Lawn Care 101: A new homeowner’s guide to modern lawn care

new homeowners moving

Ah yes, the excitement of stepping into your new home.

For many readers, it may be the first home you’ve ever owned, or it may be the first home you’ve ever had with an outdoor space that’s larger than a walk-in closet.

When you take possession of your first home with a yard, it’s incredibly exciting. You can finally get that barbeque you’ve been dreaming of. String lights for when friends come over? Gottta have ‘em. Plus, so much room for activities!

But then there’s that sneaky chore that you may not have thought about. The lawn.

Yes, the perfect, lush, green lawn is every American homeowner’s dream – dare I say it – rite of passage.

If you have kids or pets, having a green lawn for them to play on becomes all that more important.

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But where to start? How much water does a lawn need? What products do I need to buy and are they safe to use around my family? What the heck does overseeding even mean?

We’ll tackle all of this in this article. If you’re standing outside on your driveway right now scratching your head as you stare at the green abyss in front of your house, we got you. This is an article for the first-time homeowner who wants a great looking lawn that the neighbors fawn over, without creating a toxic 5-mile epicenter.

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There are three primary activities that contribute to keeping a lawn looking fresh:

  1. Watering
  2. Fertilization & Treatments
  3. Mowing

We’ll break them down for you below. This is a relatively detailed guide on modern lawn care for those who are interested, but if you’re tight on time, we’ve summarized the most important points too.

1. Watering

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Short story: Start with 1” of water per week (measure using an empty can of tuna) and tweak the amount from there. Water deep (more water, less often) and early in the morning.

Long story:

Grass is a plant, and plants need water. Simple enough right?

Where people tend to get confused is how much water. The perfect amount of water depends on the type of soil you have, the type of grass you have, how much sun exposure you get, and the slope of the ground.

But if you’re just looking for a quick answer, generally speaking your lawn needs at least 1”-1  ½” of water per week.

How do you know how much you’re getting? You can use a rain gauge, or you can keep it cheap & cheerful and use a tuna can to measure how much water you're the grass gets per week. Make sure you factor in both rain and irrigation.

Key things to remember:

  • Water deeply 2-3 times per week, rather than daily
  • Water as early in the morning as you can – this reduces likelihood of the grass developing rot or losing water to evapotranspiration
  • Consider watering more during the hot summer months

If you can’t push a 6” screwdriver into your lawn, you’re not watering enough. If you’re water is running down the street, you’ve gone too far. Scale it back, buddy

How to do it:

If you’re home doesn’t have an in-ground system, there are many, many, many types of sprinklers that oscillate or spin. Alternatively – if you’ve got a lot of time to kill – you can get out the hose and water it yourself by hand.

In ‘modern lawn care’ we know about 50% of America’s water is used in outdoor irrigation, and about 50% of that water is wasted due to poor irrigation techniques. We care about our consumption and want to make sure we’re not wasting water. Using smart controllers helps regulate your water consumption, puts your sprinkling  on autopilot and uses weather intelligence capabilities to prevent watering during the rain (among other features).

For those of us who don’t have a lot of time on our hands – OtO measures the amount of water needed for your lawn and applies it for you, and automatically incorporates precipitation into the equation. No rain gauge, tuna can or hose-watering needed.

2. Fertilization & Treatments

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Short story

Giving your lawn natural fertilizers regularly is good practice for keeping your soil healthy, allowing your grass to grow strong, thick and more resilient to pests and diseases. OtO Lawn Food (13-0-4) is a solid option for most grass types and regions.

Long story:

We get so caught up in thinking about how we can make our lawn look good that we forget a core principle: grass is ultimately a plant. Plants need water, sun, and soil.

But what makes good soil? How do you know if you have a soil problem  or if it’s causing  your lawn problems?

We’ll save the gritty details (pun intended) for a future post, but what’s important is that good soil feeds the plant.

Unless you live in a very old house with a very old lawn, the soil we typically have in newer lots is very barren. Remember that circle of life spiel in the Lion King? Think of your soil as the desolate elephant graveyard and your dream soil as  Simba’s kingdom. Soil gains nutrients from the ecosystem of animals, decaying plants, etc.

