Landscape Design:

Landscaping design holds many possibilities. It can be quite a feat to mix and match the various types of elements to create the perfect design. There are some excellent tips you can follow for do it yourself landscaping design. Following these tips will make the job easier, less expensive, and you can avoid mistakes.

One of the key factors of a successful landscaping design in the element of unity. All of the materials you use in the design need to come together. Consistency is very important if you are creating any type of pattern. Creating a theme is a great way to ensure unity. Keeping the landscaping design simple will also help the unity flow with ease.

Balance is also another important factor for quality landscaping design. Symmetrical design involves both sides of the garden being a complete reflection of the other. This is much easier to achieve then asymmetrical designs. If your attempt at an asymmetrical design doesn’t work, your landscaping will not flow well or be appealing visually.

Color is an important element of landscaping design. With so many great plants, trees, and flowers to choose from, you should be able to come up with a combination that is very pleasing. Bright colors are an easy way to make your landscaping area seem larger. One of the most difficult parts of landscaping design is getting the different elements to flow well. Colors can help this transition take place easier. You don’t want the eye to see an abrupt change but a subtle one.

Landscaping design is a very fun way to fix your area up any way you want. However, it is important to take all of these factors into consideration so that your landscaping design will be eye appealing rather than overwhelming. If possible, use landscaping software to see how your idea is going to look prior to committing to anything. This type of software allows you to make changes on the computer rather than once you have completed your landscaping and realize something just isn’t working.


This design displays the principle of unity. The beds and walkway are created from the same material as the home. In this case it was brick but it could be flagstone, cobblestone, or any other material. Using the same material made this island an extension of the home instead of a separated area.

Planting ideas can be adapted to any area. We did use intentional plantings of groups of 3’s to create unity and balance. Using a few varieties of plants repeatedly throughout the garden will help with balance as well as unity.

The ground cover here can be altered to whatever is locally available to you. And, of course, should be under lain with a quality landscape fabric to separate the surface and ground cover and to prevent weeds.

Colors, textures, plants, and elements can all be changed to match your home, atmosphere, and availability.

In this small garden design example, the area is surrounded by 30 feet of concrete driveway. Most times in situations like this, you may have to cut the concrete to get an automated drip or sprinkler system to the area. It is possible to water drill this distance as we’ve done it many times. However, it is quite a distance.

This design is actually a good example of asymetrical design (see Principles Of Landscape Design). Both sides of the dividing line are different. However, unity is still created using plants and materials.

The real beauty and impact of this circular driveway design is because of the use of different levels. Good landscaping can use more than one level to create character and interest. Also, in the use of small gardens, levels can help create the illusion of more space.

From the street view, this design is pleasing and interesting. The two taller beds have been planted with 11 foot Mondale Pines which create a back drop and boundary from both directions. While they will get much larger, the trees still won’t hide the home.

If this circular driveway design idea was used in a small garden design (excluding the Mondales, or not), the different levels would give the illusion of more space

Odd shaped lot:

The elements are simply rock and plantings. There are no flowers or color (besides green-green is a color) in this design. However, all the plantings are of an evergreen nature so the landscape keeps curb appeal all year long.

The plantings used are Japanese Boxwood, Mock Orange, Mexican Elder Trees, and Tall Fescue sod which keeps its color through Winter in our climate.

Lot shape poses a problem to a lot of people and this one was no exception. Usually, the challenge with landscaping odd shaped lots is coming up with a design shape to fit the lot. Balance can be a challenge. So, as with this one, we design with plants and simplicity.

Once again we used plantings in odd number groups to create balance. We also used the principle of simplicity by limiting our selection of plants to a few. Click here for more on planting ideas. We also created balance, unity, and symmetry using the six small trees evenly spaced.

To keep this design as low maintenance as possible and properly watered, an automated sprinkler and drip system is installed.

We designed on the angle of the lot and not the square of the building. After trying several different versions it felt the only style to give this small landscape life, interest, and character. Give this a try if you’re having trouble with an odd shaped lot.

The large boulder in the center of the main bed is very dramatic and creates a nice focal point. The dark boulder surrounded with white ground cover rock also creates a good contrast in color and texture. Don’t forget texture as a tool to design with. But also remember that as a rule to use more finer textures and fewer coarser textures. As with all of our projects, the ground cover is under lain with quality landscape fabric to prevent unwanted grass and weeds.

