The 8 ways you are throwing money away on your lawn

The 8 Ways You Are Throwing Money Away on Your Lawn

1.  Improper Mowing

Mowing has a tremendous effect on both the appearance and health of your lawn. Height of cut, frequency of cut and type of mower used are all important factors to consider when mowing a lawn. For the best appearance, turf should be maintained at its proper height. Fescue should be maintained at a height of 3-4 inches (usually the highest setting on your mower). Bermuda and Zoysia lawns should be maintained at ½ to 1 ½ inches.

Mulching Mower
As a general rule, your grass should be mowed often enough so that you never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade (every 5 to 7 days during the growing season). Removal of too much of the leaf blade can shock the turf. It is important that you have a sharpened mower blade to assure a clean cut. The grass clippings from a mulching mower will not promote thatch accumulation when mowed on a proper schedule. A mulching mower that returns the grass clippings from a properly fertilized lawn to the soil recycles plant nutrients promoting a healthy lawn.

Warm season grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia) may be scalped and bagged once in the spring as the lawn is coming out of dormancy.  This will allow the sunlight to warm the soil and promote new growth.  Once the turf is actively growing the most damaging mowing practice is a sudden reduction in mowing height. This will upset the balance between the grass leaves and roots. It can also give a scalped appearance with visible injury to the turf. If the turf becomes too tall between mowing, gradually reduce the height until the recommended height is achieved.

Stressful Environment
During stressful scenarios, such as drought or excessive grass height, it is a good idea to raise the cutting slightly. This is especially helpful on Tall Fescue because it will reduce stress to the turf. After the stress is gone, lower the mower height gradually. Turf in shaded areas should be cut higher than normal for better results. Raising the mowing height of warm season grass, as fall approaches, will help the turf survive the winter months.


2. Mowing With a Dull Blade

A sharp mower blade is vital to producing a healthy beautiful lawn. A dull mower blade will shred the tips of the grass blades reducing the visual quality of the turf by casting a dull discolored tint. Dull mower blades have detrimental effects that are more than cosmetic.

Dull Blades Contribute to Fungal Diseases
Dull mower blades increase disease susceptibility. Shredded leaf tips weaken the grass and provide a good entry site for disease pathogens. Once disease has set in, you will be faced with the expense of applying fungicides to cure it. A weakened plant is always more susceptible to disease.

Dull Blades Use More Fuel
Recent research has shown that a dull mower blade will increase fuel consumption by 22%. The dull blade produces more resistance while mowing the lawn. This resistance causes the mower to burn more fuel. Keep your mower blade sharp to save money on fuel and keep your lawn healthy and looking good.


3.  Not Watering in your Lawn Care Applications

Whether it is pre-emergent applications in the spring and fall or fertilizer applications in the summer, all applications should be watered in to be most effective. Pre-emergent is applied to prevent grassy weeds in summer and to prevent a different variety of grassy weeds in the winter.

Crabgrass Barrier
Crabgrass is a particularly aggressive weed that is prevented by the proper application of pre-emergent in the early spring.  For maximum effectiveness, the application should be watered in within 7 days. The sunlight breaks down the effectiveness of the pre-emergent over a period of time. Once the pre-emergent is watered in it acts with the soil to form the weed barrier that will last throughout the season. Much like the pre-emergent applications, the fertilizer treatments should be watered in as well.

The fertilizer applications must be watered in so the nutrients will make their way down to the root system. The three main nutrients in fertilizer are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. It is vital that all three of these nutrients work their way to the root zone. Watering in the application as soon as possible will yield the greatest results. 

Water Conservation
All of us should be conscious of conserving our natural resources. Studies have shown that landscapes composed of trees and shrubs use significantly more water than turf grass alone. In most areas, you are allowed to water in lawn care applications performed by a professional lawn care company even during a dry season. Water in each lawn treatment until the lawn and soil are completely saturated. Even if it has rained recently, thorough watering in of the treatment will carry the nutrients from the fertilizer down to the root zone. By strengthening the roots, when we can, the turf will be better prepared if drought conditions occur. For up to date watering rules visit .


4.  Paying a Lawn Care Company That Does Not Treat All of Your Weeds

It costs companies much more to treat difficult weeds. As a result, many companies use the same weed control for grassy and vine weeds as they use for broadleaf weeds. To effectively treat grassy weeds and vine weeds, you must use a control product that is labeled to treat those specific weeds. The lawn care specialist must pull a hand-can off the truck and mix the product. The specialist must then apply that mix to target the specific weeds in each lawn. A lawn that has a variety of weeds may require three or more control products.

The vast majority of companies will not go to the extra cost required to treat those tough to control weeds. Training and equipping the specialist along with the added time and expense to combat difficult to control weeds require a great deal of commitment. Some excuses companies have come up with are “we will have to charge extra”, “we don’t treat those types of weeds, they need to be pulled” or “wait until winter and they will die off”. That is not exactly a compelling value proposition. Weed control is the main reason homeowners hire a lawn care company. Make sure they are experts at weed control and can treat all weeds.


