Homeowners in Lancaster, Pennsylvania care about their lawn and gardens. They attend home and garden shows, watch HGTV and read the Farmer’s Almanac every year.
Along the way, however, some important aspects of caring for Lancaster lawns and flower beds get passed over. Sometimes we’re too busy. Sometimes our budget is stretched too tight. But when these crucial steps aren’t taken, our lawns and gardens fall victim to weeds, pests and diseases.
These are the six most common mistakes we see in Lancaster County.
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Mowing grass too short.
Proper mowing can be the most critical factor in the appearance of a lawn. Good mowing techniques not only enhance the appearance of the lawn, but also increase the turf grass vigor. Most people just look at their lawns and decide if it’s long enough to warrant a mowing. However, you should follow some guidelines if you want a lush lawn.
It may seem prudent to set your mower blades at a short setting so you can cut down how often you need to mow. However, that isn’t a good practice for a healthy lawn. Certain grasses need to be mowed to a certain height to promote growth and healthiness. Height is important because the grass uses the extra length to absorb the sunshine it needs to grow and develop into a healthy plant. Taller grass blades also shade each other under a hot, summer sun.
A general rule of thumb for almost all grasses is to mow at approximately three-and-a-half inches. Plus, never remove more than a third of the height during a single mowing. Following these rules may mean that you’ll have to mow more often during prime growing times (usually spring and early fall).
A vigorous, dense turf grass area is one of the best defenses against weed invasion. Weak grass plants with a limited root system are more prone to drought damage. Lancaster has experienced drought conditions several times in the last few years, which means it’s particularly important to mow high during dry weather.
Scalping is another reason not to mow your grass too short. When you do this, excess leaf blade tissue is removed. Such scalping of the lawn can cause unsightly damage. More importantly, scalping shocks the grass and slows or stops growth, which limits the vigor of the turf. A scalped lawn may dry out quickly from drought, or may develop unusual weed and disease problems.
Many people pay to have their lawn mowed, edged and trimmed. Then they invest our Turf Care program. That is a great start, but aerating and de-thatching play a critical role in having a beautiful healthy lawn.
Thatch is the layer of dead turf grass tissue between the green vegetation and the soil surface that must be removed (a process known as “de-thatching”) to maintain lawn health. Lawn thatch is a build-up of stems, leaves, stolons, rhizomes and roots. Thatch makes it difficult for your lawn to get the oxygen it needs. Lawn aeration performed in spring or fall helps control lawn thatch.
The basic idea behind lawn aeration is that your lawn, and the soil under it, need to breathe. Providing much-needed lawn aeration for your grass entails dealing with thatch. Soil can become compacted in high-traffic areas or in areas that have mostly clay soil, like Lancaster County. Compaction can kill off grass very quickly.
Aeration and seeding should be done in the fall, not in the spring, when grass is beginning to go dormant. Lancaster County lawns should be aerated every second or third year. If you have pets or children, we recommend aerating every fall.
Not weeding frequently enough.
Weeds in garden beds can usually be kept under control, provided that there is a consistent effort to do so.
Springtime weeding and mulching is a major part of this effort. Applying a layer of pre-emergent weed inhibitors under a thick layer of mulch is another big part of controlling weeds. But weeding consistently – every week or, at the very least, every month – is very important. Once an area is under control, it takes very little time, money and effort to keep it under control.
Frequently, a client will ask us to weed and mulch flower beds in the springtime, but they do not ask us to return. When a bed isn’t weeded consistently, the weeds will return and thrive. Then, every spring, it’s as if the client is starting from scratch. To keep your beds looking good, and to get your money’s worthy, it’s best to either weed consistently yourself, or ask us to do the weeding for you. Consistently will keep the time and cost to a minimum.
Not pruning enough.
Plants, flowers, perennials and woody shrubs are the essence of a landscape around the house. Many times those plants are not properly pruned. After a few years without proper pruning, the plants begin to look too large for the space, crowded or just downright sloppy.
Many times homeowners or landscaping companies prune just enough to maintain a desired shape. But each year the plants get slightly larger because the plants aren’t being pruned back hard enough. Then, after five to seven years, the homeowner thinks they need a new landscape design because they’re plants are overgrown.
Proper pruning is a learned skill, and the homeowner has to be willing to have some seasons where a plant does not look perfect because of hard pruning. But if properly pruned, most new landscapes will be enjoyed for years to come.
Not adapting to fit lifestyle changes.
As your lifestyle changes, so should your landscape. The perennial beds that you used to love maintaining can become an unsightly burden if no longer have enough time. The lawn you used to enjoy mowing can become a bed of dandelions and crabgrass if you’re physically unable to mow anymore.
Your lifestyle should dictate your outdoor living space. Sometimes play areas are no longer used as children get older. Plants may be maturing and no longer fit the space they once occupied. Trees get larger, making formerly sunny areas a shaded spot. Sometimes, you might just want an updated look or better curb appeal, just because.
Every year or two, have your landscaper walk the property with you to talk about what’s working and what isn’t. What do you like? What don’t you like anymore? What options have you been thinking about?
You might decide that your landscape design is just the way you want, and there’s nothing more to do than maintain everything. However, you might decide it’s time for a change. That’s when a professional landscape design company can give you options. A good landscaper might even offer you suggestions you’ve never thought of.
Your home and landscaping are not just an investment, but a reflection of you and your lifestyle. Make sure your outdoor space fits your likes, needs and desires.
Expecting too much, too soon.
Lawn care is a very deliberate process that, too often, homeowners might not fully understand. In the U.S., a large percentage of homeowners change lawn care companies every year because they don’t see the results they were expecting. They expect to have a weed-free, lush lawn after one summer.
However, when you begin lawn care treatments, you shouldn’t expect perfect results too soon. Once you start lawn care treatments, you need to be patient and look for the payoff after a year of treatments, which might also include aerating and de-thatching.
If you don’t follow your turf care professional’s advice, you won’t get the lawn you’re hoping for. Lawns can be made to look very nice, but it does take time. Lawns with more problems at the start will take longer than lawns that were fairly healthy to begin with.
Try to remember, no lawn care treatment will make your lawn look like a golf course in less than one season.