The finishing touch on this project is a small, white split rail fence down the left side. Pay attention to finishing touches and fine detail. Try to envision the finished project with different elements like fences, arbors, trailing vines, boulders, etc. Use garden decor and garden statues when possible (and tasteful). It could make a big difference.

Small Garden:

We were able to make this small area seem somewhat larger using a network of curves. It was so simple to plan and draw by simply connecting or using parallel curves. Curves can sometimes give the illusion of expanded space. Find out more about illusions and small spaces at small gardens.

The three planting areas are all connected using groups of Blue Salvia (purple). As you can see, the rest of the design has no consistency and no intentional group plantings of 3’s, 5’s, 7’s, etc.

The yellow plantings (coreopsis) are secondary to the design and accent the purple. The area is then screened in from the street using Youpon Holly.

This small area garden design also gets interest from a lot of different textures used. The patio area is brick, the walk area is natural stone and pea gravel, the pond is natural stone, and the rest of the area is a contrasting crushed rock. Of course, all areas are under lain with professional weed barrier to help insure a weed free environment.

-Small Square Garden:

We took care of the problem area by creating a gravel bed. Trying to create landscaping ideas to fit just the corner seemed a little odd so we extended it all the way up the walkway.

In doing this we created another problem. How to get the lawn mower from one side of the sidewalk to the other without dragging it through the bed?

As we looked at a way to fix this, we also wanted to give this landscaping a little more class, balance, and shape. The next and final page is what we did to complete this design.

Hardscape Landscape:

If you are researching your next landscaping project you have probably come across the term hardscape at some point in your studies. While this may be a relatively new form of terminology, the idea behind it is hardly anything new or revolutionary. In fact, most landscaping is a combination of plants and hardscaping of some sort. Whether you are using decks, stone patios and walkways, or pavers for our driveways most of us have some sort of hardscape landscaping in our lawn and garden area.

Hardscaping goes well beyond that though in reality. This term can refer to any solid materials you use in landscaping at all. From the borders you use for your boxes to stone paths that line your lawn as well as the rocks and such surrounding your Koi pond (assuming of course that you have one). Even fences, gates, arbors, and gazebos can fall under the title of hardscaping quite accurately.

Despite all the years and many advances in technology concrete remains the most popular choice of material when it comes to hardscaping. There are several reasons that this material is such a popular choice not the least of which is cost. Beyond costs, however, are the facts that this material is durable and able in many cases to stand the tests of time, it is a material that can be sealed in order to prolong its life and beauty, and it is easily formed into many new and amazing shapes. You will find that concrete can be used for many hardscaping projects both big and small and many sizes in between with grace and beauty few other materials could match. This is one of the primary reasons for its continued popularity.

In addition to concrete, stones and bricks are also quite popular when it comes to hardscaping. These materials are each beneficial in their own rights and work to achieve certain looks or ‘atmospheres’ within the scope of your landscaping projects. I’m a sucker for river rock and the old ocean side cottage feel that this can add to landscaping. Others prefer bricks and an Italian countryside feel to their landscaping. Whatever your preference there is hardscaping material that can assist you in accomplishing your landscaping goals.

Wood however, will always remain my personal favorite. There is something about wood that says this place is home and it is comfortable and lived in. You can use anything from old railroad lumber to logs for to encourage a very rustic look with your hardscaping. Wood also allows you the opportunity to use barrels and picnic tables at will with your landscaping and feel absolutely no guilt or remorse for doing so. Wood to me is the most inviting and natural of all landscaping materials and truly creates the feeling of an outdoor oasis.

The important thing to remember when you are planning your landscaping and hardscaping project is that you are the only one that can recognize and implement your vision. Be creative and have fun but remember that you will be the one living in that space so make it truly and uniquely your own.

Trees & Shrubs:

No landscaping project is complete without trees & shrubs. Trees are essential for landscaping because they can provide privacy, protection from wind, shade on those hot summer days and even entertainment for children who like to climb them.

Shrubs on the other hand, are hardy, evergreen plants that can add a deep green tone to your landscaping design.

