A beautiful, lush lawn is the pride and joy of many home and property owners. But achieving that perfect expanse of green does require some work. Mowing, watering, fertilising, aerating – lawn care is an ongoing process.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to get your lawn looking its best. You’ll learn pro tips and tricks for mowing, irrigation, soil health, pest control, and more. We’ll also highlight the must-have tools and products that will make lawn maintenance easier and more effective.
Whether you take care of your own yard or hire a professional, this guide will ensure you have the knowledge and gear to help your lawn thrive. With the right approach and equipment, you can save time, money, and effort – while enjoying a gorgeous lawn all year long. So let’s get growing!
The Benefits of Proper Lawn Maintenance
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of lawn care, let’s look at why it’s so important in the first place. Here are some of the top benefits of maintaining a healthy lawn:
- Curb appeal – A lush, vibrant lawn instantly improves your home’s curbside appeal. For many homeowners, the lawn is the first thing visitors see.
- Improved property value – Well-kept landscaping can increase a home’s value by up to 15%, according to industry estimates. Proper lawn care shows pride of ownership.
- Usable outdoor space – Your lawn provides functional outdoor living space for play, entertaining, and relaxation.
- Healthier environment – Lawns absorb rainwater, produce oxygen, and reduce noise and air pollution.
- Stress relief and relaxation – Being outdoors and engaging with nature boosts mental health and well-being. Mowing and caring for the lawn can provide stress relief.
- Pest and weed control – A thriving lawn “crowds out” weeds, fungi, and other pests naturally.
Proper mowing, watering, fertilization, and other care is crucial for achieving these benefits. It does require an investment of time and resources. But the payoff of a lush, healthy lawn is worth it.
Lawn Care 101: The Basics
Caring for your lawn isn’t complicated, but it does require vigilance and attention to detail. Here are the key things every lawn needs:
- Regular mowing – This stimulates growth and prevents weeds. Adjust cutting height by season.
- Adequate irrigation – Most lawns need about 25mm/sqm of water per week from rain or sprinklers.
- Overseeding – Spring and autumn overseeding fills in thin spots and keeps turf lush.
- Aeration – Core aeration every few years improves drainage and reduces soil compaction.
- Fertilisation – Fertilise during the growing season to nourish the grass. Use a slow-release formula.
- pH balance – Test soil pH yearly and amend as needed. Most grasses prefer pH 6-7.
- Dethatching – Remove layers of dead grass to promote growth. Dethatch in early spring or autumn.
- Pest/weed control – Spot treat weeds and diseases as needed. Maintaining grass health is the best preventive.
- Autumn cleanup – Rake leaves, remove debris, and give the lawn a final mow before winter dormancy.
We’ll now dive deeper into these essential maintenance tasks.
Mowing Matters: Tips for Healthy Cutting
Mowing is the most basic yet important lawn care task. Follow these best practices:
Adjust Cutting Height By Season
- Spring: 3-5cm height – allows grass to recover from dormancy
- Summer: 5-7cm height – higher cut means deeper roots to resist heat/drought
- Autumn: 4-5cm height – lower for winter prep but not too short
Sharpen Mower Blades
- Sharp blades cut cleanly without tearing grass. Dull blades cause fraying and browning of blade tips.
- Sharpen once a month or more with a file or grinder. Replace very worn blades.
Alternate Mowing Pattern
- Change the mowing pattern each time to avoid ruts and soil compaction.
Leave Grass Clippings (Mulch Mowing)
- Unless clippings are excessive, leave them. This returns nutrients to the soil.
- For most grasses, mow every 4-7 days during peak growing seasons. Frequent cutting prevents overgrowth.
Mow at the Proper Moisture Level
- Mow when the lawn is dry to avoid clumping and soil compaction. Wet grass sticks to the underside of the mower deck.
By following these best practices, you’ll achieve a healthy, even cut that stimulates dense turf growth.
Mowing Safety Tips
Lawn mowing involves fast-moving sharp blades. Keep these safety guidelines in mind:
- Wear eye protection and closed-toe shoes
- Ensure guards are in place and properly adjusted
- Keep hands and feet away from the underside of the mower
- Shut off the mower and wait for the blade to stop before unclogging, crossing gravel, etc.
- Avoid mowing on steep slopes or embankments
- Pick up debris before mowing
- Shut off the mower before refueling
- Tie back long hair and avoid loose clothing
Must-Have Mowing Essentials
To get your grass cut evenly and efficiently all season long, you need the right mowing equipment. Here are the most useful mower types and accessories.
These versatile, self-propelled mowers are ideal for smaller yards up to half an acre. Choose from gas or electric models.
