There are a lot of reasons why people love their lawns. A lush green lawn is beautiful to look at and will make you the envy of the neighborhood and makes time spent outdoors that much more enjoyable.
But it's important to recognize that lawns aren't self-sustaining. They require ongoing care in order to look and perform at their best. You probably already know that regular mowing is important, but there's a lot more to lawn care than just keeping your lawn trimmed and tidy.
You may be frustrated that your lawn isn’t as green as you think it should be. Or, perhaps you’re embarrassed by weeds or bare spots that annoy you every time you step outside. Instead of being able to just relax in your yard, you feel burdened by it. While you may not sure the best way to care for it, you may also be feeling as though you should have to get a degree in agronomics to be able to have nice grass.
Why is Getting a Nice Lawn Often So Difficult?
The truth is, lawn care is a bit more complex than most people realize. They often think of lawn care in terms of tossing down a little weed and feed when the lawn is looking dull. However, if you truly care about a healthy and thriving lawn, then that’s simply not enough.
There are elements of chemistry, biology, and even microbiology that all come into play with effective lawn care. The best lawn care program is one that focuses on soil management practices which will create an environment in which your lawn can thrive. This is a complex endeavor.
Helpful Lawn Care Resources
After caring for so many lawns in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, PA, we realize that it’s critical for homeowners to understand why it can be so tough to get a nice lawn and what their options are to accomplish their goals.
That’s why we created this resource, among others on our website. It’s our goal to help you understand what your lawn needs, and then make an informed decision on how to get help if you would like to hire a professional.
A lawn care professional who has extensive training and experience is the solution to ensuring that your lawn is getting what it needs. Not only will a professional be trained in areas such as the proper application of fertilizer, but they should also have an eye for disease or pest problems and make recommendations regarding preventative treatments.
Ultimately, the relationship between a lawn care professional and a homeowner should be a partnership. While you’ll be able to rely on them for important recommendations, they’ll also rely on you for feedback. If you spot a problem, your lawn care pro will want to know, so they can take action.
They’ll also be able to advise you on valuable lawn care services your lawn needs, such as some of the following. We’ve rounded up some of the most important lawn care services your lawn requires in this handy guide. Feel free to read the entire resource or jump back and forth between different sections!
- Proper Mowing
- Irrigation for Existing & New Lawns
- Lawn Fertilizer Tips
- Weed Control Tips
- Lawn Insects & Remedies
- Turf Diseases
- Lawn Aeration
- Lawn Seeding
- Soil Testing & Limestone
- How to Choose a Lawn Care Service
Mowing is an important lawn care service that certainly seems simple enough. But a lot of homeowners fail to cut their lawn to the proper height. This can be problematic as a lawn that is too short can become a target for weeds. Opportunistic weeds are much more prone to invade a lawn where they have easy access to sunlight and don’t have to compete with a lot of healthy turfgrass. To prevent this, the best mowing height is approximately 3.5 inches to help your grass to grow to its full potential.
Here are some other mowing tips:
- Well-Maintained Equipment: To get a crisp and level cut, make sure that you are regularly maintaining a sharp mower blade and a level mower deck (or evenly inflated tires).
- Don’t Stop Mowing Too Soon: In Pennsylvania, “mowing season” typically begins in April and goes through November. But don’t end your mowing too soon. Leaving your grass too long as you head into winter months can make it more prone to snow mold.
- Be Careful of Edges: Scalping your edges around your driveway and walkways, with a string trimmer, can make those thinned out areas prone to weeds.
- Use a Mulching Blade: Returning your grass clippings to the lawn will provide some natural compost, creating a healthier lawn.
- Change Mowing Patterns: Changing your mowing patterns each time you mow will avoid leaving ruts with the wheels.
- Mow to Only Remove ⅓ of a Blade at a Time: And mow one to two times per week, depending on your lawn’s growth rate.
Ensuring that your lawn is properly watered is incredibly important to its overall health. After all, without water, your lawn will struggle to survive.