Most shrubs can live in harsh conditions, yet still look as if they are thriving. Of course, be sure to read the labels on any plants you want to purchase to make sure they can handle your current environment. One thing to keep in mind is not all plants can survive is all planting zones, so be sure to check out the planting zone map of the US to see where you home resides.

Flower Guide:

Garden Paths:

Show guests the scenic route to your outdoor spa, gazebo or other backyard attraction with a stone and pea gravel garden path.

The lack of edging is what gives this path its rustic look. For a more finished look, install your pathway with brick, timer or concrete edging. For how-to guides; refer to The Home Depot Patios and Walkways 1-2-3 book.

Do the job right by renting pro-quality tools from The Home Depot Tool Rental Center, open seven days a week. A plate compactor is a garden project must-have, as it effectively levels and compacts soil and/or gravel, preparing it for your DIY patio, pathway or any other project where a stable surface is critical to success.

Step 1
Lay out the shape of the path using a garden hose. Stretch hose along one border of desired route, marking grass with powdered chalk. Repeat for other border.

Step 2
Use hoe to dig out borders of the path. Excavate sod and soil to 3 or 4 inches within pathway using square shovel. (For a more even path surface, use plate compactor to tamp earth down.)

Step 3
Line path with landscape fabric, overlapping fabric edges 12 to 18 inches if multiple pieces are used.

Step 4
Pour bedding sand onto landscape fabric, to depth of approximately 2 to 5 inches. Rake smooth, taking care not to poke holes in fabric.

Step 5
Place pavers in desired formation. When sure of placement, settle into sand by tapping with mallet. Fill pathway around borders with pea gravel to grass line. For a selection of pavers and materials, check out The Home Depot in your neighborhood.

Planting Trees:

A tree or two in the yard adds instant value to your home. Location, weather and preparation of the ground have a definite effect on a tree’s overall health and success. Start your tree off properly and it will grow faster with less stress and fewer problems, as it becomes an attractive feature in your yard.

It’s important to position a tree carefully so that even when it’s fully grown it won’t interfere with houses, patios or power lines. Sun and wind can dry out and put transplants under stress so it’s best to plant when the weather is overcast and temperatures are mild. Get started with affordable shovels , which offer specialized grip for comfort and control, available at The Home Depot.

Step 1: Prep the site
Dig a hole one-and-a-half to two times as wide and slightly deeper than the root ball or wrapped base. Don’t amend the soil too much. The roots do better when starting out in soil much like what they’ll encounter beyond the planting hole. Miracle-Gro carries a wide choice of garden soils for trees enriched with continuous-release plant food, available in-store.

Step 2: Add compost
Add several spade-fulls of compost to the planting hole, but nothing more. Note that every plant has its best side. Trees often have one side that looks better than the other sides. Before planting, examine the tree from all sides to position its best “face” accordingly.

Step 3: Measure the depth
Measure the depth of the root ball and also the planting hole as you dig, then measure again before positioning the tree. Use a starter fertilizer promote vigorous growth, available at The Home Depot. If you’ve purchased a large tree, it’s especially worth the investment.

Beware of placing the tree in hole that is too shallow. Gardeners often plant trees so that the rim of the container soil or the rising mound of the roots is revealed. This dries out the plant. Position the tree so that the point where the trunk meets the roots is only an inch or so below the soil level.

Step 4: Place the tree
Always move a tree by lifting or rolling the root ball. Never lift the tree by the trunk, which may break. If the tree is large, you may have to set it in the hole fully wrapped.

Step 5: Undoing the package
If the tree is in a cardboard-like container, place it in the hole and cut away as much as you can, but it is not necessary to remove all of the pot. If the tree root is wrapped in burlap, remove as much of the burlap as possible. To prevent a tree from strangling as it grows, it’s crucial to cut off or pull away any twine or wire wrapped around the trunk.

If the roots are tangled or pot-bound, loosen them with your fingers, a cultivator claw or even slice through them with the sharp edge of a spade to break them up and encourage them to grow outward.

If you are planting a bare-root plant, first soak the roots in a bucket of water for eight to 24 hours to hydrate them thoroughly. For best results, add root stimulator to the water to help plants overcome transplant shock. Trusted brands such as Vigoro carry a wide selection available in-store. Prepare the planting hole as you would for a container tree. Then make a rough cone shape of dirt at the bottom of the hole, and spread the roots over the cone.

