dispose of it before the weather gets too cold. The reason being that thatch can get lost under layers of snow and ice. Come warmer weather, you may find yourself utterly shocked by how much thatch was left behind! So you should keep on top of that, in the meantime.
#2 Aeration Is Key: Aeration is the act of filling in holes for the sake of regulating water and minerals being soaked into the soil. There can be a number of reasons that you have holes in your yard. If you have a gopher/mole problem, you may find that you have a couple of loose dirt patches that need to be filled. Our recommendation? Double check to be sure that you don’t have a mole or gopher problem at your home. If it turns out that you do, call a professional to help you clear them out.
#3 Winter Touch Ups: Once winter weather comes around, the vast majority of your gardening ventures end until the next season begins. Of course, some of your plants may still require routine care if they’re types that still bloom in cold weather. And weeds may still grow during this time of year. Keep an eye on those, remove them, and then return indoors to enjoy that hot cup of cocoa that you just brewed!
Lawn care can be a gruelling, tedious task if you don’t know what you’re doing. But it doesn’t have to be! The internet is a massive collection of information--all of which that is accessible by the tip of your fingers. And with a simple search on Google or Bing, you’ll get all of the information you can possibly ask for.
When it comes to lawn care, we couldn’t thank you enough for choosing our guide to assist you.
Now go and do some yard work!
Sarah Eberle qualified and became a member of the Landscape Institute in 1980. Over the last 26 years she has practised landscape architecture and garden design, running her own business in Devon.
During the 1990s, Sarah joined Hillier Landscapes as Design Director, where she is still a shareholder but also runs her own practice in Hampshire.
Sarah has an esteemed record in RHS shows, having won eight Gold medals, Best in Show and the George Cook award for innovation twice at Hampton Court. Sarah has also exhibited at Tatton Park and BBC Gardeners’ World Live.