Although watering seems like a simple task, it’s one that can be overlooked. Many homeowners are also unsure as to when or how often they should water their lawn. In general, it is best to water your lawn early in the day to reduce turf disease.
Watering an Established Lawn
In general, established lawns need one to two inches of water each week. Sometimes, this can be achieved with rainfall. But during periods of drought, you may need to supplement your lawn with additional water.
If your lawn is dulling in color, this may be a sign that it is in need of water. In addition, if you walk across your lawn and can see your footprints because the grass won’t stand back up, your grass may be drying out.
While an established lawn can bounce back from periods of drought, there can still be negative results that occur. When grass is weakened by lack of water, weeds can take the opportunity to fill in.
Prevent this from happening by remembering to keep up with regular watering. One to two times per week (about 45 to 60 minutes for each location) should do the trick to fill in when Mother Nature falls short.
Watering a New Lawn
While the recommendations above are for established grass, new seedlings are a different story. That’s because new grass plants don’t have the root systems of an established lawn. As a result, it will require a lot more attention until it matures.
Prior to new seed germination, you may need to water as often as two to three times per day for short bursts of time (approximately 15 minutes) in each location, just to keep the seeds moist.Following germination, you can back off on frequency. However, you’ll need more water to stimulate root growth. Ideally, you want to soak the soil to a depth of two to three inches. This means running sprinklers for 45 to 60 minutes in each location around two to three times a week, now that you have a more mature lawn.
Chances are, watering a new lawn is a bit more involved than you were thinking. But it’s critical—especially for new lawns which won’t bounce back like established ones. New lawns are more vulnerable to drought damage in their first year so it’s important that you are diligent in your watering efforts.
Lawn fertilization is an important service that will help your lawn looks its best by “greening up.” Since most soil does not provide enough of the essential nutrients that are needed in order to allow your lawn to thrive naturally, without lawn fertilization, your lawn won’t be as green and lush as it could be.
But lawn fertilization is about more than just thickness and color. A lawn with nutrient-rich soil will also defend better against weeds and other environmental stressors. With proper fertilization, you’ll have a healthier lawn.
Professional Lawn Fertilization Services
While a lot of companies offer lawn fertilization services, you should recognize that they are not all created equal. One of the biggest differences is in the products being used. There is a huge variance in the types of fertilizers out there and some products are going to perform better.
The number of visits is also a big difference between a lot of fertilization programs. While it’s easy to get caught up in the number of visits a lawn care company may make (and, in fact, some companies use their number of visitations as a bragging point), the truth is, it’s all relative.
You could deliver a lot of nutrients in a handful of visits or you could slowly fertilize over a longer period of time. It’s not about the number of visits but rather about the rate of application and the products being used.
Nothing can be more frustrating than weeds popping up throughout your lawn. Not only are they an eyesore, but they can choke out your healthy turf. Weed control is a valuable feature of your lawn care plan.
Here are some general points regarding weed control:
- Getting weeds under control may require a multi-faceted approach that includes the use of both pre- and post-emergent applications. It also requires a customized approach that will target difficult-to-control weeds.
- While product is available in both liquid and granular form, liquid is best for any post-emergent control because it provides better coverage of leaf tissue, helping more product to be absorbed. Granular can be best when it comes to treating preventatively crabgrass, but most broadleaf weeds are not controlled well with granular products.
- Since many species of weeds thrive in low pH soil, it’s possible that your soil may require a limestone application to get it where it needs to be. This will encourage a healthier lawn to naturally deter weed growth.
- Also, note that it’s important weeds are treated from spring until fall, when they are actively growing. This could mean four to five visits of weed control materials. If you have a minimal program with only two visits, you most likely won’t see great results.
Broadleaf Weed Control
Lawn weeds can be divided into two main categories: grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds.
Broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, clover, and plantain, can often be easily controlled with liquid, selective weed control products.
But some tough-to-control weeds may require a more targeted or even an ongoing approach.
