Ultimate Lawn Care Guide: 12 Steps to a Prize-Winning Yard

A green lawn is the coveted prize of every homeowner. Nothing feels better than walking through the cool grass in your bare feet during summer. Though we love our own little piece of nature, most homeowners know a beautiful lawn doesn’t necessarily come naturally. It takes effort—and knowledge.


Learning how to plant grass seed and when to water and fertilize the lawn is a worthwhile endeavor. You may have learned how to mow a lawn when you were a kid, but you might not have mastered the balance between proper blade height and the perfect timing for mowing. (Hint: NOT when it’s scorching hot out.) Mowing the lawn becomes a breeze when you achieve zen in the art of lawn mower maintenance. Just like a car, your mower needs regular TLC. Weeds are inevitable unless you are vigilant with preventative care. Luckily, there’s no lack of options in both conventional and natural weed killers.


Still overwhelmed? There are beautiful grass alternatives that will render your yard nearly maintenance free. But with a bit of planning, and diligent upkeep throughout the year, you can cultivate the ultimate lawn and still have time to enjoy it. Check out our top 12 list of lawn care tips that will get you the yard of your dreams.


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  1. Start With the Right Seed

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    Not surprisingly, success lies in the seed. To make sure you sow the type of seed that works best for your climate, first consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Just remember—a green, lush lawn may need a couple of seasons to take hold. Be patient, follow proper care and watering, and you will be rewarded.

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  2. Consider Sod

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    If you opt for sod, know that it will be expensive to purchase and even more expensive if you want it installed professionally. The benefits, however, may outweigh the cost, because you will be able to enjoy your lawn immediately, and it will be less likely to endure weeds and lawn disease. You can also transplant sod once planted.

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  3. Fertilize Properly

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    Cool-season grasses (including Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue) benefit most from fertilizer in the fall; springtime is better for warm-season grasses (including zoysia and Bermuda). Start with a soil test to determine what nutrients may be required and then follow these guidelines to give your lawn a boost.

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  4. Get a Jump on Weeds

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    No matter how much you love your lawn, problems arise. If dandelions are your nemesis, spray them directly with diluted vinegar (an organic alternative to weed killer).  If it’s crabgrass—raise the mower blade higher and water less frequently.


    Related: 5 Common Lawn Care Problems—And How to Fix Them

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  5. Water Smart and Early

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    There is an art to watering a lawn. Water too much and your lawn will have deep—but sparse—roots. Water too little and your lawn will have many—but shallow—roots. The trick is finding the happy medium for your lawn. Consider watering your lawn early in the morning; the air is cooler and the winds calmer, so there will be less evaporation. 

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  6. Go for a Clean Cut

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    Mowing is not just a chore—done right, it’s one of the most effective ways to maintain healthy turf. Aim to take off no more than one-third of a blade’s height at once. This leaves enough leaf tissue so that the plant can continue photosynthesis. Start each season with a sharp blade for the cleanest cut.

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  7. Choose the Right Mower

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    When choosing a mower, it's important to consider both your needs and the needs of your lawn. Is your yard large or small? Are there many obstacles to navigate around? Are you able to push a mower for a long time? Consider your requirements and weigh the options before deciding on a manual, electric, or gas-powered mower, or, for larger yards, a riding mower or lawn tractor.


    Related: 10 Top-Rated Lawn Mowers

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  8. Maintain Your Machine

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    Over time, all mowers will require maintenance—whether it's sharpening the blades or changing the oil. A little bit of mow-how and maintenance can extend your mower's life and save you from having to rush off to the garden supply store to buy a new one every few years. Follow these maintenance and safety tips to keep everything running the way it should.

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  9. In the Fall, Fill In

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    When fall comes, you'll need to add a few new tasks to your lawn-care routine. Scratch up bare patches and put down some new seed to fill them in for next year. Consider using a natural fertilizer or compost tea that will work with the organisms in the soil to strengthen the roots, aerate the soil, and build your lawn’s resistance to drought.

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  10. Spring Into Lawn Care

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    When spring arrives, it’s time to get your lawn ready for the growing season ahead. You'll need to aerate the soil if it has become compacted, and build up low spots with topsoil. This is also the time to put down pre-emergent herbicides to prevent summer weeds. A solution of corn gluten meal now—before weeds germinate—will stop them in their tracks.


    Related: 5 Ways to a Greener Lawn

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  11. Think About Alternatives

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    In America, lawns occupy about 50,000 square miles, and many yards are planted with nonnative grass species that require extensive upkeep. Consider opting for a grass alternative or a different ground cover that can help fill patchy lawns, prevent hill erosion, and save water.

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  12. Go Artificial

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    If your image of artificial turf is, well, artificialyou would do well to take another look. Today's synthetic grass alternatives come in a variety of types, some of which have thatch and multifaceted blades that mimic the original. In addition to their realism, they are durable and stain- and fade-resistant, and require no mowing or watering.

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