How to Cultivate a Lawn

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Lawn and Garden
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This guide will provide you with the necessary steps to start and cultivate the perfect lawn for your needs.

The first step is planning your landscape and lawn by sketching out a map of how you intend to use the space. You need to consider the activities you plan to engage in on your lawn and plan accordingly.

We will show you how to enhance every lawn and landscape with movement by properly planning the movement of light, wind, water, and traffic across your lawn. You will also learn how to add lawn accents that will make your landscape attractive and appealing to visitors.


  • How to Mow Your Lawn
  • How Grass Works
  • How to Control Garden Growth
  • Composting

The selection of grass and plants is as important as every other step in cultivating your lawn. You need to choose grasses, foliage, ground cover, and other plants that are suitable for your climate and soil conditions. Our recommendations for grass selection will guide you in selecting for soil moisture, light availability, and expected growth heights. You can also use various ornamental grasses to accentuate your lawn, and we will show you how.

With your planning done and plant selections complete, you need to choose the method you will use to start your lawn. We have provided helpful advice on using seed, sod, and plugs, including the benefits and possible drawbacks of each method.

Lastly, we will show you how to cultivate and propagate ground cover to complete your lawn.

On the next page, you will learn about preparing for lawn design.

For more information on lawn care and related topics, try these:

  • Gardening: Make a garden part of your home’s landscape.
  • Types of Lawnmowers: Which mower is best for your lawn?

Preparing for Lawn Design

A well-designed lawn should blend seamlessly into your home’s landscape. A careful design can ensure that your lawn perfectly supports the other elements of your home’s surroundings.

However, a beautifully designed landscape may not be practical if it doesn’t accommodate the needs of the people who use the property. Before making a plan for your space, discuss with the members of your household the needs and plans for the use of the landscape.

With a sketch pad, plot the relationships between indoor and outdoor space in your landscape design.

Before making the actual plan, make a list of desired functions that you want to include, such as a sitting/dining area, clothesline, barbecue, dog pen, wind protection, vegetable garden, compost, lawn recreation, children’s play area, and firewood storage.

Draw a simple sketch showing the general location of the elements needed in relation to the house and to one another. For example, if you need an outdoor eating area, sketch it near the kitchen, and firewood storage should be convenient to the door nearest the fireplace.

The initial stages of creating a plan can be aided by a relationship diagram. It is important to determine the amount of maintenance you are willing to commit to for your yard and garden.

If your house is visible from the road, think of it as the focal point of a picture and frame the view appropriately to draw attention to it. Foundation plantings are an effective way to transition between the house and the landscape, consisting of evergreens, flowering shrubs, ornamental trees, ground covers, and herbaceous plants. Consider the shade when choosing trees as deciduous trees provide shade in summer and sunlight in winter. Ensure that service areas are screened from public view.

Plan for outdoor living areas in your landscape, such as a service area for tools, a doghouse, clothesline, or potting area. If children will use the landscape, consider including a play area, separate from the eating and entertaining area with a low border. Design a private entertaining and eating area as you would a comfortable room in your house. The size of the area should be determined by the number of people it will accommodate. A patio or terrace with an adjacent lawn is ideal, with privacy from neighbors and shade achieved through the proper selection and placement of screening materials and trees.

Create a functional sketch that groups related functions together. Plot the relationship between indoor and outdoor space, designating space for each function in your landscape design. A lawn plan is the first step in creating your property design.

Gather ideas from public gardens to inspire your own landscaping design. Before you start buying and planting, draw a to-scale map of your property to determine where new beds and plantings will go. Use graph paper to sketch the perimeter of your yard and existing features such as trees, shrubs, and fences, and make copies to experiment with designs. Pencil in possible bed outlines and plants at proper spacing before determining the shape of your lawn. Take photos of your yard and enlarge them on a color copier to sketch in prospective new plants. Borrow ideas from neighbors’ gardens and visit public gardens and nurseries with display beds for inspiration.

Lawn Traffic Flow Design

Paths, walks, and driveways should direct traffic safely and comfortably. Entrance walks should be at least four feet wide, while service and rear-entry paths should be three to four feet wide. Garden paths should be designed for easy strolling and access during maintenance. All paths should be flush with the ground and steps and grade changes should be stable, safe, and well-lighted.

In the upcoming section, you’ll learn about the significance of movement in your landscape garden.

For more information on lawn care and related topics, try these:

  • Landscaping: Incorporate a garden into your home’s outdoor space.
  • Types of Lawnmowers: Select the best mower for maintaining your lawn.

Movement in Landscape Gardening

These flowers sway gently in the breeze.

