At times, Northern Virginia lawn care can feel a bit elusive. You might wonder why some lawns look amazing while others are struggling with issues like bare patches, weeds, or discoloration. What’s the secret? What does it really take to get an amazing lawn?
It shouldn’t feel like it’s some big secret to achieve a great lawn. The truth is, amazing lawn care results don’t just happen on their own. It takes an investment of time and effort to achieve those results even if you’re working with a Northern Virginia lawn care company.
In fact, amazing lawn care results happen when you and your lawn care provider work together, particularly if there are certain services that you aren’t having professionally performed. Watering and mowing are two vital aspects of an amazing lawn that many homeowners tackle on their own.
We know there’s a lot to it—and it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to lawn care in Northern Virginia. We’ll cover all of the different aspects of lawn care that need to be on your radar. Whether you’re handling a Virginia lawn care schedule on your own or having a pro handle it for you, you want to ensure that they’re done right so that you can get the results you desire.
Table of Contents
- How to Water Your Lawn
- How to Mow Your Lawn Properly
- Testing and Improving Your Soil
- Fertilizing Your Lawn
- Controlling Lawn Weeds
- Preventing Lawn Diseases and Insects
- Lawn Aeration, Seeding, and Topdressing
- Hiring Lawn Services in Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA
How to Water Your Lawn
Lawn watering seems about as easy as it gets. But this is one of those tasks that is absolutely imperative to grow grass in Virginia, yet mistakes are often made. Most commonly, homeowners tend to think that their lawn is receiving ample water from rainfall when there are times it definitely needs more.
Of course, overwatering is also problematic and can lead to issues as well. That’s why we’ll talk about watering your lawn the right way.
Signs that You Should be Watering Your Lawn
How do you know if your lawn needs water? The two telltale signs of a lawn in need of water are when there are changes in color. Drought-stressed lawns usually change from dark or bright green to dull green, then yellow, and possibly even brown if it’s in bad shape.
The second sign is the appearance of footprints when you walk across the lawn. Drought-stressed grass will easily bend or crumple and then not stand back up.
What can be confusing is that overwatered lawns also change color (typically turning yellow and then brown, as the roots are drowned). We have spoken to homeowners who have assumed their lawns were drought-stressed so they kept watering (when in reality they were receiving too much).
A sign that you are overperforming on your lawn watering is a squishy, sponge-like lawn.
When to Water Your Lawn in Northern Virginia
The time to water is more important than people tend to realize. The best time to water a lawn is in the early morning because you provide ample time for the water to percolate down to the root zone where it’s needed before being lost to evaporation. You also give it ample time to dry out before nightfall.
The latter is important because watering left sitting on the lawn can actually lead to lawn fungus problems. That is due to the fact that turf disease relies on wet foliage for reproduction. Water left on the grass can create an environment where lawn fungus grows and spreads.
The Best Lawn Watering Schedule
How often you water is also important. Watering daily is likely more than necessary. Instead, stick to a lawn watering schedule or one to two times per week, depending upon rainfall.
When watering your lawn, try your best to perform a deep soaking that makes the soil moist to a few inches of depth. This probably means watering somewhere between 45 to 60 minutes.
How to Mow Your Lawn Properly
Lawn mowing is yet another task that seems relatively simple. And by no means do we want to imply that mowing is hard. However, there are “right” and “wrong” ways to mow that people don’t always consider. If you’re handling your lawn mowing on your own, you’ll want to follow these lawn mowing tips to ensure you’re doing everything right.
Mow Weekly for the Best Results
As far as how to mow your lawn properly, timing is everything.
Homeowners often don’t want to mow frequently, so they’ll let the lawn grow long and then make a dramatic cut when they finally get around to doing it. Unfortunately, this is very traumatic for the grass. You’re putting it under tremendous stress by allowing grass to get so tall between mowing services.
The best practice is to cut a maximum of one-third from the tip of the grass blade, no matter how long the grass is. Mowing more than one-third is just too stressful for the grass.
In order to keep up with this, we advise mowing weekly. Even if you feel like you can live with your lawn a little taller, mowing every two weeks as opposed to weekly mowing is simply not great for the overall health of your lawn because it means cutting too much at once.
Watch Your Grass Cut Height
As far as lawn mowing tips, in addition to how much you’re cutting at one time, cut height is also important. The optimal cut height is based on your grass type. Most residential lawns in Northern Virginia are made up of cool-season grasses (mostly tall fescue but also some bluegrass).
During the cooler season, these grasses can be cut to 3 inches. But during the warmer months, particularly summer, we recommend raising the mower height to 4 inches in order to help the grass, which is already being stressed by heat.
We know that people often express that they like their lawn extra short, but that’s just not healthy for the grass.
Sharpen Mower Blades
In general, lawn mowing can be stressful on the lawn but paying attention to how often you’re mowing and to what height you’re cutting the grass can help. On top of that, you’ll also want to avoid mowing the lawn with dull blades.
