Fire Your Lawn Service & Save Some Money This Summer

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 11, 2013

lawncareIt’s summer! If you’re thinking of dumping your lawn service and pocketing the difference, here are some tips for maintaining your own yard without breaking the bank.

Lawn Care

It mostly goes without saying that you should mow your own lawn – it’s good exercise and also kind of Zen. A lawnmower can be a prohibitively expensive line-item in the household budget, however. One option is to pool resources with your neighbors – everyone gets the mower for a week, then passes it to the next neighbor in line.

Or, rent a mower from your local supply company. Then, if your summer goes well, buy a mower during the end-of-season sales.

Keep your lawn a little longer in the summer – it helps to keep weeds at bay and also promotes healthy lawn root systems.

Save electricity, burn some calories, and go easier on the environment: rake, don’t blow.


I am a child of the ’70s California draught and as such am a wee bit anxious (read: completely obsessed) about water conservation.

  • Most lawns need less water than you think: 1-2 inches per week is typically enough.
  • If your lawn is turning yellow or pale, you’re likely overwatering.
  • Use a rain gauge to ascertain how much water you’re giving your lawn: try keeping a low-profile can or take-out container in the path of your sprinkler.
  • It’s best to water in the early, early morning – turn on your sprinkler before you visit your coffeemaker. Watering in the evening can lead to mildew; watering in the heat of the day can actually burn your lawn.
  • Don’t forget to move your sprinkler if it’s attached to a hose.
  • Make sure your sprinkler isn’t also watering your house or sidewalks.
  • To deepen your lawn’s root system, give your lawn water just a couple of times per week, offering .5 to 1.0 inch each time.
  • Ensure that you don’t allow standing water to accumulate, as this will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • For goodness sake, don’t hose off your driveway!


You can save on utility bills: augment your landscaping with draught-resistant plants, or tear out thirsty plants and replace them with attractive rocks.

Your neighbors might have daylily plants, irises, or other self-propagating bulbs/tubers that need thinning. Ask if you can dig up some of their plants to make room for 2013 propagation. A pitchfork is a particularly good tool for this job. I answered an ad on Freecycle for free daylilies and in an hour had dug up enough plants to fill my heretofore-bare side yards with greenery, free-of-charge!

If you’re thinking of putting in a vegetable garden, act now. Start with plants from your local nursery or farmers’ market. To prep beds, add some peat moss to heavy-clay soil. If you need more dirt, check the ignored areas of your yard. We found a gold mine of rich soil behind our garage, where fallen leaves have been decomposing for goodness knows how long; this saved us from having to buy bags of topsoil.

Save money and chemicals by utilizing natural pest-resistant plants – a few marigolds or a curry plant are great at keeping garden-eaters at bay. “Liquid Fence” spray works well to keep rabbits and deer from chomping your new plants, but it stinks like the devil, so save it until you’re done gardening for the day and then immediately get yourself into the shower. Trust me.

Remember: worms are typically a sign of healthy soil (and excited children).

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