When planning how to integrate your lawn into your landscape garden, it’s important to consider the direction and amount of sunlight and shade throughout the day and year. Understanding the sun’s movements relative to the garden’s features will help you determine plant placement and selection. In the summer, the sun rises north of the east-west line and exposes all sides of a house to sunlight, producing short shadows. Conversely, in the winter, the sun rises south of the east-west line, casting long shadows from structures and plants.

Choose plants that are best suited to the natural effects of light exposure. The sun has varying effects throughout the day and the introduction of shade creates daily changes in color and mood. A plant that thrives in full sun may endure some afternoon shade, but a shade-loving plant may scorch in direct sunlight.

The morning garden has different characteristics than it does in the afternoon. During the summer, a shady garden may be illuminated by sunlight that then turns into dappled shade as the sun rises higher. The angle of the sun also changes how plants and structures appear. Sun and shade patterns constantly shift, altering the garden’s atmosphere throughout the day and year.

Movement in the garden is attractive to visitors. Water features, like cascading pools, always draw attention. Grow plants that will attract guests; hummingbirds and butterflies are among the easiest and most beautiful to entice. Provide natural food for caterpillars and plenty of nectar-rich flowers for hummingbirds to keep your garden buzzing with activity.

Water gardens add to the appeal of landscape garden design.

Use plants to emphasize the movement of the wind as it passes through the garden. Plants with delicate leaves flutter like birds, adding interest through motion. Many plants, particularly ornamental grasses with tall seed heads, produce a soft rustle as seed rubs against seed, creating a natural wind chime. Summer breezes bring a romantic quality to the garden, carrying fragrances like phlox and moonvine on the air. Scent is one of the garden’s most subtle and delightful features; as fragrance wafts through the garden, visitors will feel invigorated and inspired.

In the next section, you’ll learn how to incorporate lawn accents into your landscape design.

For more information on lawn care and related topics, try these:

  • Create a garden that is part of your home’s landscape.
  • Decide on the best type of lawnmower for your lawn.

Adding Lawn Accents

Adding lawn accents can spruce up a yard that lacks flow. A birdbath is an excellent focal element that adds movement to a garden, whether it is on the ground or on its own pedestal. You may already have an object at home that can serve as a bathing bowl for birds. A large terra-cotta flowerpot saucer, about 18 to 24 inches wide and an inch or two high, works well when filled with fresh water. Birds like it because it’s shallow and they can perch on the rim. Set your birdbath on a paved terrace or another area that is visible from indoors so that you can watch the birds splash around and keep track of who visits for a bath or a drink. To keep the water clean and prevent mosquitoes from breeding, change the water every day. You can also use the old birdbath water to water a deserving plant. In the following section, you will learn how to choose lawn grasses and foliage. For more information on lawn care, you can refer to the following:

  • Create a garden that is part of your home’s landscape.
  • Decide on the best type of lawnmower for your lawn.

Choosing Lawn Grasses and Foliage

Use these charts to help you select plants for your annuals garden that have colorful foliage, fruits, or seedpods. These grasses, bushes, and foliage bearers can add to you annuals garden.

The first chart indicates appropriate soil moisture levels, the second chart indicates appropriate light levels, and the third chart indicates expected height of each plant.


Dry Soil

Average Soil

Moist Soil


x x

Amaranth, Globe

x x

Asparagus Fern




Begonia, Tuberous

x x

Burning Bush

x x



Castor Bean

x x

Cloud Grass

x x


x x



Dusty Miller

x x

Geranium, Ivy-Leaf

The following table lists different plants and their sunlight requirements, divided into three categories: Full Sun, Part Shade, and Full Shade. Bulbs are marked with an asterisk. Some of the plants listed include Geranium, Other, Geranium, Zonal, Golden Top, and Ornamental Cabbage, Kale. Coleus and Geranium, Ivy-Leaf are suitable for Part Shade, while Dracaena and Geranium, Ivy-Leaf can tolerate Full Shade. Castor Bean and Burning Bush are plants that require Full Sun.

The table shows a list of various types of plants, categorized by their height, whether they are annuals or bulbs, and if they are vining. The first section of the table includes bulb plants such as impatiens, Job’s Tears, and love-in-a-mist. The second section of the table includes annual plants that are under 12 inches, 12-24 inches, over 24 inches, or vining. Examples of annual plants include basil, burning bush, and coleus. Dusty miller and various types of geraniums are also listed.

The table shows a list of plants with checkboxes, where “x” indicates the plant’s suitability for a specific purpose. The plants include Impatiens, Job’s Tears, Gourds, Love-in-a-Mist, Moses-in-a-Boat, Ornamental Cabbage, Kale, Corn, Peppers, Perilla, Polka Dot Plant, Quaking Grass, Snow-in-Summer, Wheat Grass, and Wild Oats. The recommendations are intended to suggest the average conditions suitable for these plants across a wide geographic area, and it’s important to consider local requirements. The article suggests planting white and green flowers alongside ornamental grasses and foliage to create an attractive annuals garden. The following section explains how to use ornamental grasses in your lawn, which can add uniqueness and require varying levels of maintenance depending on your preferences. Ornamental grasses come in different colors, textures, and sizes and can be used as a specimen or massed planting for screening, accent, focal point, or framing a view. Cool-season and warm-season grasses are categorized based on their growth patterns, and some ornamental grasses are perennials while others are treated as annuals due to their tender nature.