5.  Getting Your Money’s Worth From Your Lawn Care Company

Beware of companies that offer “the lowest price” per application. Price is only one component of a services’ overall value. Make sure you know what services are included during the year as part of the regular lawn care program. Most lawn care company’s yearly service includes fertilization, pre-emergents and post-emergents. Many companies will charge extra for lime, grassy weed control and insecticide for turf damaging insects.

The lawn care company’s brochure should outline the services provided for the year. DO NOT rely on what a salesperson tells you over the phone. One national company’s brochure states in the fine print, one application of the year is simply an inspection and the lawn care technician will treat only if necessary. That’s right! They charge you without applying any product to the lawn. Apparently, this company does not bring this information to their salespeople’s attention, because when you talk with them they know nothing about it.


6. Wasting Valuable Time Managing Your Lawn Care Company

Develop a relationship with a company that is proactive, communicates well, has excellent customer service, has a dynamic program based on prevailing environmental conditions and most importantly saves you time. It will be a waste of time and money if you are constantly calling your lawn care company over quality and service issues. Here is what to look for to insure you are receiving the greatest value for your money.

Proactive Service
Today’s lawn care companies offer free service calls. They claim they will come back out between the regular scheduled applications if you have a problem with your lawn. If you call your lawn care company with a problem then they should respond quickly. You should not have to constantly call to get the service you deserve. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a company who actually monitors your lawn for you so you don’t have to waste your time calling them back out to do the job right. There are a few companies that are proactive. They will actually identify lawns that need extra care and will make extra trips out to your lawn for no additional charge, without you having to call. Unfortunately, this type of proactive service is rare.

Time is Money
Time is your most valuable asset. Time is money. Partner with a company that provides great customer service at a reasonable price. You will save yourself much more money than you would with the company offering “50% off” or the “lowest price”.

7.  Having a Lawn Care Company That Applies the Wrong Product During Drought

Advances in fertilizer technology provides us with numerous options for fertilization.  Fertilizer should be chosen based on the type of turf and current environmental conditions.

Same Old Fertilizer
During the drought of 2007 and 2008, virtually every lawn care company in the Southeast applied the same old fertilizer they always have. A popular product among lawn care companies is 50% slow release fertilizer. This product releases as soon as it hits the lawn. If we are in drought conditions and experiencing high temperatures, it is possible that this application would cause tip burn, a temporary condition where the top portion of the leaf blade would become burnt and display a brown discolored tint.

The Right Fertilizer
A truly dynamic lawn care company will change the product they are applying based on prevailing environmental conditions.  I know of one company that switched to 100% granular slow release fertilizer. This fertilizer only releases nutrients as it is in contact with water. With the watering ban and no rain, it was difficult to get the proper amount of water to your lawn. The 100% granular slow release fertilizer allowed the, much needed, nutrients to be released to your lawn when the rain finally came.


8.  Treating Your Lawn Yourself

Attempting “Do It Yourself” Lawn Care
You may enjoy doing your own lawn care and consider it a hobby to create and maintain a beautiful lawn.  The “Do It Your Selfer” may choose to spend their weekends treating the weeds in their lawn and keeping it manicured.  You can certainly achieve great results, but if you think it will cost you less than having a lawn care company-think again.  Let’s take a look at what you will need for this adventure.

Right Equipment
A broadcast spreader is needed to spread granular fertilizer.  A hand can and/or a backpack is needed to spray the weed control.  Be sure to wear neoprene gloves, neoprene boots, and a long sleeve shirt while applying the weed control.  Prices and features available to the homeowner are all over the board on this equipment so I will not attempt to calculate the final cost.

Prepare For the Purchase of Your Weed and Feed
Once you have the proper tools to apply the product, you will need to go to the local nursery and buy the fertilizer and weed control. Before you go, be sure to calculate the amount of fertilizer, pre-emergent and weed control needed based on the size of your lawn. Of course, bermuda, zoysia and fescue grass all have different fertilizer requirements. Also, be able to identify the variety of different weeds present in your lawn so that you can accurately purchase the appropriate post emergent weed control.

Congratulations, it is time to get to work on your lawn.

Performing Application
The spreader needs to be calibrated to ensure the correct amount of fertilizer is being applied. Make sure the fertilizer is evenly spread so that your lawn does not appear striped in a couple weeks. Wear eye protection and follow all label instructions when filling and mixing the weed control.  Post Emergent weed controls are very effective in controlling the weeds that they are labeled for. Spray just enough to cover the top of the weed. The weed control can damage the turf around the weeds. Usually the turf will recover quickly if damage occurs.

Clean Up
Once you have finished the application, empty the remaining fertilizer from the spreader back into the fertilizer bag. Rinse the fertilizer off of the spreader, as it is a corrosive material.

Store any unused product in a safe area where it cannot be accessed by children or pets. Weed control products should be stored in safe containers and labeled appropriately. Never store weed control in a soda bottle or can.

Is It Really Worth It?

Develop a relationship with a lawn care company that is proactive, communicates well, has excellent customer service, and has a dynamic program based on prevailing environmental conditions. This will save you valuable time and money, and give you the beautiful lawn you expect.