Get Off My Lawn: How to Protect Your Lawn from Weeds, Pests, and Intruders
Achieving the ideal beautiful lawn and maintaining it consistently often seems like an impossible task. However, having a well-kept lawn is extremely important not only for property value, but for your enjoyment and security inside a home. Whether you are a landlord maintaining your rental property for active tenants, a homeowner actively showing your property, or renting a house that offers minimal or no lawn care services, proactive and thorough lawn care is essential. There are many steps you can take to improve the quality and consistency of your lawn or backyard while minimizing the costs of professional landscaping or pest control services. Keep your home safe and your lawn healthy with these tips:
Reducing Weed Growth
The best way to minimize the growth of weeds is to maintain a healthy and full lawn. Be sure to fertilize your lawn regularly, about every 6 weeks, to keep the grass thick and thriving. The thicker and healthier your grass is, the less space weeds have to grow. Apply a specific weed preventer along with your fertilizer for the weeds that are in season. You should also consider aerating and dethatching your lawn occasionally, as this can also improve the strength of your lawn and reduce pest infestations. You can rent aerators and dethatching rakes to do this yourself or hire a professional lawn company.
The most commonly made mistake in lawn care is mowing excessively. Although mowing on a regular basis keeps your lawn looking sharp, mowing a little less often actually protects your lawn from weeds. Instead of mowing every week, try every other week or wait until your grass is one-third above the ideal mowing height. Additionally, mowing your grass at a taller height reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the soil, making it more difficult for weeds to sprout. The ideal mowing height depends on the type of grass you have, but generally most grasses should remain 1 to 3 inches long. Pull up a patch of grass and take it to a local gardening center to have it identified and find out the ideal length for your grass type.
The third way to build a strong and healthy lawn and prevent weed growth is to water deeply and not so often. Deep and infrequent watering will promote the growth of longer roots compared to frequent, shallow watering. This makes your grass more resilient and crowds out weeds.
Of course, opting to use mulch or another grass alternative in areas of your yard where grass struggles to grow makes weed management much easier.
There are many different types of weeds that grow at different times of the year and require different removal techniques.
Broadleaf weeds: Have flat leaves (ex. clovers, dandelions, thistle). You can spot-kill broadleaf weeds using a pressure sprayer with herbicide. You can also use a tank sprayer or dial sprayer for larger patches of broadleaf weeds. Be cautious using broadleaf herbicide, as it will also harm any plants or flowers you have planted.
Perennial grassy weeds: Resemble grass in shape, remain dormant throughout winter and reemerge in the spring (ex. quack grass). It is best to remove perennial weeds one by one via a general use plant killer. Using a protective rubber glove and exterior cloth glove, individually coat the weeds with herbicide.
Annual grassy weeds: Resemble grass in shape, die off in the winter and new weeds grow in the spring (ex. crab grass). Use weed preventers with your fertilizer to stop the growth of these weeds, hand-pull clumps as they emerge, or spot treat clumps with a post-emergence killer that is specific to the weed type.
Preventing Pest Infestations
Even with a healthy lawn, pest infestations can be hard to control. Take the following precautions to reduce the risk of pests in your yard:
- Keep your lawn clean: Be sure to remove unused items or junk, as these make great homes for many types of insects. Ensure that all outdoor furniture is stored properly when not in use, and cover it or bring it inside when it rains, especially if you have cushioned furniture that will stay moist for a long period of time.
- Avoid standing water: Puddles, ponds, and fountains are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Fill in areas of your yard that collect excessive water during rains, and add pumps to decorative bodies of water to keep it from being stagnant.
- Regularly trim your lawn: Keeping tall grass, shrubbery, and weeds at bay is the best way to avoid a pest infestation. Consistently trimming your lawn will also help you to notice evidence of any pests right away. Keep about a foot of space between any plants or branches and your house so pests can’t find easy routes indoors.
- Proper firewood storage: It’s important for all outdoor objects to be stored properly, especially firewood. Ensure that it is completely dry when you store it, keep it in a covered area on a shelf or stand above the ground, and ideally store it at least 3 feet away from the house or any building.
Treating Pest Infestations
When you realize that you have signs of a pest infestation, it’s probably best to call a pest control company. However, there are a variety of pesticides you can purchase that target different kinds of pests. This can be a simple and cost-effective solution, especially if you catch the infestation early on. If you decide to deal with pests yourself, it’s always smart to get a professional inspection to be sure you’ve cleared the infestation fully.
Of course, the first step to treating an infestation is identifying the pest. Getting a professional opinion is a smart option here as well so you can be certain you are using the proper treatment. Typically, there are specific pesticides for specific pest groups, all of which can be found at a home & garden store like Lowe’s. For example, most types of ants can be treated with diatomaceous earth or a similar mechanical pesticide. There are sprays designed to kill mosquitoes and ticks, caterpillars, and worms. Most small mammal pests such as voles, gophers, and moles, can be treated with small traps, but be aware of state laws around trapping animals and follow proper safety precautions.
Warding Off Intruders
The state of your front lawn and backyard can have a large impact on your overall property security and its attractiveness to potential intruders. A home security system is the best way to protect your property and belongings, but there are additional safety measures you can take to deter burglars from even stepping foot on your lawn.
- Install a large fence: Having a solid fence with a locked gate is essential for deterring unwanted visitors. Opt for a tall fence that cannot be easily climbed or seen through, or even one with spikes at the top.
- Hide or secure outdoor valuables: Keep items like grills, lawn mowers, and sound systems out of sight to decrease the chances of your house being targeted.
- Install a fake security system: If you don’t want a real security system, you can still put up fake signs and obvious cameras as a deterrent.
- Landscape with purpose: In addition to keeping your lawn trimmed and clean to reduce easy hiding spots and shadows, you can strategically add thorny plants such as cacti to make it difficult for an intruder to navigate the yard.
- Install motion sensor lights: Motion sensing lights are an effective security measure and are more energy efficient than permanent outdoor lights. You can install them on all sides of the home.
Overall, giving your lawn regular care and attention can have a number of benefits for your property value and security. Staying proactive with lawn care can save you time and money on intensive professional services or large projects.