In general, the best defense against broadleaf weeds is a healthy lawn. That’s because a thick lawn will be able to naturally choke out weeds and prevent them from becoming established in the first place.
Grassy Weeds: Crabgrass, Nutsedge, & Others
Crabgrass is a stubborn weed that is prominent in our region. This grassy weed grows in unsightly clumps. It can be difficult to get rid of due to the fact that it can spread so rapidly. In fact, a single crabgrass plant can produce up to 75,000 seeds. The seeds lay dormant in the soil until the ideal conditions for germination present in the spring.
Addressing crabgrass requires a multi-pronged approach. The best course of action is the user of crabgrass preventer to prevent growth in the first place. Crabgrass preventer works by forming a barrier near the surface of the lawn which prevents germination from taking place.
While this will take care of approximately 80 percent of crabgrass growth, breakthrough may still occur, particularly in thinned out areas of your lawn or around edges of hardscaped areas (such as the driveway). The use of post-emergent materials will tackle any breakthrough that does occur.
Another problematic grassy weed is nutsedge. This light green, upright plant sprouts in early summer and is easy to pull. However, this tissue sprouts off of an underground tuber, and will quickly re-grow with a vengeance.
Selective nutsedge controls do a nice job of getting rid of this weed for the season. A couple applications may be necessary.
There are also other grassy weeds that occur in lawns in the Lehigh Valley. Many of these weeds are not able to be selectively controlled. If you suspect you have a strange variety of grass growing in your lawn, consult with a professional for identification and treatment options.
Lawn pests such as chinch bugs and grubs are more than just a nuisance. They’re a destructive force that can pose a real threat to your healthy lawn. Though small, these pests have the ability to destroy a beautiful lawn in little to no time if given the chance.
Grub Damage and Lawns
Grubs are white, C-shaped pests that are actually the larvae of certain beetles, Japanese Beetles being the most recognized. In order to understand how destructive grubs can be, you must understand their life cycle.
Beetles lay their eggs in mid-summer. When the grubs hatch in the soil, they begin feeding on the roots of your lawn in mid-August. The effects of this damage can happen fast. As grubs consume your lawn roots it will get to the point where you’ll be able to roll up your dead turf like a carpet.
Treatment Options for Grubs & Surface-Feeding Lawn Insects
The best way to deal with grubs is to take a preventative approach. Grubs are just too destructive to take any chances. When homeowners take a wait-and-see approach and find they do in fact have grubs, it requires a much more expensive grub control product to get rid of them. It could also mean investing in costly repairs to your lawn to fix the damage.
Chinch bugs are another common pest of the Lehigh Valley. These tiny insects (an adult is only around ⅛ inch long) are found in the thatch layer of your lawn, just above the surface. Instead of going after the roots, like grubs, chinch bugs feed on grass blades and crown (the part connecting to the root). When found in high numbers, these pests can do serious damage.
For instance, areas of the lawn will start to lose color. This often occurs during hot and dry spells, so this damage may be missed and will keep spreading. In the fall, when your lawn starts to green up, these spots won’t come back and will need extensive seeding performed.
Chinch bug control treatments should be applied from late spring into summer, when these pests are active, will reduce populations and allow your lawn to continue to thrive.
Lawn diseases can pose a serious threat to the health of your lawn. However, identifying lawn disease isn’t an easy feat without any background or experience in lawn care.
While there are many different types of lawn disease, some are more common than others. Here are five that can crop up in our region.
- Brown Patch: This lawn disease presents as large brown/gray discolorations throughout the lawn. It is often caused by high temperatures and humidity or by over-fertilization.
- Red Thread: True to its name, a lawn stricken with this fungal disease will appear to have reddish threads throughout the lawn. This disease can be made worse by poor drainage, compaction, or overall unhealthy soil. It thrives in wet conditions.
- Dollar Spot: Just as you might expect, this disease presents with spots throughout the lawn, roughly the size of silver dollars. Dollar spot can occur any time from early to late summer, though the disease usually peaks with high temperatures and humidity.
