Whether you have a small, suburban-size yard or a large, rural property, good lawn care is essential for your Northern New Jersey home. It will enhance your home’s appearance with well-manicured surroundings that boost curb appeal and property values.
Taking care of your lawn and landscape is no easy job. It requires knowledge about plant care, lawn mowing, irrigation, pruning and trimming, weeding and fertilizing. Hiring a professional landscape company for your lawn care will give you the best results, but you may still have lawn care questions. Even if you use a landscape professional, it helps to understand some basic lawn care knowledge.
1. How Often Should I Mow My Lawn?
To keep your lawn looking its best year-round, weekly mowing is advised. Increasing the time between cuttings will result in more overgrowth and weeds, especially in the Spring and Summer months when your grass grows a lot faster. When mowing, make sure your lawn mover blades are always sharp and clean to prevent damage to the grass. Regular, weekly mowing will help your grass to grow thicker and prevent weed growth. It will also remove any brown or damaged grass tips and stimulate new, healthy growth. Here are some helpful tips for mowing lawn care questions:
- Don’t mow your lawn in the same direction every time you mow. This can compact the soil and cause grass to lean and grow in the direction it was mowed. By mowing in a different direction each time, you will help the grass grow more upright.
- If your lawn is long and overgrown, don’t try to mow it down all at once. This will put significant stress on your grass and create the potential for dead grass. Mow one-third of the grass height, let grass recover for three or four days, then mow again.
- Never mow your lawn when the grass is wet. Mowing wet grass causes an uneven cut that leaves a messy appearance. Wet grass clipping will also clog your lawn mower and cause more frequent mower maintenance.
2. What Height Should My Grass Be?
Mowing your lawn creates stress on grass blades and roots, so your grass will need time to recover after each mowing. Although mowing height varies slightly with the seasons, there is a basic mowing rule – never remove more than one-third of the grass blade height with each mowing. When you mow your lawn too low, you open up the lawn’s canopy to more sun and heat. This can increase weed growth, especially during warm months since weeds need light to grow. Tall grass has more plant tissue, so it retains more moisture, produces more chlorophyll and shades the ground from direct sun. Keep your grass a little longer in warm weather and a little shorter in cool weather. For lawn care questions on proper mowing heights, talk to your Bergen County lawn care professional.
Helpful Mowing Tip: Adjust the mower height up a notch on Memorial Day and again on July 4th. Adjust it down a notch on Labor Day, and again on Columbus Day.
3. How Often Should I Water?
Your lawn needs about one-inch of water every week. That can come from your sprinkler system or natural rainfall, but one-inch per week is essential for fertile soil and strong grass roots. Of course, water is essential to all lawns, but too much or too little water can cause lawn problems. Frequent, light watering will cause shallow grass roots. Over-watering establishes a perfect environment for harmful insects and lawn diseases. Deep, infrequent watering is better than light, frequent watering. Water to a depth of about six inches two or three times a week, instead of watering every day. During hot weather, regular, deep watering is essential to keep the soil and grass roots from drying out. Address your lawn care questions about under-watering or over-watering to your Bergen County lawn care professional.
4. When is the Best Time to Water?
The time of day you water your lawn can impact grass growth, weed growth and lawn diseases. For best lawn care results, remember these important watering tips:
- Avoid watering during the hottest part of the day, normally between 11 am and 3 pm
- Water in the morning between 6 am and 10 am, when there’s less sun, heat and wind
- If you can’t water in the morning, water in the late afternoon between 4 pm and 7 pm
- Avoid watering at night, as it invites mildew, fungal diseases and outdoor pests
5. What Type of Grass Do I Have?
In Northern NJ areas, most lawns are cool-season grasses that grow best in cooler climates. Warm-seasons grasses are typically found in western or southern regions of the country with mild, temperature year-round temperatures. If you don’t know what grass you have, your lawn care professional can answer those lawn care questions. Grasses are divided into two types – cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses:
- Cool-Season Grasses – Cool-season grasses include fine and tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, bluegrass and wheat grass. They prefer mild, wet winters, but do well in colder climates with snow and ice. They grow best in areas with at least 30 inches or more of yearly rainfall.