A dull blade can cause a traumatic injury to your lawn because you are literally ripping or shredding it as opposed to making a clean cut. This can cause a lawn to turn yellow or make it more prone to disease.
To avoid this, be sure to sharpen your mower blades. If you are using a professional to mow your lawn, they should be following through on this best practice. At Kingstowne, we sharpen our blades daily on every single mower.
If you mow your own lawn, you should sharpen the blade 2-3 times each year.
Testing and Improving Your Soil
When it comes to the best Northern Virginia lawn care, many people underestimate how important it is to have healthy soil. At the end of the day, your lawn is only as healthy as the soil that it is growing in and bad lawn soil can wreak havoc on the best intentions.
Lawn Soil Testing
So, how do you get a grip on the health of your soil? You can test lawn soil to determine what’s going on and whether changes need to be made. Soil testing and analysis will reveal what’s going on with your soil pH as well as the level of valuable nutrients that your lawn needs to thrive.
Lawn soil testing is a regular part of any of the three lawn care program options that Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape offers near Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA. That’s because we understand that in order to improve lawn soil, you must first know what’s actually going on.
Lawn soil in Northern Virginia tends to be naturally acidic, which can have a negative impact on the lawn. Acidic soil can cause a lawn to lose vigor and even grow weeds. A limestone application can help to correct this imbalance.
Additional Ways to Improve Lawn Soil
In addition to lawn soil testing and making amendments based on the results, also be sure to aerate annually to improve lawn soil. We call aeration the “cornerstone” of our lawn care program for good reason. It’s honestly one of the best things that you can have performed on your lawn.
Lawn aeration involves pulling cores of soil and making small holes throughout the lawn. The cores are left on the lawn to break down and add nutrients back into the soil. All of this allows the lawn to “breathe.”
For even better results, you can follow lawn aeration with topdressing. When topdressing is performed after lawn aeration, it allows the compost mixture to fall into the holes and mix with the clay soil. This improves soil structure.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Lawn fertilization is an important service that helps feed your grass plants the nutrients they need to thrive. The key nutrients that lawns need are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Each of these nutrients serves different functions for your grass.
These three nutrients are essential for plant function and are also the elements most deficient in soils. That means without lawn fertilization, your grass can’t perform its best.
When Should I Fertilize My Lawn in Virginia
A key to success with lawn fertilization is optimal timing.
At Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape, we start lawn fertilization in March. Sticking to the right Virginia lawn care schedule is key. We fertilize through the spring and summer and then move into what we call “winter fertilization,” in the fall. This helps to set the lawn up for success ahead of the winter months (and a period of dormancy).
Can’t I Just Fertilize On my Own?
When it comes to proper lawn fertilization, it makes sense to work with a pro. Fertilizer products can burn the lawn when applied at the wrong time or wrong rate of application. For instance, fertilization in the summer can quickly go awry as lawn burn is a lot more likely in the heat.
The fertilization products that a pro uses will also be higher quality and more effective than what homeowners typically pick up from the local hardware store. This will also mean getting better results for your investment.
Controlling Lawn Weeds
Lawn weed control is another vital task for Northern Virginia lawn care. We know that weeds are a common gripe. It’s very frustrating to see weeds creep into a lawn. But you can fight back. We’ll talk about Virginia lawn weeds that should be on your radar and how to deal with them.
Common Lawn Weeds in Virginia
Before you can figure out how to deal with weeds, you must first be able to identify them. Unfortunately, we deal with many weed varieties here in Northern Virginia. You can read the linked article to learn more about each weed type but here is a list of some of the most common.
- Common Chickweed
- White Clover
- Hairy Bittercress
- Wild Violet
- Spotted Surge
- Broadleaf Plantain
How to Get Rid of Weeds in Your Lawn
Whether you are dealing with one of the weeds above or others, the key to addressing Virginia lawn weeds is to work with a lawn care company that will take a customized approach to your problem. That’s because different lawn weeds require different methods of treatment.
Some weeds may be effectively controlled by one or two applications of a professional weed control product but others might need repeated applications. There are also some weeds that require specialty controls and won’t respond to anything else.
This is why it’s important that your weed control approach is customized to your needs.
When Virginia Lawn Weeds Keep Coming Back
Does it feel like the weeds in your lawn just keep growing?
Sometimes homeowners ask us why lawn weeds keep coming back. They might feel as though they've done all the right things and the weeds keep returning. There can be multiple reasons why this may happen (as discussed in the article linked above).
It could be that you are mowing your lawn too short, have a soil pH problem, or your weed control approach is flawed. It’s important to realize that not all weed control products are created equally. If you are tackling DIY weed control and using subpar products, you might not be seeing the best results.