Traditional lawn care usually includes dumping a large amount of synthetic inputs such as 2,4-D or high salt fertilizers to encourage the grass to grow quickly and green, or glyphosate (aka Roundup) to kill weeds. Like steroids to the human body, while these products can provide immediate results, they aren't setting up the grass for long term success. In fact, they can be very detrimental to the soil, which is a key component of achieving a healthy lawn and ultimately a grass plant that can thrive without the use of synthetic products. 

Good natural fertilizers are multi-vitamins for your lawn. They nourish the soil with essential macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in turn causing the grass to grow thick, strong and healthy.

Much like a healthy human body, healthy grass makes it less susceptible to diseases, and more self-sufficient, meaning it needs less water meaning (cha-ching) more money in your pocket.

How to do it

There are liquid fertilizers and granular fertilizers. They will basically achieve the same results if we’re comparing two identical products. Choose one and apply it regularly according to the package instructions. Typically, you will want to avoid fertilizing during the hot summer months. Granular fertilizers require a spreader to apply and should be carefully swept up from sidewalks and walkways to avoid being washed into the environment (yes, even natural fertilizers should be cleaned up).

To make it really simple when you’re just getting started, OtO Lawn Food is a solid choice, year-round for most lawns and most regions. The OtO device applies the fertilizer for you in a regular schedule through the water stream. All you have to do is install the bottle into the device, and then completely forget about it.

Achieving healthy grass using natural fertilizers and good watering habits will prevent most of these issues, but they can still happen. Here are some other common lawn issues you may encounter:

Weeds
  • Weeds begin to grow during late spring and are dominant during the summer. The best way to get rid of weeds is to prevent them in the first place with strong healthy grass. Strong grass out competes the weeds for nutrients that they require to grow.
Pests
  • As the soil becomes warm in the summer, many bugs, grubs, and even moles may emerge towards the upper levels of the soils. Moles tend to damage the roots of the lawns while searching for their food.
  • Though most yard critters are harmless, pests can be an expensive and time-consuming annoyance. We’re here to help!

3. Mowing

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Short story: Mow high, about once per week & mulch clippings

Long story:

Love it or hate it, mowing is a part of the package when you have a lawn.

Surprisingly, mowing at the right length is important to get thick grass. At the tip of the blades are hormones that suppress growth, by keeping them trimmed, your grass will grow thicker.

Keep the length long by setting your mower to max height.

Never bag the clippings, mulching provides essential nutrients that the grass needs.

Mowing weekly is a good rule of thumb, but you may need to mow more often during high growing season (i.e. the summer). Just make sure not to cut more than ½ of your grass blade length at a time.

Bonus Tip

Overseeding

Could overseeding be the most important ‘hack’ in lawn care ever? By helping your grass grow thicker, with better color, greater resistance to disease and drought, plus natural weed control, we think overseeding is a must.

How it works:

To overseed, evenly spread grass seeds over your lawn. You can buy a fancy spreader or just use your hand.

From there, keep the seed consistently moist by lightly watering once or twice a day until the seedlings have reached the height of the rest of your lawn. Not to toot our own horn again, but OtO can help you make this part easy-peasy. Click here to read more!

For typical North Americans, fall is usually the best time to overseed when the soil is warm, but the air is cooler and there is still plenty of sunlight.

Conclusion

We hope this guide leaves you feeling calm, cool, collected, and confident. Taking care of a lawn isn’t  as complicated as it seems and nothing you can’t handle.

One last thing, it’s just a lawn for gosh sakes. Take a minute and enjoy it.

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The lawn life, 2021 version.

At OtO, we’re building products and solutions that are effortlessly safe and nourishing on the environment. Safe for pets and people, and all the other critters.

To learn more about OtO and our solutions, visit our help desk or contact us us at info@otolawn.com

Header photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

1 comment

  • Julio Calderon

    Would you be interested in some nutrients and also organic calcium buildup cleanser for your units?


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