- Warm-Season Grasses – Warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia. They prefer winters and summers that are hot, humid and dry and grow best in areas with 20 inches or less of yearly rainfall.
6. When Should I Plant New Grass?
If you plan to plant a new lawn, early Fall is the best time. Northern NJ temperatures are starting to cool down, and it’s important to seed or sod before cold weather sets in. Over-seeding is the planting of grass seed directly into existing turf. It can be beneficial to old lawns that look worn and thin. When done correctly, it’s an easy way to fill in bare spots, improve the density of turf, establish improved grass varieties and enhance your lawn’s color. Sod creates an instant lawn that you can roll out in just one day, but it will cost you a lot more than grass seed. Generally, grass seed will cost about $20 for every 1,000 square-feet of lawn surface, compared to sod that may cost an average of 35 cents per square-foot. For best results, seed or sod cool-season grasses when the temperature is below 70 degrees. For lawn care questions on lawn renovations, talk to a Bergen County landscape company.
7. Is Fertilizer Important?
The quick answer is yes! All lawns need proper nutrients to stay healthy, lush and green. It takes a lot of energy for your grass to develop strong, healthy roots and green growth. Most soils lack adequate nutrients, so proper fertilization is essential. There are six primary nutrients that plants require. They get the first three – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – from air and water. They must get the other three – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – from the soil or applied fertilizers. Nitrogen helps plants produce new growth. Phosphorous stimulates root growth and seed size. Potassium improves overall plant vigor and health. Regular fertilization will stimulate grass growth and help your lawn fight environmental stresses like cold, heat, drought, lawn mowing and foot traffic. Your lawn care professional can answer lawn care questions about the best type of fertilizer for your grass type.
8. When is the Best Time to Fertilize?
The best times to fertilize your lawn is in the Spring through Fall. March is an important time to fertilize your lawn because it will jump-start grass and root growth after a cold Northern NJ winter when essential nutrients get depleted. It’s best to choose a light, slow-release or organic type fertilizer that won’t burn your lawn. In Bergen County, September is also an important time to fertilize. Early Fall fertilization will help protect your lawn during the winter by allowing grass to store essential nutrients in their root systems. Cool-season grasses need a complete fertilizer as opposed to one that’s only high in nitrogen. Based on your grass type and existing soil conditions, your lawn care professional can answer your lawn care questions on proper fertilization schedules.
9. Should I Use Mulch?
Mulching is a simple, inexpensive way to provide great benefits to your lawn. Mulch provides a protective layer of material on top of the soil that creates numerous advantages for your grass, plants, shrubs and trees. Mulch is available in both organic and inorganic compounds that will add benefits. Organic mulches like straw, bark chips, and grass clippings decompose naturally and help to improve soil conditions. They also provide an organic source of nutrients that set up a healthy underground environment for earthworms and other healthy organisms. Inorganic mulches like landscape fabrics, rocks, gravel and synthetic materials don’t decompose to improve soil conditions, but they do offer advantages in certain lawns with steep slopes, soil erosion problems and hard-to-water areas. Mulching around flower gardens, trees and shrubs will give your lawn a neat, well-maintained appearance.
10. How Do I Control Weeds?
Weeds fall into two main categories – broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds. Broadleaf weeds have wider leaves and include varieties like dandelions, chickweed, purslane and clover. While some broadleaf weeds may flower and look like pretty plants, they’re still weeds. Grassy weeds, like crabgrass, can quickly take over your landscape before you even realize there’s a problem. One of the problems with grassy weeds is that they grow under the very same conditions as regular grass, so treating your lawn could end up growing the weeds as well. There are hundreds of weed varieties common to Northern NJ, so weed control is essential. It’s important to include a pre-emergent herbicide in early Spring since weeds grow most abundantly in the Spring and Summer. Talk to your lawn care professional about any lawn care questions you have on weed control.