Cool-season grasses grow quickly and bloom early in the season, offering a fine display through winter when frost comes. On the other hand, warm-season grasses remain dormant in winter and prefer hot, long days. Ornamental grasses can be grouped based on how they grow: some form dense clumps, while others spread by stolons or rhizomes. Clump grasses are easier to use and require ample space to grow, while spreading grasses can quickly invade other nearby plantings. Ornamental grasses require little maintenance and prefer well-drained soil in full sun, with low fertilizer needs. They make excellent ground covers, screens, and specimen plants, and are well-suited to container growing. When planting ornamental grasses, make sure to check your state’s weed list to avoid invasive varieties.

Planting Lawn Seed: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Designing Your Landscape: Create a Beautiful Garden at Home
  • Choosing the Right Lawnmower: A Guide to Different Types

When it comes to planting a new lawn or renovating an old one, there are several factors to consider to ensure a healthy and beautiful lawn. In this article, we will guide you through the process of planting lawn seed, including selecting the right type of grass, preparing the soil, and caring for your seedlings.

Choosing the Right Grass Seed
The first step in planting lawn seed is to choose the right type of grass for your region and climate. Most lawn grasses fall into two categories: cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. Cool-season grasses thrive in cooler temperatures and may go dormant in hot weather, while warm-season grasses typically remain green throughout the summer. You should also consider whether you want a bunching or creeping grass, depending on the intended use of your lawn.

Preparing the Soil
Before planting, it’s important to prepare the soil to ensure optimal growing conditions. Start by having your soil tested to determine if any soil amendments are needed, such as lime or fertilizer. Grade the soil to ensure proper drainage, remove any debris, and cultivate the soil thoroughly. If you’re renovating an existing lawn, follow the same steps on a smaller scale.

Planting the Seed
Once your soil is prepared, it’s time to plant the seed. The best time to plant cool-season grasses is in early fall, so the grass has time to establish before the first frost. Use a hand spreader to sow the seed at the recommended rate, then gently rake the seed into the top layer of soil. Roll the area with a lawn roller to ensure good seed-to-soil contact, and lightly mulch with straw to shade the soil and prevent drying.

Caring for Your Seedlings
After planting, it’s important to keep the top layer of soil moist but not waterlogged. Water with a fine spray several times a day until the seedlings become established, then switch to regular irrigation. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and fertilize as needed to promote healthy growth.

By following these steps, you can ensure a healthy and thriving lawn for years to come. For more information on lawn care and related topics, check out our other articles.

The article provides a guide on how to install sod and plug a lawn. Sod is a commercially produced turf that is available in cool-season and warm-season varieties. To lay sod, the soil must be smooth and free from lumps, bumps, and holes. Unroll strips of sod and piece them together like a puzzle without stretching or overlapping them. Fill in any visible joints with topsoil and roll the new lawn to ensure close contact between the roots and the soil. Cool-season sod can be installed any time of the year, while warm-season sod should be installed in spring or summer.

On the other hand, planting pieces of sod or plugs is the best way to establish rapidly spreading lawn grasses such as Zoysia and Bermudagrass. Plugs are 2×2-inch pieces of sod that are planted individually 12 inches apart during the warm season. With proper care, the plugs take root and rapidly spread by rhizomes or stolons. Sprigs, shredded pieces of sod, are planted either by hand or by spreading them onto the bed and gently cultivating them into the top inch of soil. Each piece of rhizome will root into the soil and send up new leaves and rhizomes in a short time.

Tips for Planting Ground Covers

A strong root system is essential for a healthy ground cover.

Utilizing all of your garden space is easy with ground covers. The key to a successful ground cover is to ensure even thickness by setting plants at regular spacing from the start. Begin by preparing the ground as you would for any garden bed. Use a wire or string grid with evenly spaced openings to help distribute the plants. Consider these tips for easier, trouble-free planting:

  • Use landscape fabric instead of plastic to reduce weeds in large plantings. Landscape fabric allows air and water to move freely, unlike plastic. Lay it down before planting and cut holes for your ground cover. When covered with mulch, the fabric prevents light from reaching the soil, stopping most weed seeds from sprouting.
  • Use burlap to hold barren soil in place on slopes. This prevents erosion while the ground cover becomes established. Secure the burlap into the soil to prevent it from slipping when rain makes the soil heavy and wet. Cut modest openings in the burlap and plant one ground cover in each.

