Get Off My Lawn! Unless You're Going To Maintain It!
May 9, 2011 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I need a introductory-level book on lawn care.

After eighteeen years of living in apartments, I bought a home nearly two years ago. Taking care of the house itself is no great shakes, but beyond regular mowing of the lawn, I'm at a loss for how to maintain it.

The previous homeowner was apparently a bit of garden buff, because in my backyard I have three large bushes of knockout roses, and several other varieties of flowering plants that I've not identified yet. The front yard has flowering bushes and a large lawn.

What I need is a good book that can take me by the hand and lead me through the basics, such as:

-How to mow. I can push a lawnmower back and forth, but is there anything else I need to know about mowing a lawn?

-How to get rid of crabgrass. I've got some in the front lawn.

-How to "even out" one's lawn. Apparently there was a large tree in my front lawn a few years ago that came down due to a storm. A neighbor dug out the stump and surrouding roots. The good news is that it's all gone, but the bad news is that the ground is terribly uneven in that part of the lawn, and I'm afraid someone will fall and twist an ankle (I've already fallen myself there).

-How to weed! I have all these flowers and no clue on how to get rid of the weeds that are springing up.

-How to get rid of wild onions. I have so many, my lawn smells like an onion salad after I mow.

-How to get rid of grass/weeds/wtc. that are springing up where you don't want them. In the seams of my driveway, grass is working it's way up through the cracks.

I'm sure there's other concerns, but I don't know what I don't know, as it were, so I'm hoping a good introductory book will help me out.

I'm aware of this thread, this thread and this thread, and some of my questions may be addressed in the books and web sites recommended in those threads (such as how to weed). But I need something that's less about gardening, and more about lawns.

Thanks in advance!

(I'm in Kentucky, by the way).
posted by magstheaxe to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on the predominant type of grass in your lawn, this book might be helpful. Be warned, though, that it's pretty dry reading. It's an academic text, and it's not a lot of fun. It may be more than you're looking for. I read large swaths of it to prepare for my Certfied Professional Turfgrass Manager exam (which is a real thing in Texas).

You may find it useful to address your problems individually through targeted googling. For instance, here are the results for "wild onion control."

and FYI, your best bet to control crabgrass is the proper and timely application of pre-emergent herbicide. The best herbicide for post-emergent control, MSMA, has been taken off the market as of this year. There's not a very good alternative yet. But all the products you should need are available at Home Depot or Lowe's or the like. The staff there can proably help you decide what you need.
posted by Shohn at 9:14 AM on May 9, 2011

I think what is usually said in any plant based thread is visit your local county extension.

Around here, they regularly (read 3+ times a year) have a turf builders class. You pay $20, and from 9am to 1pm on Saturday (box lunch/working lunch included) can take some 4 classes (6 or 8 are usually offered) that talk about just these things. (How to mow, weed management, landscaping, what to plant grass wise, what to plant local/native plant wise, soil, etc).

The working lunch sometimes has equipment demos (how to use an aerator, a de-thathcher, how to sharpen your mower blade, etc).

The same extension office will do things like soil testing for your yard (again, something like$12-$20).

From your profile, I'm guessing this is your local extension. Though a quick skim didn't show what I'm suggesting.

(So the next bet is the local master gardeners web page/group .. EG my local master gardeners web page has lots of answers to your questions, but specific to my area.. )
posted by k5.user at 9:16 AM on May 9, 2011

I follow the Jerry Baker bible.
posted by sanka at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2011

Best answer: Your local Home Depot or Lowe's will have an entire rack of introductory lawn care books. Pick one. It ain't rocket science, the books are all going to say essentially the same thing. Another idea, if you have a neighbor that clearly knows their way around the yard, ask them for guidance.
posted by COD at 10:23 AM on May 9, 2011

Best answer: Be aware that a book you get at Home Depot might be heavy on the side of "buy a bunch of chemicals from us every year". (Lots of good info too - just worth saying, you don't necessarily need to go the chemical route)
Here's a set of basic organic lawn care techniques.

There's also a lot of good advice in past threads here on lawn, grass, and yard issues.

I'm no expert, but here are a few things I've seen recommended or dealt with:
-One thing to consider is whether you have crabgrass or something else like quackgrass - they spread differently and thus different techniques control them.
-Roundup is an herbicide chemical (which you buy at Home Depot and spray on) that can kill weeds and which is relatively safe as these things go. It disappears quickly, unlike some others that can linger in the soil or groundwater and thus shouldn't be used except in really dire circumstances. Be careful in applying it so you don't kill things you want to keep. For example, you can use to kill a good-sized patch of weeds, but not the weeds that are in among the flowers you want to keep.
-Weeding among flowers is something you just have to get down and do periodically. You'll learn which are the bad plants and which are the good ones through experience. See if your county extension or a gardening friend can come over and help you figure out what plants you have. You can put down mulch to suppress weeds, though you'll still need to do some weeding.

Mowing advice:
-don't cut the grass too short. It will need more watering and be more vulnerable to weeds.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:04 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

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