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New to owning a lawn and I've got questions...

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by jeff d, Feb 19, 2006.

  1. jeff d

    jeff d LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    I've scanned through several pages of topics and searched for info and now I need to ask some questions... I hope you all can give me some answers.

    First, the background. We've just moved North Carolina and we're on a 1 acre lot with grass on three sides of the house and a bit of wooded area. Grass appears to be a Fescue and green. The lawn appears to have some moisture/drainage issues maybe? The soil in the back is often wet and spongy. I've got a lot of costs because we are first time home owners and we've discovered there are a lot of things we need, so money is important.

    I need a mower and I'm thinking push rather than riding. I can try and get measurements if it will help, but it's a big U shape around the house. Maybe 20' wide in the front and back and 40-50' on the side. The previous owner had a riding mover. I see all the landscapers doing neighbors yards with push mowers and I'm still thinking that's the way to go.

    I see that home depot has some older Harmony II HRR216's on clearance and I was thinking that may be a good starter mower? They are self propelled, 3 speed, 21", mulching mower. I've seen one review here that was mostly positive and some member's footers that list the Harmony II. So, I'm guessing that these mowers may be good. Anyone got a reason to stay away from this mower?

    I'm going to have to reseed and fertilize, so I'll be needed a seeder/spreader. Again, I'm new, so the stupid question... can one unit be used to seed and fertilize? I've been told to stay away from broadcast spreaders as they don't give good coverage and the lay down ones do a better job. But around here I see lots of talk about broadcast spreaders. What's the best option for maintaining a lawn? Remeber I don't have a lot of cash so it will most likely be a $40 scotts spread for the time being.

    Lastly drainage.... Like I said above the lawn can be mosit, it's been wet a lot this winter (we're in a drout) and the lawn keeps moisture, no pooling, but spongy ground. Mushrooms have cropped up in places. The downspouts drain into corrugated pipe in the front of the house. All I can tell is the pipe goes somewhere under the yard. Can this be creating a huge cavern that will sink in at some point? Is there a way I can figure out where these go? In the back the water drains to a cement splash blocks at the end of one there's a huge hole from the errosion. I want to avoid creating more big holes so I was thinking about other ways to get water away from the foundation. We've got kids too so I don't want some big pipe sitting across the lawn. I saw some attachments that unroll and spread the water out. Do these work well and could someone recommend one?

    Sorry for all the questions but I hope you can direct me. If there's a topic here I missed that would cover this stuff could someone point me in that direction? Thanks in advance.
  2. dfischer

    dfischer LawnSite Member
    from Il
    Messages: 114

    Been in your shoes many years ago. bought a lawn care book @ k-mart named "JERRY BAKERS LAWN BOOK". It was a good way to start learning and will save you $$'s and time. I followed it's advise and 1st year, 1st spring even, was already getting compliments... Its invaluable

    1st mower was a REAL simple MTD. Front cog drive w/a briggs. Nothing to break, and so every 4 years or so I'd change the front cogs and it kept on running. In time I bought a used Deere garden tractor and the MTD was retired to trimming, but it lasted about 12 years before the engine was tired enough to gave it away. I replaced it w/Yardman w/all the features. It was crap, and I replaced it in 1 year w/a Honda.

    The honda starts well and cuts well, but it's not built all that well. Control knobs have broken and at present the gearbox is jammed and it's stuck in first gear.

    Lesson to above: if you're on a budget buy simple.

    Someday soon you'll need a trimmer and a blower. Save till you can afford a Stihl trimmer (I've owned several, and the stihl was worth it) and put off the blower for a bit. It can wait.

    btw, my first broadcast spreader (plastic) is still going strong and I'd never replace it w/a drop spreader. I find no major coverage issue, and I sure as heck don't want to waste the time a drop spreader takes. Yes, they can seed, fertilize, etc. but 1) wash them out and 2) weed care is best done w/liquid.

    As you'll learn (buy the book ) in general water born is the most effective so, save for fertilizing, you need a good hose end sprayer. Ortho.