Step 6: Fill the hole
Proceed with filling around the roots with soil, tamp lightly, water well and add mulch in a doughnut shape around the tree, but away from the trunk.


Landscape edging creates a clean line between flower beds and areas of lawn.

Concrete Edgers:
Concrete edgers are available in numerous shapes, colors and textures. Some styles interlock for more stability. The color may fade, but concrete edgers can be painted with concrete or acrylic paint.

Brick Edging:
Bricks can be laid flush with the ground or set on edge, upright, or at an angle in the ground. Bricks are available in several colors, including buff, tan, white, terra cotta and red.

Wood Edging:
Landscape timbers and railroad ties are cost-efficient edgings for large areas. Short, stubby wooden pieces or wooden slats attached to wire backing are good for small beds, since pieces will bend to form curves.

Plastic Edging:
Although plastic edging is low-cost, it is the least desirable in terms of appearance and durability. Straight sections fit into a trench flush with the ground, or shorter sections can be hammered into the ground. The decorative top section of imitation brick, stone or wood edging is installed above the ground by hammering the plain bottom section into the ground.

Other Types of Edging:
Bamboo edging. & Rubber mulch edging  in strips of different widths and colors lays flush with the ground to suppress weeds while allowing water, nutrients and air through. You can lay natural stone in a variety of colors, textures and sizes, flush with the ground or stack it to form a barrier for mulch and gravel. Bamboo edging is made of pieces of bamboo cut in half and attached

Weed Eating:

Step 1
Use big curves when shaping your flower beds. This will allow you to manuever your lawn mower easily around the flower beds, getting close enough to not have to weedeat much, if not at all.

Step 2
Use grass killer around the flower beds, ditches, driveway, against the house, etc. to reduce weedeating. It will get rid of all grass, but only where you spray. So, if you have steady hand you shouldn’t have a problem. Buy it in the lawn and garden section for about $5-$10 a bottle. My yard has one big ditch along the road, driveway, lots of flower beds, and a privacy fence. It usually takes about 2-3 bottles.

Step 3
If you are not needing much of the grassy part of your yard, build a deck or patio to cover problem areas.

Step 4
The more flower beds, objects, or trees that you have in your yard, the more weedeating you’ll have to do. If you can’t/won’t reduce the amount of things to weedeat around, you can try to arrange it so that you can still fit your mower close enough to do the job without much weedeating.

Weed Prevention:

Before we begin, there is a general rule of thumb when working with weeds: Know when the weed grows so you can prevent it!

  • Warm-season annual weeds tend to flourish during the warm summer months in the Northern states when cool-season grasses tend to go dormant. Conversely, cool-season weeds tend to grow and flourish during the fall and winter months in the southern areas of the United States when the grasses tend to go dormant.
  • Weeds fight to live just like your grass does. As far as the weeds are concerned, they don’t know you don’t want them in your lawn, so its best to prevent them from growing in the first place. Remember, your neighbor’s lawn next door didn’t get perfect on its own — it had plenty of help!

The following are the different ways to prevent and eradicate weeds from your lawn:

  • Fertilizing: Fertilizing and/or applying pre-emergence can be very important in your efforts to control weeds. Results don’t come over night, so be patient and understand why it is important! As discussed the section of fertilizing, it is important to know your lawn and when its growing seasons are. By doing so, you can identify (by following a schedule) the best time to stimulate your grass’s growth and to fight off weeds. Additionally, many fertilizers can be mixed with, and/or are already mixed with, a pre-emergence and weed-control to help prevent weed growth. By stimulating (with fertilizer) your grass growth just prior to its growing season/s, you can help crowd-out weeds from growing and fighting for space. Conversely, if you fertilize your lawn prior to periods of dormancy, you could actually end up feeding the weeds instead, and create much bigger problems. As you can see, following a fertilizing schedule and knowing the best time to use fertilizer is crucial in preventing weeds!
  • Mowing: Mowing your lawn regularly and to the proper heights can help prevent weed growth. Mowing your lawn to its higher mowing range (see: how high should I cut my grass) will help crowd out unwanted weeds and prevent sunlight from reaching those weeds, helping to stunt weed growth. Additionally, when weeds are present, it is a good idea to bag your clippings so you can help prevent them from spreading throughout your lawn. This is especially important when the weeds are producing seeds!
  • Pulling Weeds: Weeding is often considered a dreaded task, especialy when it comes to pulling weeds from the ground. However, when it comes down to it, it’s the quickest and usually the most effective way to do it! Most annual weeds should be pulled by hand, unless they have already grown too far out of control. The important thing to remember when pulling weeds from the ground is to make sure you pull not only the weed, but also its roots. Many deep-rooted weeds can grow up to 6 inches into the soil, and if not removed, those roots can grow back again. Depending on the size and number of weeds, most can be dug-up with weeding tool, potting trowel, or a small shovel. When digging-out the weed, make sure that you remove as much of the root as possible. Remember, the root should be completely removed, even to its root depth. If the roots are 6 inches deep, make sure you dig the roots up from that depth as well. This can be accomplished by loosing the soil around the weed roots and slowly removing the weed back and forth from the soil. If the ground is to hard, try soaking it a little to ease the root removal process. Some people will even use hot-water from a kettle to poor on shallow rooted weeds (like spurge) to help loosen-up the soil or even kill the weeds on the spot!
  • Herbicides: You can’t hardly walk into a lawn and garden store anymore without seeing a multitude of lawn herbicides on the shelves. Most are concentrated in a liquid form and can be sprayed by simply applying to a hose end. Herbicides are becoming more popular in use do to their increasing varieties and ease of use. Some herbicides are now formulated to kill certain weeds while at the same time not harming your grass. Just make sure that the label clearly spells this out before using. Many of the spray herbicides can be applied either to your entire lawn, or in certain spots were weeds are prevalent. However, there are some down-sides and instructions to using herbicides that you should consider before use:
    • Herbicides are toxic and can cause health problems if not properly handled, used, or stored.
    • Herbicides should not be used on new lawns until they are fully established (usually after four mowings).
    • Herbicides should not be sprayed on windy days or in windy areas.
    • If you have children or pets, you will need to check the herbicide container to determine how long they need to stay off of the lawn after applying.
    • Only those herbicides that will not harm or damage your grass when applied should be used on your lawn. If you use the wrong type, you could end up killing not only the weeds, but also your grass!
    • Always dispose of used herbicide containers and spray-nozzles after use. Most importantly, follow the instructions on the container label for proper use and safety!
  • Aerating: Aerating is necessary for lawns that have never been aerated, get lots of foot traffic, and/or are planted in cloy soils. If your lawn is developing weeds like Crabgrass, Chickweed, and Plantain, you may have a highly compacted soil that needs aeration to loosen it up and prevent these weeds from growing.
  • Reseeding: If you live in a region (commonly the Southern U.S.) where Warm-Season grasses often go dormant in the winter months, you may want to consider reseeding your lawn with another Cool-Season grass to keep your lawn looking green year-round and crowd out cool-season weeds in your lawn.

Lawn Aeration:

There are many benefits of core aeration

Core Aeration keeps your lawn greener, reducing the cost of watering by:

1) Improving drainage & reduce runoff

2) Reducing soil compaction

3) Controlling thatch development

4)  Reducing drought damage

5) Allowing water, air, and nutrients direct access to the root system.

How often and how do I use an Aerator to Aerate lawn?

Most experts recommend you should aerate lawns every 1-3 years.  If you have hills, pets or active outdoor children you may even need it twice a year.  The best time to fertilize and over seed is just after you aerate your lawn.  For new lawns, turf aeration is very important.  Most developers scrape off the topsoil when they build a new home and it can take years before that soil can be naturally healthy again.  The best  way to make it healthy quickly is with a lawn core aerator.  Also, in many areas new lawns tend to be installed on top of hard clay.  A core lawn aerator can speed up the process of soil integration by encouraging roots and grass growth.  If you have bad soil, you should aerate at least once a year for the first five years you own a home.  It is very effective to also fertilize and over seed right after aerating.    After a lawn is established most experts still recommend that you aerate once every three years.