- Leaf Spot: This disease presents with a spotting of individual blades of grass. As it worsens, this disease can go through a process called “melting out” during which the crown and roots are damaged, leading to severe thinning of the turf. Lawns that are mowed too short and high humidity can be causes of this unsightly disease.
- Pythium Blight: This disease first appears as small, irregularly shaped spots. Diseased patches look light brown or gray in color and spread very rapidly in lawns, causing permanent damage to grass plants.
At the first sign of disease, it is imperative to get diseases under control. When caught early or treated for on a preventative basis, lawn diseases can typically be treated without major damage. But if left to fester, they can wreak havoc, demanding extensive seeding to be done in the fall.
It’s important to note that good lawn care practices that promote healthy soil and a thick lawn are natural preventative measures against disease. However, there are some lawn disease issues that are difficult to prevent and predict.
Lawn aeration, which is the process of making holes throughout your lawn by pulling small soil plugs (called “cores”) is one of the most important services for your lawn.
With the help of a special machine called a core aerator, the creation of these holes allows more oxygen, water, and nutrients to penetrate deep into the soil and down to your turf’s root zone, where it’s truly needed. This will allow your lawn to establish healthy roots and truly thrive.
In addition to developing a healthy root system, lawn aeration has other benefits as well. These include the following:
- Reduced Soil Compaction: The clay-like soil in our region can become easily compacted. But lawn aeration helps break up clay soil. That’s important because compacted soil does not allow for proper infiltration of oxygen, water, and nutrients.
- Breaking Up Thatch: The naturally-occurring, dead organic material that can build atop your soil is called “thatch,” and it’s a common concern in the Lehigh Valley. That’s because thatch build-up can create a layer that makes it difficult for oxygen, water, or nutrients to get through. Excessive thatch can also make your lawn more prone to disease or pests. But aeration will help thatch to breakdown more easily.
- Increased Microbial Life: The loosened soil will also increase the chance for beneficial microbial life. That’s because when there is more oxygen in the soil, more microorganisms can thrive. This can improve soil structure and natural processes that lead to a healthier, more resilient lawn.
DIY vs. Professional Aeration
While some homeowners may consider tackling lawn aeration on their own, there are many reasons why aeration is a service best-performed by a professional. For one, it’s more difficult than most people realize.
Rentable equipment is large and not necessarily easy-to-operate. That can make the job laborious. There is also some risk involved and, of course, you’ll be responsible for any damage you do.
Between the cost of the rental equipment and the intense labor that can be involved, it’s easy to deduct why hiring a professional is a preferred approach. On top of that, the results a professional will produce will likely be better.
The professional equipment used in a lawn aeration service will be able to produce a deeper plug depth that is more effective than what the average rental equipment will be able to produce.
At Joshua Tree, one thing that sets us apart is the fact that we perform a double pass core aeration. That means that we go over the lawn two complete times to ensure that we’re making as many lawn plugs as possible. That gives you the best possible results for your investment in the service.
Seeding a valuable service that even healthy lawns can benefit from. That’s because seeding can help improve your lawn’s overall health as well as boost its aesthetic appeal.
While lawn seeding seems like a simple enough process, there’s a bit more to it than most people realize. First of all, seeding is going to be most successful when conditions are right. Temperature-wise, seeding is best performed in fall. The warm soil and cool air provide the ideal growing conditions for new seedlings to germinate. Good seeding results are also reliant on loosened soil so that seedlings can root in. This is why it’s ideal to have lawn seeding performed at the same time as lawn aeration. The holes created by the core aerator provide excellent seed-to-soil contact.
(Before and after pictures of aeration and overseeding)
Though some homeowners attempt to seed on their own, it is beneficial to use a professional service for lawn seeding. Not only will a professional have access to a professional-grade core aerator to perform the aeration service, but they will also have better access to high-quality, professional-grade seed.
That’s a huge factor as the seed that is often purchased at big box stores may contain a lot of filler, weed seeds, and other undesirable grass species. Putting down low-quality seed could mean winding up with a lot of weeds in your lawn.
