NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Backyards are the most common backdrop for family life in the U.S., according to The National Association of Realtors TruGreen Home Features Report, but when it comes to lawn care less than half of homeowners know the types of grass or tree in their yard. That can have unsightly financial consequences.

The value of a yard goes without saying: The report found that 58% of homeowners cited eating and entertaining outside with family or friends as one of the most common ways they currently use their outdoor space.

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"Summer fun can create significant wear and tear on lawns," said Ben Hamza, director of technical operations with TruGreen, a professional lawn care service provider. "Maintaining optimum curb appeal during this recreational season requires some schooling and a tailored lawn plan."

TruGreen's survey also uncovered America's lack of knowledge about the common causes of brown spots, which include lack of water or drought, heat stress, pet urine, lawn-feeding insects and disease.

"Caring for a lawn requires a tailored approach based on grass type, climate, soil condition and lawn usage," said Hamza. "Not all plant-damaging insects like the same types of grasses and trees."

And here's the kicker: When selling a home, a healthy, green lawn can be a value-boosting asset. About 56% of homeowners surveyed said when buying a home a good lawn would warrant a higher price and about 53% said the quality of the homeowner's lawn can tell you a lot about the quality of the home overall.

"Curb appeal is that initial feeling that homeowners get when looking at the exterior of a home," Hamza said. "It's important when selecting a house to buy, because a healthy, green lawn is the centerpiece of winning curb appeal."

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Lawncare 101 includes the following basics from Hamza :

  • 1. A single low cut or scalping can set the lawn quality back for weeks. When mowing, start at the highest recommended height for your yard's grass type. Also, a dull mower blade can tarnish curb appeal. The sharper the mower blade, the cleaner the cut, and the better looking the lawn to help get top dollar when selling your home.
  • 2. Mow the lawn in the early evening so it can recover overnight. Keep the mower engine tuned and the mower blade sharpened at least twice each summer. Never mow in the heat of the day.
  • 3. Infrequent or irregular watering of lawns is a common mistake. Watering too little or too much can weaken the lawn's root system and also cause brown spots. It's best to give your lawn a slow and steady watering, about one inch once a week.
  • 4. Water the lawn in the early morning because watering later in the day can leave sitting water and cause problems with root rot or fungal diseases. Determine how much is enough by place a one-inch deep empty food can in the middle of the yard to measure depth of water collected each watering cycle.
  • 5. Overfeeding lawns is another common mistake. Lawns, trees and shrubs require proper nutrition for healthy growth and the ability to recover from summer's heat and even drought. The grass type, soil condition and lawn usage are determining factors to develop a tailored nutrition plan for your lawn.
  • 6. Pay close attention to signs of discoloration, patchy areas, and chewed grass blades and roots. Take action based on the root cause. In most cases, some type of renovation or lawn repair would be needed if the brown spots have caused a permanent damage to grass plants. Brown spots caused by drought or lack of water usually green up quickly as soon as watered properly.
  • 7. A healthy lawn is green in color with density and texture and is free of weeds or any insect activity but grass appearance and texture varies depending on where you live, grass type and time of year. For example, Kentucky bluegrass, which is a cool season grass, should be cut at three inches high.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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