Summer is nearly here! That means the lawn will require constant attention: water, mowing, trimming, fertilizing, weeding. Phew! Some neighbors told me they spend $100 or more every month for professional lawn care services  – and that doesn’t even include cutting the grass! Of course, there are always a few homes on the block with weed-and-crabgrass-filled lawns. They’re obviously not paying professionals.

On my block, many neighbors assume I pay someone to look after my thick, healthy and weed-free expanse of grass. The joke is on them. I maintain my beautiful lawn using these five, inexpensive DIY methods:

Use Natural Compost: Artificial fertilizers cost about $25 for a 20 pound bag. Some lawn fertilizers are toxic to pets and can even “burn” holes in your lawn. I generate my own fertilizer using kitchen waste and yard debris in a homemade compost bin. I spread the compost on my lawn in the early spring, which nourishes it all year long.  Total annual savings: $25.

Prevent Weeds: Keep the grass thick. I used to pay about $200 every year on Ortho Weed-B-Gon to get rid of the dandelions in my lawn. Now I stop weeds from taking root by giving them no place to grow. If I see exposed  ground in my lawn, I agitate the soil and sprinkle it with grass seed. In a few days new grass is growing and no weeds. I buy grass seed when it goes on sale in the fall, spending about $10 for a 10 pound bag. I buy 5 bags and save them for the following year. Total savings using grass seed instead of herbicides: $150.

Create Pesticides: Commercial pesticides like Ortho Max run anywhere from $10 to $20 and are relatively inexpensive compared with lawn fertilizer or weed killers. Unfortunately, commercial pesticides can be harmful  to humans and pets. I make natural pesticide by mixing one gallon of water with three teaspoons of liquid soap. I put it in a spray bottle and spray it on my grass every two weeks. I also douse insects with “gray” water:  used bathwater, dishwater or laundry water. For underground issues, like grubs, I mix a quarter cup of garlic powder with one gallon of water and let that sit overnight. I water problem areas of my lawn with this garlic solution. My total savings for using homemade pesticides: $15.

Keep it Long(er):  I keep my lawnmower set to cut the grass at three inches. Most homeowners use the 1.5 inch settings. I also don’t cut more than a third of my grass height when I mow it. My grass easily recovers from mowing and doesn’t wither in the summer heat. Keeping the lawn a bit longer also reduces the need for watering by at least a half.

Don’t Overwater: Water can easily become the biggest summer lawn expense. Ask Green America reports that regular watering uses 5 – 10 gallons a minute. Roughly 10,000 gallons of water are used each year on a standard 1,000-square-foot lawn. Those extra water gallons add up to a higher water bill. Circle of Blue’s water pricing survey reports a family of four using an extra 50 gallons of water each day ends up paying at least $10 to $100 more per month on their water bill. However, most grass requires only one inch of water per week. You can easily check how much water your lawn is receiving by installing a rain gauge in your yard. Watering correctly helps  prevent issues like rot, mold and mildew as well as save you money. Total savings for using 20,000 fewer gallons of water a year in Madison, WI (where I live): $56 (at $2.81/1,000 gallons).

The Savings (for a year)

Monthly lawn care services: $1,200.00
Homemade fertilizer, pesticide, conserving water: $250.00

Total: $1,450.00

Using my savings, I planted my own vegetable garden, which has helped me to save even more money on produce and improve my health. It’s been a win-win all around!

 This has been a guest post by Halina from Madison, WI
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2 thoughts on “Tips for Frugal DIY Lawn Care”

  1. Cyn358mac says:

    Thank you! Does anyone have a frugal DIY tip  for Canadian Thistle?

  2. Great article! I’ll add two more things to the pesticides section:

    1. For bugs that linger even after you try the methods you describe, spray them with diluted Neem, another organic solution. Neem costs between $6 and $9 per bottle, and it lasts for months when you dilute it according to the package directions.

    2. If you have an earwig problem, the only thing that really works to eradicate them in Sluggo+, an organic, non-toxic solution. It’s not particularly cheap, but since it works so well, you’ll only have to apply it once or twice a season, which will save you money in the long run