- Compact and lightweight
- Good for tight areas and landscaping
- More affordable than riding mowers
- Quieter and easier to maintain than riding mowers
- Requires pushing/walking behind the mower
- Smaller cutting widths – more passes to mow larger yards
- Cord limits range on electric models
Models to explore:
For larger yards, riding mowers offer greater speed and a wider cutting path. Diesel, gas or electric engines are available.
- Cut 1+ acres efficiently
- Comfortable ride-on design
- Large cutting widths
- Powerful engines mow thick/tall grass
- More expensive to purchase and maintain
- Not as manoeuvrable as walk-behinds
- Require storage space
Models to explore:
These automated mowers handle the mowing chore for you once installed and programmed.
- Convenient, hands-free operation
- Quiet electric motors emit no emissions
- Safety features prevent injuries
- Very expensive
- Require fence or boundary wire
- Not as effective on steep slopes or tall grass
Models to explore:
Mulching & Bagging Attachments
Most mowers can be converted for mulching or bagging with attachments:
Mulching kit – recirculates clippings into the lawn via a multi-blade cutting deck
Rear bagger – collects clippings in a detachable bag for disposal or composting
Side discharge – ejects clippings out a chute onto lawn or garden beds
Mulching and bagging kits typically cost R1200-3500 depending on the mower brand and size. Consider your mowing goals to choose the best option(s).
Water Wisdom: Best Irrigation Practices
Proper lawn irrigation ensures deep roots, drought resistance, and vigorous growth. Underwatering causes dry spots and thinning turf, while overwatering promotes fungus and disease.
Aim to provide 1″ of water across the lawn per week. This can come from rainfall or supplemental sprinkler irrigation. Here are tips for irrigating effectively:
Water Early, Infrequently, and Deeply
- Water early in the morning (before 10 a.m.) to minimise evaporation.
- Water 2-3 times per week rather than short daily watering. This trains roots to grow deeper.
- Water for longer periods to saturate 15 to 20mm deep into the soil.
Adjust for Weather and Soil Type
- Sandy soil requires more frequent watering than clay soil.
- Hot, dry, or windy periods increase water needs.
- Reduce watering if significant rainfall occurs.
Inspect Irrigation System
- Inspect sprinklers monthly and adjust/repair as needed for even coverage.
- Consider upgrading old systems to more efficient rotary or multi-stream nozzles.
- Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation.
Allow Lawn to Dry Between Watering
- Let the top inch of soil dry out slightly before the next watering to prevent fungus.
- Use a screwdriver to check soil moisture at the roots.
Consider Smart Irrigation
- Smart controllers adjust watering automatically based on the weather.
- Soil sensors turn off watering when the soil is moist enough at the root level.
With proper lawn irrigation techniques, you’ll use water efficiently for a lush landscape.
Top Irrigation Tools and Accessories
Equip your lawn for peak irrigation performance with these recommended tools:
In-ground sprinkler system – Provides full coverage via zones that operate on a timer. Professional installation is recommended.
Hose-end sprinklers – Affordable above-ground option. Oscillating and rotating models distribute water effectively.
Soaker hoses – Low flow, porous hoses allow direct watering of garden beds and borders.
Rain barrel – Captures roof runoff for later use in the garden. Reduce water bills.
Illuminated sprinklers – Cool nighttime sprinklers for kids. Also reduces evaporation.
Sprinkler timer – Attaches to hose faucet to automate watering duration. Choose digital or mechanical dial timers.
Moisture meter – The probe tool measures moisture levels in soil and assists with watering decisions.
Rain/freeze sensor – Shuts off the system automatically in unfavourable weather. Prevents water waste.
Backflow preventer – Safety device prevents contamination of potable water from irrigation. May be legally required.
Fertilising for Success: Types, Timing and Technique
Fertilization provides vital nutrients lawns need for vigorous, sustained growth. Here are tips on using fertilizer effectively:
Choose Slow-Release Nitrogen
Look for slow-release nitrogen listed as WIN (Water Insoluble Nitrogen), ISDN, SCU etc. This nourishes grass steadily over 8-12 weeks rather than all at once. Quick-release nitrogen can overstimulate and “burn” grass, causing excess growth and thatch buildup.
Follow the Seasonal Application Schedule
- Early spring – High nitrogen to jumpstart growth after dormancy
- Late spring – Balanced N-P-K to support growth
- Summer – Low nitrogen to limit growth but aid drought recovery
- Early autumn – Moderate nitrogen plus potassium for winter prep
- Late autumn – High phosphorous only for root development
Avoid high nitrogen in the summer heat. Focus on root growth in the autumn.
Use Spreader for Even Application
Use a broadcast or drop spreader to distribute granular fertilizer evenly across the lawn. This prevents over- or under-application in spots. Calibrate spreader settings per product instructions.
Water After Application
Irrigate lightly after fertilizing to dissolve granules and wash them into the soil rather than leaving them on the grass blades.