5 Steps to a Perfect Lawn:

While there is no magic pill to achieving a better lawn there are some basic steps you can follow that will go a long way in giving you a lush, healthy lawn you’ll be proud to walk over. Here then are the 5 basic steps to help anyone achieve a beautiful lawn.

  • Get the mowing height right for the right time of year.There’s a lot more to mowing than just cutting the grass every Saturday. One of the most fundamental steps to a perfect lawn is getting the mowing height right for your type of lawn and for a particular season.

    Most grasses can survive with a length of 2″ – 3″. This applies for spring and early fall. In the summer, if possible, set it a little higher*. Never go below the minimum recommended height except for the last mowing of the season which should be around 1.5″ for most turf grasses. There are exceptions to this, but if you have a lawn that requires that exception, you already should know your mowing height.

    Mowing height is important because the length of that grass blade is the part that absorbs sunshine which the grass blade then miraculously converts into food! Imagine if you were a blade of grass and got hungry, all you had to do was stand outside and soak up some rays!

  • There are many that think fertilizer is lawn food, but that’s not true. Plants actually make their own food using sunlight. it needs to grow and develop into a healthy plant.In fact, fertilizer isn’t even absorbed by the plant as it’s put down on the soil. In laymen’s terms, the fertilizer that gets put down on the lawn must first go through the digestive juices of a lot of tiny microbes that live in the soil. Only then is it in a form that can be absorbed and used by the plant, not as a food, but as building blocks to build more cells and carry on the process of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

    Never remove more than 1/3 at any one mowing. This may mean you’ll have to mow more often during prime growing times (usually spring and early fall).

    Leave the clippings on the lawn after you mow. This not only saves time and energy, but the clippings decompose and add vital nutrients back into the soil. Grass cycling recycles plant nutrients back into the soil. Clippings contain the same beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium nutrients as that expensive bag of fertilizer. In fact, clippings can provide up to one-third of the annual feeding requirement for your lawn.

  • Use a sharp blade.The type of mower doesn’t matter, but the blade’s condition does. A dull blade tears at the grass. Take a close look at a grass blade a few days after mowing. If the blade is dull you’ll notice a jagged brown line across the tip of the cut grass. This is a good indication that your blade needs sharpening. Professional mowers sharpen their blades about every 8 hours of use. For most homeowners, twice a year is recommended.

    The jagged edges caused by a dull mower blade make it more difficult for the grass to fight off pests and disease.

  • Regulate the water intakeOver watering your lawn causes more damage than a lack of water. Most turf grasses can handle dry spells, but not flooding. Most grasses require 1″ – 1.5″ of water per week. This is enough water to moisten the soil to 4″ – 6″ below the surface for clay soils and 8 – 10″ for sandy soils.

    Don’t guess at how much water your lawn is getting. For measuring Mother Nature’s contribution, invest in a rain gauge. If at the end of the week she’s contributed enough, hold off adding more. If she comes up short, you’ll want to add some supplemental watering. Again, measure how much water your sprinkler is putting down.

    You’ll have to follow local regulations when there are watering bans, but just remember that less water is acceptable and grass is a very resilient plant. When the rains do return your lawn will come back with a little encouragement on your part.

  • Give your lawn a regular, balanced diet ; just don’t over-do it!Don’t over-fertilize your lawn with too much of a good thing. 4 balanced fertilizer applications a year is plenty: spring, summer, early fall and after the first frost. If you’re in drought conditions, skip the summer application. Never skip the fall application. It’s important to use lawn products by following label instructions. Get the best results by following the directions. Over application will not improve performance. As mentioned above, fertilizers are processed through their interaction with tiny microbes before they can be used. Over-applying fertilizers can create unfavorable conditions for those microbes, even killing them. When that happens, the soil becomes sterile and the grass won’t grow.

Basic Lawn Care:

Few things in the home landscape generate as much pride as a healthy lawn and for some, it can generate fear and loathing. Having a lush green turf can be challenging, but true lawn American Lawn lovers enjoy the small tasks required for a great looking lawn. For those that fear the challenge, it most likely is because they don’t understand the basic principles involved in maintaining a healthy lawn.

Some people feel that lawns are worthless and that the entire country would be better without the green expanse of lawns that surround our homes. They forget that grass is a natural element of our environment, whether that plant was here when the pilgrims landed or not, doesn’t mean a thing. When the pilgrims landed, we didn’t have large farms that could feed the entire world either, does that mean we should go back to the way things were 300 years ago? Of course not.

