My Lawn Tips

Simple, effective lawncare tips for homeowners

Month: September 2018

How to Improve Lawn Mower Performance

Keeping a good lawn starts with a high performing lawn mower. Most homeowners associations and neighborhood associations require that lawns be kept at less than 3 inches tall, be free of weeds, and other unsightly lawn plants and décor. In many areas, people only use their lawn mowers for one third of the year. The rest of the year the lawn mower is kept in storage. Some people are unpleasantly surprised when they open their garden shed to find that their lawn mower is no longer working. Lawn mowers are expensive, and you may not be able to buy a brand new one right away. Instead of running into this issue on the first lawn mowing day of the year, follow the following tips to improve your lawn mower performance.

  1. Annual Maintenance: There are basic maintenance procedures that you must perform on your lawn mower annually. Much like other equipment with motors, a lawn mower needs an oil change, spark plugs, and a new air filter usually once per year (sometimes more if you live in an area where you mow your lawn all year around). Your lawn mower may also need lubrication. All these tasks are easy to perform at home.
  2. Sharpen the Blades: Dull lawn mower blades are the detriments of many yards. Blades that are not sharp can pull and rip the grass out rather than cutting it cleanly. Shredded up grass can yellow and make your yard look as though it is dying. Sharpening your blade at home is possible but there are tool and motor repair shops that will sharpen your lawn mower blade for just a small fee. Sharpening your blade at the beginning and half way through your lawn mowing season is the recommendation. Before sharpening the blade at home, you should remove the spark plug. Mark your blade with spray paint before taking it off for the first time so you can remember the correct way to install it. Many people put the blade back on upside down which causes the grass not to be cut at all.
  3. Don’t Wing It: Your owner’s manual has a lot of information on how to care for your lawn mower, including maintenance procedures. The lawn mower guide will also tell you what kind of oil you need to use, how often the oil should be changed, the type of motor that is inside the lawn mower and troubleshooting tips. If you no longer have the user manual for your lawn mower, you can call the manufacturer to get a replacement sent to you.
  4. Store Gas Properly: The type of gas you put in your lawn mower has a big impact on its performance. Gasoline is made partly from ethanol which is an organic compound that decomposes. Gas that is old and has started to break down will be gunky and wreak havoc on your lawn mower. This gunk is called fuel varnish and typical signs include your mower starting and stopping, not starting at all, or revving strangely. To extend the life of your fuel you can add fuel stabilizer and make sure that the gas cap is always on the can tightly. Gasoline should also not fill more than 95% of the gas container due to expansion. Make sure to keep your gas cans stored at least 50 feet away from sources of fire such as pilot lights or sparks from a furnace.
  5. Use the Right Oil: The lawn mower user manual will tell you what kind of oil to use and how often you should change it. Using the right type of oil for your lawn mower is essential to keeping your lawn mower running properly. Make sure to also pay attention to how much oil is in your machine. Too much oil can cause engine flooding and smoking. Not enough oil can cause the motor to lock up and not run anymore. Checking your oil every time you use your machine only takes about 30 seconds.
  6. Clean the Mower After Each Use: Leaving clumps of wet cut grass on your lawn mower blades and deck will lead to corrosion and can cause the blade to dull. You can use a screw driver to prod off the clumps of grass or hose the lawn mower down after use. Before washing the desk of your lawn mower, you should empty the gas tank and take out the spark plugs. Leave the lawnmower sitting in the sun until dry to prevent rust.

This the right care and maintenance a lawn mower can easily last up to ten years or more. When you purchase cheap lawn mowers that you can replace year after year, the long-term cost of your lawn mower will far exceed the amount you would spend taking care of your lawn mower.


How to Fix a Lawn with Crabgrass

If you want the perfect lawn, crabgrass and other plants that are common weeds, can be the ultimate enemy if you let them take control. A nicely manicured lawn is not only good for your home’s value, but it is good for the lawn, your own pride, and self-benefits, and it will keep bugs away that are attracted to weeds and other plants that will try and put down roots in your yard.

Knowing that you want a great lawn is the first step, the second step is to know how to get the lawn you need. There are several steps one must take to successfully eradicate crabgrass and then maintain the lawn to prevent future invasion.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass

You already have crabgrass growing in your yard, so, you need to get rid of it. Although, anyone would dread the thought of pulling each weed out of the ground. Luckily, you don’t have to do that. All you must do is simply drive down to your local home store and purchase a concentrated herbicide that is specially formulated to kill crabgrass, and not the regular grass species you have in your lawn.