Once the ground cover has a strong root system and can secure nearby soil from erosion, gradually enlarge the openings and allow it to spread until it fills out the slope.

  • Use a wire grid stretched over the bed to set ground cover plugs in place for fast, easy planting. The regularly spaced openings will help you coordinate spacing without a measuring tape.
  • Encourage ground covers to spread by layering stems as they grow. This encourages stems to root while still connected to the parent plant.

A Gift of Ground Cover
Ground covers spread fast. People with established gardens often have ground cover to spare, because it needs thinning or trimming.

If you want to save money, ask a neighboring gardener or even a park groundskeeper to fill a big plastic trash bag with starts of wild ginger, epimedium, or pachysandra for you.

Ground covers such as pachysandra are easily rooted by covering barren portions of the stem with soil and keeping them moist.

For harder-to-root ground covers such as wintercreeper, remove a small piece of bark from the bottom of the stem and treat the opening with rooting hormone before covering the stem with soil.

During autumn leaf drop, it can be challenging to remove leaves from thick ground covers. To prevent unhealthy conditions, spread netting or old sheets over the ground cover ahead of time to catch the leaves as they fall. This will allow you to gather all the leaves at once and keep the ground cover neat and tidy.

If your broad-leaf evergreens have turned brown and unattractive due to a cold winter, don’t lose hope. The roots are likely still alive and will produce fresh green growth in the spring. To ensure enough space for the new leaves and maintain a well-kept bed, mow off the old leaves.

For further information on lawn care and related topics, check out gardening to incorporate a garden into your home’s landscape and learn about the different types of lawnmowers to determine which is best for your lawn.


1. What is the best time of year to plant grass seed?

The best time of year to plant grass seed depends on the climate in your area. In general, the best time to plant grass seed is during the fall or spring. Fall planting allows the seed to establish roots before the winter, while spring planting takes advantage of the warmer soil temperatures. Avoid planting grass seed during the hottest months of the summer or during the winter when the ground is frozen.

2. How often should I water my lawn?

The frequency of watering your lawn depends on several factors, including the climate, soil type, and grass species. In general, most lawns need about 1 inch of water per week. This can be achieved by watering deeply once or twice a week rather than frequent shallow watering. Water early in the morning to prevent evaporation and reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

3. How long should I wait to mow after planting grass seed?

You should wait until the grass seed has reached a height of at least 3 inches before mowing. This usually takes about 4-6 weeks after planting. When you do mow, be sure to set the mower blade high to avoid cutting the grass too short and damaging the new growth.

4. What type of fertilizer should I use on my lawn?

The type of fertilizer you use on your lawn depends on the soil type, grass species, and time of year. In general, a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is a good choice for most lawns. Use a slow-release formula to avoid burning the grass and apply according to the instructions on the package.

5. How often should I fertilize my lawn?

The frequency of fertilizing your lawn depends on the grass species and the type of fertilizer you are using. In general, most lawns benefit from fertilization 2-4 times per year. Apply fertilizer in the spring and fall, and consider additional applications during periods of high growth or stress.

6. How can I prevent weeds from growing in my lawn?

The best way to prevent weeds from growing in your lawn is to maintain a healthy, thick turf. This can be achieved by proper watering, fertilization, and mowing practices. Additionally, you can use pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weed seeds from germinating and post-emergent herbicides to kill existing weeds.

7. How often should I aerate my lawn?

The frequency of aerating your lawn depends on the soil type and the amount of traffic your lawn receives. In general, most lawns benefit from annual aeration, while heavily trafficked lawns may require more frequent aeration. Aeration helps to reduce soil compaction and promote healthy root growth.

8. How can I repair bare spots in my lawn?

To repair bare spots in your lawn, start by raking away any dead grass or debris. Then, loosen the soil with a garden fork and add a layer of compost or topsoil. Sprinkle grass seed over the area and lightly rake it into the soil. Water the area regularly until the grass seed germinates and the new grass is established.

9. How can I tell if my lawn is overwatered?

Signs of an overwatered lawn include yellowing grass, mushy soil, and the presence of fungal diseases. To avoid overwatering, only water your lawn when it needs it, and be sure to water deeply rather than frequently. Use a rain gauge to measure how much water your lawn is receiving and adjust accordingly.

10. How can I improve the drainage in my lawn?

To improve the drainage in your lawn, start by aerating the soil to reduce compaction. Then, add a layer of topsoil or sand to improve the soil structure. Finally, consider installing a drainage system, such as a French drain or dry well, in areas where water tends to collect.

11. How can I make my lawn more drought-tolerant?

To make your lawn more drought-tolerant, choose grass species that are adapted to your climate and soil conditions. Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth, and avoid watering during the hottest part of the day. Finally, mow your lawn at a higher height to promote shade and retain moisture.

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