Lawn Care Basics
6 Secrets for Getting the Best Lawn on the Block
Discover how to get a professional looking lawn on a DIY
Who says you have to hire a professional to have a lawn that will be the envy of the neighborhood? After all, lawn pros don’t do anything to your grass that you can’t do yourself—they just know precisely what to use on your lawn, plus how and when to use it. While they may not want to share their secrets, we’re happy to do just that. Read on to discover the 6 things you can do to create a gorgeous lawn that will have your neighbors clamoring to find out how you did it. (True, these are lawn secrets—but go ahead and share them!)
1. Feed 4 times a year.
Yes, you read that right. True, many lawn owners think a single feeding in the spring is enough for a lush lawn. But lawn pros know the truth: that your grass needs to be fertilized several times throughout the year, using the right lawn food for the season and your region. At Scotts, we believe the ideal number of feedings is 4, and that’s exactly what we include in our Scotts® Lawn Care Program. (Bonus: This subscription program is personalized, so you get exactly what your lawn needs right when you need it—no more guessing!)
For Northern lawns: Feed in early spring with Scotts® Turf Builder® Halts Crabgrass Preventer with Lawn Food, which will give your lawn a jump-start for fast green-up and prevent crabgrass from sprouting. Later in the spring, apply Scotts® Turf Builder® Weed & Feed to nourish the grass while killing dandelion, clover, and other major weeds. Use Scotts® Turf Builder® Summerguard® Lawn Food with Insect Control for the summer feeding to both strengthen your lawn against heat and drought and control insects like chinch bugs and armyworms. Finally, in the fall, get the lawn ready for winter with Scotts® Turf Builder® WinterGuard® Fall Lawn Food, which helps grass grow deep roots for a quick start in the spring. Be sure to follow the directions on all product labels.
For Southern lawns: For Southern lawns: In early spring, fertilize your lawn with Scotts® Turf Builder® Bonus® S Southern Weed & Feed, which kills weeds like dollarweed and clover while helping grass to grow thick to crowd out future weeds. Then, protect your lawn from the coming heat and drought by feeding with Scotts® Turf Builder® Southern Lawn Food to help it grow strong and thick. Finish up in the fall with another round of Scotts® Turf Builder® Bonus® S Southern Weed & Feed. Again, it’s important to follow all label directions.
There’s no need to print out a list and make multiple trips to the store, either. Wherever you live, the right Scotts® Lawn Care Program for your region can be delivered directly to your doorstep. That way, you’ll have everything you need to care for your lawn for the entire year, all ready to go when you are.
Need a spreader to help you apply fertilizer to your lawn? Scotts® has you covered there, too. For small yards, choose the Scotts® Whirl™ Hand-Powered Spreader, which applies smoothly and even has an adjustable arm support for comfort. For average-size yards, go with the precise and efficient Scotts® Turf Builder® Edgeguard® DLX Broadcast Spreader. If you've got a huge lawn space, though, you need a spreader with an even roomier hopper, like the Scotts® Elite Spreader, which holds enough product to cover up to 20,000 square feet.
2. Mow at the right time and height.
Another lawn secret the pros know is that when and how you mow can make a huge difference in the look of the lawn. Be sure to set the mower at the highest setting for the type of grass you’re growing. For cool-season grasses, that’s about 2½ to 3½ inches. Some warm-season grasses, though, do better when cut a little shorter. (For more on this, check out our How to Mow the Lawn article.) By letting the grass grow to its optimum height, you’ll encourage it to establish a deeper root system while shading the soil to help discourage weed seeds from sprouting.
It’s also important to mow frequently enough that you’re never removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade height at a time. Be sure to wait until the grass is dry, though, so you don’t end up with wet grass clumps all over the yard. Finally, vary your mowing patterns so that you don’t create ruts in the lawn from repeatedly mowing along the same track.
3. Water the lawn properly.
While it may be tempting to give your lawn a quick watering every day, any pro will tell you that a better plan is to water deeply and less frequently. Giving the grass a good long soak is another way to encourage roots to grow deeply into the soil, which strengthens the lawn and helps it survive during times of drought. When the grass has started to look a little grayish and the blades don’t bounce back when you walk on them, it’s time to water. Run the sprinkler until you can easily push a ¼ inch diameter dowel or plant stake about 12 inches into the ground. You don’t want the soil to be so saturated that if you squeeze a handful, it drips, but you do want the soil to be a little sticky.
It’s worth noting, too, that grass uses less water in the spring and late fall than during the summer. In the spring you might only need to water once per week, while in the summer you might need to water 3 times per week. Of course, if you receive a long, soaking rain, there’s no need to water that day. For more information on watering, read our Lawn Watering Tips.
4. Use premium grass seed.
There’s a saying, “You get what you pay for,” and that is certainly true when it comes to grass seed. When you use premium grass seed like Scotts® Turf Builder® grass seed, you’ll know that it will sprout fast, provide even coverage, and stay in place. Coated with WaterSmart® PLUS coating that absorbs 2X more water than uncoated seed, Turf Builder® grass seed feeds to jump-start growth and protects seedlings against disease. Lawn pros know that planting a lawn with premium grass seed allows you to start with a thicker lawn so it’s easier to keep it looking lush and full.
5. Spot-control weeds.
Another basic pro lawn secret is to stay on top of weed growth. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to keep a lawn looking nice by spot-controlling weeds than it is to try to rescue a lawn that has already been overtaken by them. A simple way to spot-treat weeds is with Scotts® Spot Weed Control for Lawns. With it, you simply spray weeds like dandelion and clover, killing them before they have a chance to bloom and spread more weed seeds all over the place. (Don’t worry—it won’t harm your lawn.) Check the label for your lawn type, and as with any product, be sure to follow directions.
6. Prevent grubs.
Few things can lay waste to your beloved turf faster than grubs, and the pros know that it’s crucial to catch them early, before they hatch. To keep grubs from growing in your lawn for up to 4 months, apply Scotts® GrubEx® as directed from spring to early summer. Bonus: Grubs are a food source for moles, which are a close second to grubs when it comes to lawn destruction. Take away the grubs and the moles will have less reason to hang out in your yard.
Now that these expert lawn secrets have been revealed, you’ve got the power to get a professional-looking lawn on a DIY budget. And you know what comes with that beautiful lawn? Bragging rights.
* When used as directed, greening effects last up to 6 weeks. Results will vary due to temperature and turfgrass type.