There are many kinds of herbicide that can work for you. First, take note of where you are going to spray. Some brands have more harsh chemicals than others. Still, spraying near vegetable gardens, flower beds, or kid’s play equipment is something you would like to avoid, if possible.

There are several brands of herbicide at the store. Make sure to read each label or even do extra research on each product online to ensure you get the best product for your needs.

There are natural methods of killing crabgrass too. Some products that you see in the store are all natural. But, you may not even have to go buy a product to kill your weeds. Here are a few things you can try to kill your crabgrass:

  • Pour boiling water onto the weeds
  • Pour a vinegar solution onto the weeds
  • Cover the weed with something to deprive it of all sunlight
  • Pull the weeds by hand

Rake the Yard

You must get all the dead crabgrass out of your yard. Even the dead plants will drop seeds and even release a liquid toxin that hurts surrounding plants, like grass. And, you do not want the dead plants covering your good grass.

Seed Bare Spots

You will obviously need to over seed the spots where the crabgrass had taken hold. You can use whatever type of grass seed you want. Make sure to read the directions, plant a lot of seed, keep the seeds moist, and rip out any weeds that want to start growing in the bare spots.

The fall is the best time to plant new grass. Depending on where you live, it will have more than enough time to establish itself before the frost hits.

Prevent Crabgrass

The hardest part of this entire operation is preventing the crabgrass from coming back. You must stay vigilant in guarding your lawn against this horrible weed. But, luckily, there is a product that many manufacturers make called ‘preemergent’. Preemergent is a product that specifically targets crabgrass, and other weeds you do not want in your lawn and prevents them from ever even popping up. Any kind of prevention is going to be most successful when it is applied in the fall or winter, so that it can work to prevent the weeds from coming back from the frost. Although, every product is going to be different, so be sure to read the instructions to ensure you use it correctly.


After your lawn consists of just grass, make sure to set your mower height a notch higher so the grass will shade the topsoil. Also, do not use a top irrigation system if possible. Use an underground irrigation system to promote deep roots and stronger, healthier grass.

How to Fix a Lawn with Tree Roots

Large trees in a lawn can wreak havoc as they grow larger. The general rule of thumb about how far a tree’s roots grow is that the roots are at least twice if the tree’s canopy is wide. A 30ft canopy, which is not excessively big, compared to a giant Oak tree, can have roots that grow out 60ft. or more from the tree’s trunk. Having just one tree in a smaller lawn can do some considerable damage. Roots are known to go above ground, taking the path of least resistance through the dirt, but dive back down underground when the tree realizes the root is above ground. So, how can you fix the various problems tree roots give homeowner’s?


It is obvious, but if a property does not have mature trees next to the house, garage, barn, expensive landscaping, retaining walls, underground pipes, sewer systems, etc., then do not put one in your lawn. Mature trees do make the property value go up but planting some trees in your lawn can cause huge problems later. Most of those problems will be inherited by the next owner of the home. A good thing to remember is that 90% of tree roots grow no more than 3ft. below the surface. Exactly where your home’s foundation is, your porch, well, and other structures. A tree’s roots can demolish about anything you build in your lawn.

Problems Tree Roots Cause

The most damage tree roots cause a lawn is that they sometimes grow above ground. They do also take in a ridiculous amount of nutrients and water that your lawn needs as well. The shade a large tree provides is nice for backyard cookouts and fun with the family, but grass, flowers, and garden plants that are quite common in every lawn need direct sunlight. If you have any type of structure in your lawn, like a retaining wall, a well, or concrete slabs, tree roots can and will destroy those foundations.

How to Fix the Problems Tree Roots Cause

The first problem to fix is the roots that are above ground. There are many ways to fix it, including some innovative and decorative ways to cover the root. A simple search online will bring up many ways of doing it this way. The best way to fix this problem is to simply cover the root with soil, even it out the best you can, covering it at least a few inches or more, and seeding with grass seed. You can even spray or spread a preemergent to prevent weeds from taking hold at the spot of the root covering.

Another fantastic way of fixing surface roots is to elect for mulching around the tree’s trunk instead of putting down dirt and grass seed. Put down at least 4 inches of woodchips, or other mulch, so that the roots can breathe, get their nutrients, and stop growing up to the surface.

Some people elect to have some roots cut out of the lawn if they are far enough away from the tree to do severe damage to the root system. Consulting a lawn care company or a local arborist is always recommended before anyone starts cutting roots, because doing so can kill the tree, invite unwanted disease, and will give insects a way into the tree, so they can repopulate and create yet another large problem.