At the end of the day, it boils down to investing in a Northern Virginia lawn care that takes a comprehensive lawn weed control approach. This means one that is varied (different products on different weeds at different times of the year) and also that includes high-quality products.
Preventing Lawn Diseases and Insects
Lawn care in Northern Virginia must also focus on addressing common diseases and insects that can cause trouble. You could be doing all the right things for your lawn only to have it decimated by a lawn fungus or lawn insects. But having a good understanding of these potential problems can set you up for success.
Lawn Diseases in Virginia
Getting a lawn fungus problem under control starts with identifying what type you are dealing with. These are some of the lawn diseases in Virginia that we see most often.
- Red Thread
- Dollar Spot
- Brown Patch
Get Rid of Lawn Fungus
As far as how you get rid of lawn fungus, there are lawn fungicide products that can be used to control the spores. While people sometimes ask about DIY lawn fungus control, you need to find a product that is specifically rated for the lawn disease you are dealing with in order for it to be effective. You also need to apply it properly.
Since lawn disease can be highly detrimental to the health of a lawn, homeowners would often rather leave it in the hands of a pro.
While you can’t necessarily prevent lawn diseases (sometimes, even a healthy lawn can be stricken), there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk. Some of the best practices we’ve already talked about above like mowing and watering properly are key. Lawn aeration and thatch reduction can also play a role in mitigating lawn fungus risk.
Like lawn diseases, lawn insects can also cause major trouble on your lawn. There are two primary lawn-destroying insects we identify on lawns.
- Lawn Grubs: Grubs are the small, c-shaped creatures that feed on grassroots. “Grubs” is the collective name for several species of beetles in their larval stage and usually start feeding on lawns around mid-August.
- Chinch Bugs: Chinch bugs are surface-feeding insects that eat the grass at the surface of your lawn. Chinch bugs cause damage by sucking out the plant fluids and injecting a toxin that can cause the grass to yellow, turn brown, and ultimately die. Oftentimes the first sign of a chinch bug problem is the grass changing color.
Get Rid of Lawn Insects
Just like dealing with different diseases, the key to getting rid of lawn insects is to know what you’re dealing with and implement the right solution.
For lawn grubs, the best option is a preventative control product that takes care of a grub problem before it causes any significant damage. A preventative program addresses young grubs as they hatch, not allowing them an opportunity to feed on your lawn.
The best way to address chinch bugs is to apply insect control materials and also manage excess thatch by having lawn aeration performed each year. This will break up compacted soil and improve microbial activity that will help to naturally break down excessive thatch layers where chinch bugs thrive.
Lawn Aeration, Seeding, and Topdressing
Lawn aeration in Virginia is one of the best things that you can do for the health of your lawn. Because of the clay soil here in Northern Virginia, lawn soil tends to get very compacted. When this occurs, water, oxygen, and nutrients cannot make their way down to the grassroots, where they are needed.
But during lawn aeration, a professional core aerator is used to extract small cores from the soil and leave them there to break down and filter back into the earth. This helps to break down the compaction and allows your lawn to breathe.
Seeding Your Lawn
Lawn seeding is best performed after aerating your lawn because it provides optimal seed-to-soil contact that new grass needs to germinate. When you have lawn seeding performed after aeration, the seeds fall into those holes that were created.
Fall is the best time for seeding because of the weather conditions. The soil is still warm but the air is cool so your lawn isn’t under a lot of added stress.
Topdressing Your Lawn
To get the truly best results, topdressing can be performed at the end of lawn aeration and seeding to finish things off. Topdressing is the act of applying high-quality compost to the lawn. When this is performed after aerating your lawn, the topdressing will also fall into the holes and mix with the clay soil, improving overall soil structure.
Hiring Lawn Services in Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA
Now that you know everything involved with lawn care in Northern Virginia, you might be wondering how you can possibly do it all on your own. The good news is that instead of worrying about it yourself, you can hand these tasks over to a professional lawn care service in Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA.
Of course, making that choice is easier said than done. You want to make sure that you choose a company that is going to deliver amazing results and also offer the best possible customer service. You may have worked with a company offering professional lawn care in Northern Virginia in the past and been unhappy with that experience. Or you may have heard some horror stories from other homeowners.
We have written an entire article on choosing a lawn care company that provides some things to look out for as you perform your search.
We have also written an article on questions that you can ask as you search for lawn care services.
At the end of the day, your lawn care company should be making things easy and convenient for you.
When you choose the best lawn care service for your needs, you’ll finally start seeing the lawn care results that you desire without a lot of hassles and headaches to deal with on your end. By performing some due diligence on the front end, you can feel confident that you’re making a wise choice and will be happy with your decision.
That means getting back to enjoying your lawn to the fullest.
If you want to be able to feel confident your lawn is getting everything that it needs from a lawn care company in Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA, request your quote, choose from 3 lawn care program options, and relax as you get the royal treatment.