Expert landscaping tips for a healthy lawn
Editor's note: This article was originally published in March 2013.
Green with envy over your neighbor’s lush, healthy lawn? Don’t be. You can have as good or better, but it’s going to take some work, and it’s time to get started.
Local landscaping experts say what you do – or don’t do – to your lawn in March and April will be evident the rest of the year.
So if you want to be on the greener side of the fence in your neighbors’ lawn assessments, take heed. You can tackle a lot of the work yourself if you have the time and interest. If you’re more of a mind to hire a professional, there are a plethora of highly regarded experts in Central Indiana.
For Charles Watkins, owner of All Green Inc., of Indianapolis, it starts with fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicide in March.
“The pre-emergent prevents weeds from germinating,” Watkins said. “Fertilizer gives the lawn nutrients it needs throughout the year to thrive. The fertilizer should be a slow release so it’s not being used all up at one time and instead over a long period of time.”
Watkins said that first round of fertilizer should last about six to eight weeks.
Ryan Small, a lawn technician for Hamilton County Lawn Care in Noblesville, Ind., said pre-emergents are crucial for eliminating crab grass and weeds. He added fertilizer is a necessary follow-up because it supplies nutrients – a mixture of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium – that strengthen grassroots.
Hiring a landscaping company to help with your lawn generally involves recurring visits. Although the prices can vary based on lawn conditions and homeowner requests, Hamilton County Lawn Care charges $45 per application for typical, 5,000 square feet lawns. That service includes fertilizing and weed control.
“We do a five-step process that starts in the spring, usually in March or April,” Small said. “We lay a pre-emergent fertilizer to kill crabgrass and other grasses and then we followup every six to eight weeks with custom-blended fertilizers. We come again in the summer, usually in July or August, in the fall around the end of August and in late fall to pre-winterize the lawn.”
Another important aspect of spring lawn care, Watkins noted, is whether or not to lay down grass seed. Fertilizer can be used with grass seed but a pre-emergent cannot. Use them together and you’ll kill the seed.
“They need to delay the pre-emergent if the customer is going to lay seed,” Watkins said. “We recommend seeding early in the fall, starting in August or September.”
The only time Small said he would recommend laying grass seed instead of pre-emergent would be if the lawn has suffered severe damage from drought. Otherwise, fall is the best time to plant seed, he noted.
Also on the spring chore list if you’re planning to have a healthy, lush lawn:
- Rake leaves, acorns and other lawn debris leftover from the previous fall and winter;
- Reset your mower blades for 3 inches or so for the first mow and mow before applying fertilizer or pre-emergent. Reset the blades to about 3 1/2 inches for the rest of the mowing season.
- Add mulch, and;
- If you have an underground irrigation system connected to a municipal utility, state law requires that you have an annual backflow test done. Experts say April is the best time for that test to be done.
“You’ll want to get the leaves off the lawn,” Small said, otherwise, the leaves will prevent the fertilizer from doing its job.
Added Watkins: “People should also mow their lawns before a landscaping company comes out. “
Many landscaping companies also provide other yard services, including mulching and irrigation. Small noted that he can treat mulch to prevent grass and weeds from coming up through it.
When choosing a landscaping company, look for one that’s insured and has a good reputation for service. Most companies are in high demand during the months of March and April, so it’s a good idea to call and get scheduled for a service now. Most landscaping services will provide free estimates. Backflow tests typically cost about $65 to$ 100. Most highly rated companies have certified testers, but not all of them do, so if you need this test performed, be sure you have a qualified professional to do it.