Turf grasses are ideal for what we require

Grass is an ideal plant that is readily available and provides an environment for multiple uses around the home. If it didn’t provide this comfortable environment, then we wouldn’t be growing grass, we’d be growing something else. It is part of our American culture to strive for excellence in all that we do. That’s part of what makes America so different from the rest of the countries in the world. It is in our nature, our basic genes so to speak, that causes us to be the best and it is in this drive for perfection that has created the American Lawn we have today.

The American Lawn is almost an institution. Because we are so driven to excel that we sometimes get into trouble by trying to grow certain grasses in geographic areas that shouldn’t be growing there. In these situations growing grass becomes an indulgence that perhaps should be criticized. Trying to grow Kentucky Bluegrass in the southwest is not only futile, but extravagant. Trying to grow a grass not suited for a region, means that an artificial climate must be created for it. This is extremely wasteful. In the north and northeast, the climate there is ideally suited for Kentucky Bluegrass. It doesn’t require vast amount of irrigation to thrive. The soils are such that it doesn’t require vast amounts of fertilization to thrive. The same holds for the south. Turf grasses grown there are ideally suited for these weather extremes.

Select turf grasses suited to your climate

So the basic idea behind turf care is to grow grasses that are best suited for your climate. Don’t try to change the climate, but change the plant to fit the climate you have. Once you have selected a plant type that will thrive, then preparation and maintenance are keys to success.

Preparation and maintenance are the keys to turf grass success

Clean the lawn. Before beginning regular lawn maintenance in the spring, rake up accumulated leaves. Remove fallen leaves as soon as possible in the fall. Look for other forms of debris, and remove from the area. Accumulated debris on the lawn whether it’s from tree leaves or other items, block the sunlight and will cause the grass to fail.

Because grass grows best when it is regularly cut (grass is one of the few plants in the world that actually thrive from being cut) mowing the lawn should be looked at carefully. Ideally, lawns should be somewhat level for ideal mowing. That doesn’t mean you have to live on a completely flat property, it does mean that your lawn should be as even as possible to avoid having the mower jump up and down as you push it. This up and down motion often results in scalping the lawn which causes many problems for the health of the grass. If your yard has high or low spots in the lawn try doing the following:

  • Fill holes with topsoil and over-seed with a similar grass as what is already growing in your lawn.
  • Only grow grasses suited for your climate. Whether you are repairing a bare spot, seeding a new lawn or reseeding an existing one, grow the right kind of grass for your growing zone. Follow the fertilizing and irrigation schedule that applies to your turfgrass variety and follow a regularly scheduled maintenance program.
  • Remove bumps by cutting an X in the raised area with a shovel. Carefully peel back the sod and remove as much soil as necessary. Place the sod back in place and water.

Inspect for damage regularly

Inspect for disease, insects and weeds on a regular basis. Mowing is a great time to keep an eye out for these problems. Learn to recognize and treat problems quickly and appropriately before they become big problems.

Types of Grass:

Creeping grasses like bluegrass, Bermuda and most warm season grasses spread by above- or below-ground runners. Creeping varieties are more prone to thatch.

Bunch grasses such as fescue and ryegrass spread from the crown of the plant. Mowing high protects the crown and ensures the survival of the grass.

Cool Season Grasses

Grass Mowing Height Traffic Tolerance Soil Type Sun
Bentgrass 1/2 -1″ light tolerates acidic full
Bluegrass 2-2 1/2″ light pH 6.5-7 neutral full
Perennial Ryegrass 2-3″ high most types full
Fine Fescue 2-3″ light most types full/shade
Tall Fescue 2-3″ high most types full/partial

Warm Season Grasses

Grass Mowing Height Traffic Tolerance Soil Type Sun
Bahia 2-2 1/2″ moderate many types full/moderate
Bermuda 1 1/2 -2″ high light textured full
Centipede 1 1/2 -2″ light tolerates acidic full/partial
St. Augustine 2-3″ high prefers sandy full/partial
Zoysia 1 – 2″ high pH 5.5-6.5 slightly acidic full/partial