If you have a tree that is tearing up your lawn, and you find that you do not want that tree, you can have it removed. Removing the tree is the only sure-fire way to know that no more roots are going to be popping up in your lawn, breaking and cracking your porch or concrete patio, or damaging your sewer pipes. All these damages can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

If you are having trouble with a tree causing problems in your lawn, call a lawn care specialist to find out what they recommend you do. Every lawn is different, so the solution to your problem may need a skilled hand to execute.

How to Fix a Lawn with Tire Tracks

Sometimes, you just cannot help getting some tire tracks in your yard. If you had a tree removed, you will have several kinds of tire tracks, along with hundreds of indentations and the unsightly hole where the tree stump was. Sometimes, city workers need to get their trucks into places where poles are, and they will have zero remorse for driving through your yard. That is yet another price you pay for amenities. You may even be the culprit leaving tire tracks all over your lawn as well. Unloading firewood, moving furniture, dumping more dirt into your lawn, and all kinds of other things require a vehicle to pull up into the lawn. But, you do not want to leave those tire tracks after they are made, because it will damage your lawn in many ways.

Tire Track Damage

The obvious reasons should be apparent. The tires on the vehicle will sink down into the soft soil of your lawn, causing large indentations wherever the vehicle drives. The grass will be crushed. Although, some grass species are ridiculously resilient to heavy weight, and some of the grass will pop right back up in a day or two. But, that does not matter if you want to fix the tire track.

If you leave the tire track in your yard, it also causes a tripping hazard. If you have kids, or older adults at risk of falling live in the home, then the tire tracks must be fixed for everyone to stay safe in the yard.

Tracks are a brand new, small riverbed in your lawn. When it rains, or if you must water your lawn, the tire tracks will capture more water. The ground underneath the track is already compacted, so it will not drain very well. Water will pool in the tire tracks, killing the grass, not only in the track, but around the track as well. Standing water is also great for mosquitoes and other bugs to lay their eggs in.

Fixing the Tire Tracks

The easiest thing to do is to just add some soil to your lawn to cover the tracks. If you do go that route, make sure to try and at least punch a shovel or another tool into the compacted soil inside the tire track so that it gets broken up a little bit and drains better. You will have to add enough dirt to be level with the rest of the yard, but then about another inch on top of that, because the soil will settle as it becomes a bit more compacted with rain, footsteps, etc. When adding soil to a lawn, it is recommended that you add a preemergent before seeding, because it will prevent crabgrass, and other weeds from growing and spreading across your lawn. Fresh soil is especially susceptible to seeds that migrate from other lawns or areas of your own lawn. Once you lay down your preemergent, simply seed with your favorite grass seed, set up a sprinkler, and watch the grass grow.

Another way to fix the tire tracks is to just loosen up the compacted dirt and putting it back where it was before. If you do not have access to a good amount of good, fresh soil to lay over the tracks, then you can do it the old-fashioned way, and dig up the track. Having extra soil is going to be necessary if you want to make the tire track completely disappear. The compacted dirt will not be quite enough to fill in the track all the way, usually. If the tracks are one inch or less, than extra soil may not be needed. But, anything deeper than one inch will require extra soil. Once you dig up the track, level everything out, over seed grass seeds, make sure to water, and everything should go back to normal within a couple of weeks.

Again, try and find access to good soil that is sold by the truckload in your local area. Having the ability to add soil to your lawn is detrimental to good lawn care maintenance.

How to Fix a Lawn with Clay Soil

Do you have a lawn that tends to flood? Is your lawn hard, compacted, and you are finding it exceedingly difficult to grow grass? Are there bare spots in places that should have healthy grass growing there? The answers to these questions may be that your lawn is made of mostly clay. Clay is the hard stuff that retains water and nutrients but is so dense that roots cannot break through it, so the plant can establish itself properly.

What is Clay Soil?

There are three types of soil:

  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Silt

A nice, healthy topsoil needs to have at least two of the three to be viable for optimal plant growth. Most lawns are going to have a mixture of clay and sand in the United States. There are some regions, like in the Southwest, where the lands are mostly sand and silt. If your property is near a river, lake, pond, or even a dried-up riverbed or lake, you will find your soil to be very silty

You will need to know exactly what percentage of clay, sand, and silt you have in your soil. You will also have to consider that your soil will also have a certain percentage or organic matter, such as leaves, sticks, and other debris. The easiest way to do this is by putting a few cups of your lawn’s soil into a mason jar with a lid, adding water until it reaches to the top, and then shaking it enough to mix the soil in with the water. Then, simply let it sit for a while. You will notice that the soil will start to separate.

