5 Ways to Save Money on Lawn Care

Lawn

Lawn (Photo credit: प्रतीक)

When we bought a place in May, I became the person with the primary responsibility for lawn care for the first time in my life. Sure, as a kid, I mowed the lawn for my parents, but that was the extent of my involvement. I wasn’t affected by the price of gas or maintenance.

Now, it’s all on me. My father-in-law would mow for us until we got our own lawn mower, but would subtly remind us each week that we needed to get our own. Watering was a completely new experience for me. In NJ, the grass grows pretty well on just rain. If you tried that in Colorado, you’d have a dead lawn by the end of the month.

Because I’m frugal, I’ve been doing my best to get and keep the lawn looking presentable while spending as little as possible. Here are five ways I’ve learned to save money on lawn care.

Frugal Lawn Care Tip #1: Fertilize once in the spring

Use a time-release fertilizer once in the spring. Depending on the conditions, maybe again mid-summer. But fertilizing several times throughout the year is a waste of money. Plus, the excess nitrogen from the fertilizer just runs off into the water system causing algae and other problems.

Frugal Lawn Care Tip #2: Leave the grass longer

Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. This is usually accomplished my pushing a lever on the wheels, raising the body up. Taller grass actually needs less water. This sounds wrong, but it’s true. The roots of a grass are generally as deep as the grass is tall. When you cut your grass, it sheds off the excess root. So longer grass equals more roots for pulling water from the soil and storing it.

So tall grass will stay green longer with less watering. And since water costs money (unless you have a well, but still probably use electricity to power the pump), saving water saves money.

Frugal Lawn Care Tip #3: Don’t water wet ground

Everybody laughs at sprinklers running in the rain, but it still happens all the time. Even if it’s not raining, you may not need to water if it’s been wet recently. Find an inconspicuous place and dig a small, 2″ deep hole. If the soil is damp throughout the depth, then the grass doesn’t need water.

Watering wet grass is a waste of money, can lead to spread of fungal diseases, and is just bad for the environment.

Frugal Lawn Care Tip #4: Use a reel mower

English: Reel lawn mower

English: Reel lawn mower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I finally appeased my father-in-law by buying a lawn mower (he was starting to joke about getting me a one for Christmas), I bought a reel mower. A reel mower is the old-school style lawn mower where the blades are spun by the manual pushing of the mower. Many people seem to have forgotten that this is how people mowed the lawn back before the internal combustion engine.

My using a reel mower instead of a gas-powered mower, you will never have to buy gasoline. That’s better for the environment and better for your wallet.

Frugal Lawn Care Tip #5: Know when to give up

The entire property on the west side of my home is in the shade of a neighbor’s tree. Grass just doesn’t grow that well. In a spot like that, you could spend hundreds of dollars a year trying to get it too look like rest of the lawn.

So I didn’t even bother. Instead, I’ve been putting in a spreading ground cover that requires little light or water.

Do you have any other tips for saving money on lawn care?

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19 thoughts on “5 Ways to Save Money on Lawn Care

  1. I am the worst landscaper in the entire world. I’ve tried and tried, but our lawn just looks terrible. Of course, it didn’t help that we didn’t get any rain during from the end of May until the middle of July. My money saving tip is that I just try to close my eyes and not notice my weeds:)
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..I Need to Lose WeightMy Profile

    • They are talking about drought restrictions over here but I still see the sprinklers going on the community greens regardless of how heavy it’s raining.

  2. One thing that I’ve heard some people doing is setting up a barrel connected to their roof gutter system to save money on watering their lawn. I haven’t had a lawn since I was living with my mom during high school. It does seem like a lot of work to properly maintain it all.
    Modest Money recently posted..August 10th 2012 Blog UpdateMy Profile

    • That’s actually illegal in Colorado. Water is a property right separate from the land, so some farmer owns the rain that falls on my roof.

  3. Ugh, lawn maintenance is one of the worst things ever. I have to say, I’m surprised to hear that people water their lawns regularly – I thought that was only on TV! My grass has been brown and dead for months. (But hey, less mowing!)

    I’d love to have a reel mower, but unfortunately my yard is over an acre and I’d probably die from heat stroke. It’s riding mower all the way for me! That said, mine does remarkably well on gas. It probably costs me less than $40 a year.

    It’s so interesting to consider all the different practices related to lawn care in different parts of the country! I’m still blown away by the idea of watering grass. I just had my landscaping redone, so I’m watering the new plants every other evening, but I can’t wrap my head around spending money to water the lawn itself.
    Andrea @SoOverThis recently posted..Link Love: Back to School EditionMy Profile

    • Yeah, an acre might be a bit tough with a reel. I do remember mowing my grandfather’s acre lawn with a push mower back when I was 12.

      I always laughed at the people who watered their lawn, until I moved to Colorado.

  4. Good tips, and I like the last one: knowing when to give up. I experience that type of situation in the past, where for some unknown reason grass just wouldn’t take in a certain spot in the lawn. After a few years of working on it, only to see grass die out, I gave up. Not worth the time and energy to force things!

    • What did you wind up doing with the spot? Grass isn’t taking to the area between my shed and the house, so I’m probably just going to put in a walkway.

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  6. it has been a brutal summer here in the midwest, and our yard really paid the price.. we tried to keep up with watering for a bit, but after a while.. it became apparent that we were only helping the weeds survive, and our grass just wasn’t made for week after week of blistering heat. after that, we just gave up, and now our yard needs about 48 hours of consecutive manual de-weeding. that isn’t going to be fun.

    what we didn’t do this year was fertilize in the spring (as you suggest), and i wish that we had. those spring fertilizers also include a pre-emergent, which really cuts down on the ability of weeds to survive..

    • I know exactly what you mean. I tried to put some new grass seed down in the bare patches when I moved in, but this summer made it impossible to keep the seed moist enough to sprout.

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  9. Awesome tips, Edward. Although reel mowers are great money savers, it takes too much time to mow my lawn. For small gardens it is a perfect solution, however, those who have big yards will still need to use gas or electric lawn mowers. =((

    • I understand that. Our new place came with a gas mower and it takes as long to mow this yard, which is twice as large, as it did to use the reel mower on the smaller one.

  10. Personally I harvest rain water and use it to water my lawn. However, I do not like reel mowers because it takes too much time to mow the lawn. Anyway, thanks for your tip!

    • Rainwater harvesting is actually illegal in Colorado because water is a separate property right and diverting it from the owner is considered theft.

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