11. How Do I Spot Lawn Diseases?
All lawns are subject to lawn diseases, but malnourished and ill-maintained lawns are most susceptible. Most lawn diseases are caused by some type of fungus that invades the soil and grass blades. Fungal spores can be spread across your lawn by wind, rain, insects, contaminated soil and foot traffic on wet grass. Common Northern NJ lawn diseases include: Dollar Spot; Fusarium Patch; Rust; Plythium Blight; Fairy Ring; and Mushrooms. All of these lawn diseases, except mushrooms, can cause serious lawn damage. Proper treatments are essential to eliminate existing lawn diseases and prevent them from spreading. If you notice bare spots; brown or yellow spots; dead patches of grass; white, cob-web like spots; bright green patches; or reddish-brown grass blades, contact your Bergen County lawn care professional who can help you with lawn care questions on specific lawn diseases.
12. Do I Need Pest Control?
Professional lawn care and regular maintenance will keep your lawn looking great, but without regular pest control your lawn is susceptible to numerous outdoor insects and pests. Not all insects and pests cause lawn damage, but those that do can quickly destroy your entire lawn. Small, hard-to-see insects like aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars and beetles can invade your lawn, and hard-to-see underground pests like grubs, wire worms, webworms, slugs and fire ants can invade your soil. Once this happens, it’s hard to get rid of them without the use of herbicides and pesticides. To keep your lawn green and healthy year-round, pest control should be a part of your regular lawn care.
An Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) focuses on safe, gentle pest control solutions that keep your lawn and landscape insect and pest free. If you have existing insect and pest problems, a professional lawn care company can identify the pests and offer the right pest control solutions to clear up the problems.
13. Are Pesticides Dangerous?
Pesticides that contain harmful or toxic chemicals can be dangerous. Chemicals can contaminate soil and water and pollute the air and environment. Although chemical treatments are sometimes necessary to clear up difficult lawn problems, organic solutions are a safer approach. Organic lawn care is a great alternative to chemical pesticide treatments. Organic lawn care solutions provide a safe chemical-free environment for your family and pets and promote healthy green living principles for your home. Before working with chemical-based pesticides, talk to your lawn care professional with lawn care questions on the different types of available pesticides.
14. Should I Invest in Organic Lawn Care?
Organic lawn care is a great way to maintain a green, healthy lawn with natural, chemical-free products. Going green doesn’t mean that you have to give up a well-maintained lawn or spend extra time and effort on lawn care. Organic lawn care promotes a healthy lawn using natural solutions. Conventional lawn care protects your lawn against common lawn diseases, insects and pests with chemical treatments, while an organic lawn creates its own natural defenses. Organic fertilizers and pest control treatments create a healthy soil environment that establishes a balanced eco-system and a healthy balance between plants and insects. Since organic products are chemical-free, they’re absorbed faster, and your lawn recognizes them as familiar, organic compounds that are biodegradable. With organic lawn care, you don’t have to worry about your family, children or pets being harmed by chemicals. If you have organic lawn care questions, talk to a Bergen County landscape company about the benefits of organic lawn care for your home.
15. Do I Need to Test My Soil?
The texture and pH balance of your soil will impact grass and plant growth and overall health. Sandy soils drain quickly and don’t hold much moisture. Silty soils feel slick when wet. They creates a slippery surface that helps drainage. Clay soils are smooth when dry and sticky when wet. Soils that are high in clay content are referred to as heavy soils. They hold a lot of nutrients, but don’t let air and water penetrate the soil well. Your soil type and particle size has a lot to do with proper drainage and your soil’s ability to hold important nutrients that promote plant growth.
To test your soil, start by doing a soil test for pH balance to determine if you’re working with acid or alkaline soil conditions. You can purchase a soil test kit at a local garden or home improvement store and do your own test, or call a landscape professional to do a soil test for you. If you hire a landscape company for regular lawn care in NJ, a soil test is usually included in lawn care and maintenance. For lawn care questions about your soil type, talk to your lawn care professional.