From bottom to top, you will find a layer of sand, then a layer of silt, followed by clay. You will also see above the clay heavy organic matter, then water with smaller, lighter particles floating around, and at the top you will see light organic matter. To figure out the percentage, follow this formula:

Height of layer / overall height of all layer’s x 100

That will give you the exact percentage of each layer you have. If you find that the soil is not separating properly, try to add saltwater instead of fresh water.

How to Get Better Soil

Depending on your situation, you will need to add another mineral to the mix to try and balance out your soil type. The ideal soil for any lawn is:

  • 20% Clay
  • 40% Silt
  • 40% Sand

This solution creates a nice, loamy soil that any type of plant can thrive in.

Really, the only way to fix a lawn with a ton of clay in it is to add sand and silt slowly over the course of months, and even years. Spreading a very thin layer of sand and silt over the top of your soil will not hurt your existing grass at all. During rainfall, the sand will begin to slide deeper into the clay soil and will successfully mix in with the clay. In most towns, there is usually a place that offers several types of soil, sand, rock, and other minerals by the truckload. If you have the space to store a pile of sand and silt, that would be ideal to use to spread around your yard.If you are really that serious about fixing your lawn, and you want it done right now, then you can have a company dig up the first couple of feet of your yard, or you can rent a machine to do it, and then you can spread out sand and silt so give your lawn the perfect mix. Obviously, doing this is going to destroy your lawn. Depending on the size of your lawn, you can get everything done in one or two days. After you level everything out, which this would be a perfect time to introduce more dirt if you need to level things out, spread some grass seed, set up a sprinkler, and watch the grass grow.

Call your local landscaping company to get sound advice on what you should do. Most will offer free advice.

How to Fix a Lawn Exposed to Dog Urine

Unfortunately, your beautiful lawn that you care so much about, spend a ton of money on, and put many hours into keeping it that way, is also your fur friend’s bathroom. Dog urine is not the most damaging of the animal kingdom, but it does cause problems to grass, flowers, and garden plants. Luckily, dogs are very smart, and will learn what you teach them to prevent this problem altogether. And, there are some other ways to minimize the damage Rover does to your lawn.

Dog Waste Damage

While the topic here is dog urine, it should be said that dog feces is not particularly good for your yard, despite widespread belief. Feces is not good for plants until it changes and breaks down, so much so that it is not even considered poop anymore. And, if you really wanted to compost your dog’s waste, you absolutely can. Just mix it with dirt and other compost and wait for it to break down. Worms love dog waste.

Anyways, dogs love to urinate on certain things in the yard to mark their territory, or just because it is instinctual, or they are mad at you because you forgot to give them a treat that morning. Either way, dogs pee on stuff. That means your lawn, all your flowers, your beautiful garden fruits and veggies, and everything else has a high chance of danger from dog pee. Obviously, urine is waste, so it is toxic, and it does an excellent job of killing plants. Because it is a liquid, plants will soak it up through their roots, causing the plant to go into shock and will die.

Solutions to Dog Urine Problems

First, your dog is very smart. They will learn anything you teach them. Pick a designated area of your lawn where your dog can go potty. Maybe even invest in a kennel or put some rock down in your designated area so that the dog waste can be hosed off and picked up to be disposed of easily. Work with your dog to train them to stay away from plants, bushes, and, especially the garden. If you are super vigilant, you can hose off the place where they just urinated, so the effects of it will be minimal, or will even have no effects at all. But, who has time for that?

The easiest way to keep your lawn from getting bare spots everywhere from dog urine is to give your dog a supplement or treat that levels out the pH of your dog’s urine, rendering it harmless to your lawn. There are products on the market that do a wonderful job of denuclearizing your dog’s waste. It is not expensive and comes in many forms. They can be pills, treats, or other products that are easy to feed your dog. You can also put the products in their food, and even their water with a liquid product.

Ensuring your dog has a proper diet will also help their waste to not be so toxic. Feeding them healthy, nutritious dog food and ensuring they get fresh water multiple times a day should be enough to alleviate most of the problems that dog urine causes. Feeding them a high fat diet, like giving them the fat scraps when you cook meat or giving them known foods that increase the pH level of urine, like asparagus, will not help the situation. Be sure to research a little further about what foods will help solve the problem of dog urine in your yard, how much water your dog should be drinking, and other useful information to keep Fido as healthy as possible.

If you want another way to help the problem, you can find a product that is an all-natural liquid spray that helps balance the pH of urine to spray in spots where you see yellowing of grass, or grass that is beginning to wilt. But, designating a potty spot in your yard is the only way to fully prevent dog urine from ruining your entire lawn.

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