Sweep walkways, drives, and sidewalks after fertilising to avoid runoff into storm drains and surface water.
Consider Organic Options
Natural fertilizers like compost, manure blends, corn gluten meal (weed preventer), and alfalfa meal enrich soil biology and provide a gradual nutrient release.
With the right fertilizer products applied at the ideal times, you’ll enjoy robust turf health and beauty.
Recommended Lawn Fertilisers
These top-rated fertilisers will give your lawn a nutritional boost:
- Bio Ganic for Lawns is an ideal organic food for all lawns. It is suitable for new and established lawns and its slow-release properties help prevent thatch build-up.
- Organic and environment friendly.
- Child and pet-friendly.
- Pathogen-free with no germs, mould or bacteria. Water – Wise
A complete fertiliser for lawns, evergreen plants and shrubs.
- – bi-carbon green boost
- – fast acting & economical
- – sustained release of nitrogen
- – promotes vigorous green upper growth.
- – vigorously growing plants.
Keep your lawn looking lush and thick with the proven Kynoch TurboGrass fertilizer. Kynoch Fertilizer, trusted for more than 100 years by Farmers. Now available for your home garden.
- Start seeing results within one to two weeks.
- Innovative granular coating to prevent burning.
- 100% nutritional content.
- Phosphate strengthens roots and suppresses weeds.
- Added benefits for magnesium, zinc and iron for lasting greening.
- Water well after application.
Aerating for Healthy Soil
Aerating involves punching small holes in the lawn to improve drainage and air circulation in the soil. This stimulates root growth and alleviates compaction. Aerating should be done every 1-3 years depending on soil type. Clay soils need it more frequently.
The best times to aerate are early autumn and early spring when grass is actively growing. Avoid summer heat when grass is stressed.
Core Aeration vs. Spike Aeration
There are two main types of lawn aerators:
- Core aeration – Removes plugs of grass/soil to leave deeper holes. Most effective method but more labour-intensive.
- Spike aeration – Solid tines poke holes in the ground without removing cores. Faster but holes close up more quickly.
What to Expect After Aerating
- Small cores of grass and soil across the lawn (core aeration only)
- Temporary check to growth (~7-14 days) as grass recovers
- Increased water and fertilizer needs until the turf knits back together
- Less compaction and improved drainage after cores break down
- An overall healthier, vibrant lawn in 4-8 weeks
Proper soil aeration along with overseeding relieves compaction for better growing conditions.
Overseeding for Dense Growth
Overseeding fills in thin or bare spots to maintain lush, dense turf. It should be done when grass is growing actively in early autumn and/or early spring.
Follow this process:
- Mow, dethatch, and aerate lawn if needed
- Rake to loosen top covering of soil
- Broadcast high-quality grass seed using a spreader
- Gently rake seeds into the soil surface
- Water lightly 2-3 times daily to keep seeds moist
- Reduce watering frequency as new grass sprouts
- Let new grass reach 5cm height before first mowing
Choose a grass seed variety well-suited to your climate and sun/shade conditions. When overseeding an existing lawn, match the grass species already present.
Top Seeds for Overseeding
Use one of these quality grass seeds to fill in thin or patchy areas:
- Less Chance of complete destruction of lawn from disease due to different varieties.
- Similar blade/leaf texture
- Hard wearing -cope with traffic
- Evergreen grass type
- Green year-round
- Cold Tolerant
- For best results sow Autumn-Spring (Apr-Sep)
- Plant in shade only from September to March
- To install new Evergreen Lawns or Overseed existing lawns
- Featuring a medium to dark green turf colour
- Low – moderate water needs
- Frost tolerant
- Grows in sun and shade
- “Creeping” growth habit although not invasive
- Stands up well against traffic
Battling Crabgrass and Weeds
Even the most meticulously cared for lawns will inevitably encounter weed invaders. Here are smart organic and chemical control strategies:
Encourage thick turf – A dense, vigorous lawn leaves little room for weeds to take hold.
Hand-pull small invaders – Eliminate weeds by pulling roots when just sprouting.
Spot treat with selective herbicides – Products containing 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba target broadleaf weeds but not grass.
Use corn gluten meal – This organic product inhibits weed seed germination when applied pre-emptively. May take a few seasons to see full results.
Apply pre-emergent herbicide – Prevents crabgrass, foxtail, and annual bluegrass seeds from sprouting. Barricade and Dimension contain prodiamine.
Maintain mowing height – Taller grass shades out low-growing weeds. But don’t raise cutting height for weedy lawns, as it reduces competition.
Overseed thin areas – Filling in bare spots prevents weed takeover and expansion throughout the lawn.
Spot treat stubborn weeds – Use concentrated vinegar, boiling water, or a propane weed torch to eliminate perennial broadleaf and grassy weeds without chemicals.