A professional will also be able to select the ideal species for your lawn. That means pairing the best species with the soil type and growing conditions. These are all important factors when it comes to the overall success of your lawn.
If your lawn is struggling with optimum color or vigor, it’s possible that you may have a problem with acidic soil. This is a common concern in the Lehigh Valley and is something that a soil test could reveal.
A lawn soil test is performed with the use of a small soil probe, which pulls approximately 10 to 15 cores of soil throughout your yard. Those cores are then sent to a lab where they will be analyzed for various elements including pH and the number of nutrients that your lawn has.
For example, should it be revealed that your lawn has too little phosphorus, then your lawn’s roots are going to struggle. Should it be determined you have too little potassium, your lawn will be more prone to environmental stressors. It’s important that your lawn’s nutrients are in balance.
You also want your lawn’s pH to be at the proper level in order to encourage an environment where your grass will thrive (and weeds will not). If it turns out your lawn’s soil is too acidic, as many are, then this can be remedied with a limestone treatment.
There’s no doubt that lawn care is complex. Considering its complicated nature, it’s no wonder that you may become frustrated when your lawn isn’t performing like you want it to. You might even wonder why your neighbor's lawn looks so much better than yours.
This may have led you to look for a lawn care company in Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton, PA. Whether it’s the first time you’ve hired a pro, or you’re looking to make a move to a more competent lawn care service, it’s important to find a worthy partner.
Finding a company that truly cares about your lawn’s needs and will serve as a helpful guide in getting your lawn to where you want it to be.
Choosing a Lawn Care Company
With all of the lawn care companies in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, PA, finding the right one may feel like a burden. While on the outside, it may seem as though lawn care companies are all the same, the truth is that everything from the services they offer to the level of training to even their professionalism can really differ. These differences are also the reason that you may find there are wide variations in the cost of lawn care services.
Although it can be time-consuming to perform research, that is the best way to narrow down your choices of lawn care companies and find the one that is best for you.
In the end, you want to be sure that you are investing in a lawn care company that is going to give you the best value. That does not mean the cheapest price. What you want is the best service for the price that you pay.
By choosing a lawn care company that is the best fit, you’ll achieve several key benefits:
- One key benefit is peace of mind. Instead of worrying and guessing about whether you’re performing the right tasks, you’ll know you’re covered. By putting your lawn care concerns and worries into the hands of a professional, you’ll know your lawn is getting exactly what it needs—and you won’t feel as though you have to become a lawn care expert yourself.
- You’re also taking an important step toward the best possible results. By performing your own lawn care, you might get lackluster or even negative results. But with a professional employing best practices and using professional-grade equipment and product, you’ll have a much healthier and greener lawn then you ever might have achieved on your own.
- And finally, you’ll also protect your investment. After all, your lawn is a valuable part of your property and you likely have an emotional investment in it as much as you do a cost investment. With a lawn care professional at the reins helping to ensure your lawn is safe from disease, pests, or environmental stressors that are out to damage it, you’ll be able to enjoy your lawn well into the future. Instead of having to invest in costly lawn repairs (or even total replacement), your lawn will be in optimal shape to survive and thrive.
Simply put, by choosing the right professional, you’ll be able to feel confident that your lawn is in good hands. That smart decision will ensure you have the beautiful and healthy lawn that you desire. Instead of having to learn more about each of these lawn care steps, they’ll be handled for you by professionals who know exactly what your lawn needs.
At Joshua Tree, we are here to help however you may need us. We know that lawn care can be confusing but we are here to answer any questions that you may have. We also have lawn care programs and services that can meet a variety of your needs. By choosing Joshua Tree, we can help put your lawn care worries to rest.
At Joshua Tree, we have a range of lawn care services to suit the differing needs of our clients. Let us help you find the one that is right for you. Request a free consultation or give us a call at 610-365-2200 and we’ll get your lawn on its way to being the best it can be.