    Don't waste money on seed (it's a bit pricey) unless you either slit seed, plug aerate, or dethatch. Seed need good ground contract to germinate and you'll not get much, if any, return on the seed money unless you do one of the above. Finally, spend your spring killing weeds, detatching, leveling and fixing draining. Seed this fall.

    Finally, DO NOT waste money on the unroll water drains and etc.. What you have ( I think) is as good as it gets. You want water away from the foundation (far away) and don't want to have to screw w/downspouts and things. Trust me, you will regret it. I use 4" drain tile 6" underground and bring it back up into the yard w/a grated cap. Work well, but I suppose if it didn't have good drainage around it it could be a problem. Either re-contour or move the drain location.

    buy the book, it will make you the lawn man on your block, and it will be cheap.
  3. dfischer

    dfischer LawnSite Member
    from Il
    Messages: 114

    buy the way, and good looking lawn is more about time then money, but it can be epensive for the first year buying eqp, and the first fall buying seed.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Man, I have an acre lot myself and a few acre lot accounts as well.

    It takes me with a 5-speed 48" deck 15hp Kohler commercial mower at full speed (6+mph) 45 minutes non-stop to cut an acre.

    Translation: You're looking at 5 hours non-stop cutting with a 21" pushmower, at least 4 hours if you can manage walking a tough 4mph pace, just under 4 hours if you can sustain a serious aerobic workout, but 6-8 hours if you miss a couple of days and it gets a bit tall.

    Consider looking around for a good, used rider... You should be able to find one for around 400-500 dollars, but look long and hard and start looking now. It will take time to find one that's in decent shape and doesn't break the bank, if you want to save the money then you gotta do some work, this being another option vs. the aerobic workout.
  5. jeff d

    jeff d LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Thanks guys.

    One note on the lot, it's an acre, but there's really not that much grass. There's a hill on 2 sides that is pine strawed. There's also lots of wooded area. In fact I was thinking about chaning one of the pine strawed sided back to wooded, but that's a bigger project.

    The grassed area is about 20' by maybe 100 in the front and back and on the side is maybe 40'x40'. So a full acre it's not. I was thinking of finding something around the same size as a lawnmower (maybe a child stroller) and walking the lot to see how long it would take. That may be my best option after seeing the long time topsite gave. (that sounds like a full day project...)
  6. jeff d

    jeff d LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    I just took the kid's stroller out for a test run, and boy was that a good thing to do!

    I disovered a few things.
    1) I have NO idea how to mow a lawn. I don't even know how to attack the lawn. For the test I basically spiraled inward going back and forth over smaller areas to keep my path easy to follow. It's not easy to follow two little stroller marks on a lawn that isn't that deep.

    I'm now thinking some kind of diagonal approach might be better because you can always get a straight diagonal line (or at least I think I could), it would just be short in some spots...

    2) My lawn isn't really that "even" it's got a bit of bump to it. I'm curious how this should factor into what to pick. I've seen high wheel mowers thinking that somehow the big wheel will make for a smoother cut puzzles me. Does it?

    The time to have the stoller (19" wide at the wheel base) mow the lawn was around 22 minutes. I'd give 20% margin of error and maybe an extra 2-5 minutes for walking around picking up crap before cutting. 30 minutes seems like a good guess to me. Not a lot of time unless I'm missing some important things...

    I guess I really need to find that book and bone up on the stuff I can't even see coming at me yet.

    Thanks again for the information!
  7. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,524

    Where in NC are you? I wouldn't be surprised if someone here on lawnsites would be willing to come by and take a look. Welcome to the east coast.
  8. Guthrie&Co

    Guthrie&Co LawnSite Senior Member
    from nc
    Messages: 784

    I would be more than happy to come by and take a look at it if your close.
  9. oslo

    oslo LawnSite Member
    Messages: 54

    You can use the same spreader for both seeding and fert. Unless you really are careful or know what your doing use a broadcast spreader, as it is more forgiving.

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