Reseed affected areas – If weeds overwhelm sections of lawn, a complete renovation may be needed. Kill remaining weeds, till under dead vegetation, and replant quality grass seed.
Vigilance is needed to keep weeds in check. But following healthy lawn practices builds turf density that resists invaders.
Top Weed Control Products
These commercial weed control products are rated highly effective by both professionals and homeowners:
- Kombat Weeds is a soluble concentrate herbicide, which, when used as directed will selectively control certain broadleaf weeds (as listed) in established lawns, after appearance (post-emergence).
- Herbicide for home garden use only. A foliar applied systemic herbicide, with little or no soil activity, for the control of many annual and perennial weeds in the home garden.
Combating Pests and Diseases
Lawn diseases occur when fungal microorganisms attack grass plants. Excess moisture, low fertility, and dense thatch offer ideal conditions for disease development.
Insect pests such as grubs and armyworms feed on grass roots and blades. Chinch bugs suck nutrients from grass during hot, dry weather.
The best disease and insect control is prevention through proper lawn care and quick response when threats appear.
Cultural Control Methods
- Improve drainage and reduce irrigation to deter fungal disease
- Overseed to fill in thinning turf
- Dethatch to remove habitat for pests
- Maintain optimal fertilization and soil pH
- Encourage beneficial predators like birds and nematodes
Chemical Control Options
- Fungicides containing chlorothalonil, myclobutanil, mancozeb, or azoxystrobin combat common lawn diseases.
- Insecticides with ingredients like imidacloprid, carbaryl, or bifenthrin control surface and soil-dwelling pests.
- Combination products like Bayer Complete Insect Killer Granules provide insect, grub, and disease control together.
Follow all label precautions when using pesticides. Spot treat only affected areas.
Top Pest & Disease Control Products
Control lawn invaders with these highly-rated treatments:
- These fly baits are made from non-toxic fly poison and also come in a range of sizes and designs. The traps are lightweight.
Autumn Lawn Care Checklist
As summer transitions to autumn, your lawn needs special care to ready it for winter:
- Keep mowing until growth slows – raise height gradually
- Overseed to fill bare spots early in the autumn
- Fertilize with a nitrogen-rich formula to promote root growth before winter
- Aerate to improve drainage and open up soil
- Control autumn weeds like dandelions and clover
- Treat for grubs which damage roots through early winter
- Apply pre-emergent herbicide to prevent winter weeds
- Clean up leaves with mulching mower or leaf blower to avoid smothering grass
- Continue irrigation until the ground freezes but reduce the frequency
- Store or service mower before end-of-season maintenance
Proper autumn lawn care leads to healthier roots, fewer weeds, and better spring green-up.
Winterising Lawns and Mowers
Northern lawns go dormant once cool-season grasses stop photosynthesizing. But basic winter care is still needed:
Protect the Lawn
- Keep leaves removed to avoid damage and snow mould fungus
- Apply screening compost in the autumn to insulate soil from temperature shifts
- Allow dormant grass to stand tall (~5cm) for insulation
- Mulch beds to shield roots from frost
Prepare Mowers and Tools
- Drain fuel or add stabilizer before storage to avoid gummed carburettors
- Disconnect the spark plug wire and remove the battery if electricity start
- Clean the underside and lubricate moving parts
- Wipe engine and change oil; sharpen or replace mower blades
- Wipe down the mower deck and lubricate the wheels
- Store in a clean, dry area away from rain and moisture
- Fully charge battery before storage; remove for separate indoor storage if detachable
Proper winterising protects your investment and sets up for an easy spring start.
Let’s Recap: Keys to Lawn Success
Looking back over all we’ve covered, these core lawn care tips rise to the top:
- Mow high and often – Adjust cutting height by season and keep your mower sharp. Leave clippings for free fertilizer.
- Water deeply and infrequently – Moisten the whole root zone without oversaturating. Let the soil dry between watering.
- Fertilise at the right times – Feed spring and autumn growth with the correct formulations. Use organic options too.
- Aerate compacted areas – Punch holes for better drainage and root penetration.
- Overseed thin spots – Crowd out weeds by filling in bare areas.
- Control weeds – Maintain dense grass, hand pull invaders early, and spot treat with selective herbicides.
- Treat pests promptly – Prevent insect and disease issues through proper cultural practices. Respond quickly if found.
- Prep for winter – Overseed, fertilises, cleanup debris, and service equipment before the snow flies.
Achieve Lawn Goals with Expert Help
Caring for your lawn is a continual process through the seasons. While dedication brings results, don’t go it alone if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Our local landscaping expert Letitia from Letitia Bruwer Landscapers can help to analyse and treat problem areas, develop seasonal maintenance plans, and take over tasks like mowing, fertilisation, and pest control. Enjoy your beautiful lawn without all the work! Contact us today for expert lawn care services designed to meet your property’s unique needs.