Lawn Care

Mowing tips for the fall

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Fall recovery

Last fall was extremely dry and it was the first time I saw turfgrasses not recover completely. Normally, our lawns go dormant in summer and then they green up when rains return in the fall. Except last year the rains were delayed. We’ll see what 2023 brings. But this also gives us a chance to consider mowing tips from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute.

The golden rule

One-third rule: never remove more than one third the height of the plant.

Mowing heights depend on grass species and lawn uses. If you cut your lawn higher, you won’t have to cut as often. I know a dude who cuts his grass very short and twice a week. He loves his lawns and has the time. Others don’t care as much. I visit their homes every two weeks and the grass is fine.

Best tips

  • Water deeply and infrequently as this encourages deep root formation and thus better drought tolerance
  • Overseed with drought tolerant species. Check your home region for the best seed mixes.
  • Don’t remove grass clippings. The clippings are natural fertilizer. I love this as a landscape professional because it speeds up my lawn care work: no stopping to empty my mower bag and now green waste to remove. I always do this in summer.
  • Encourage dense grass stands to out-compete weeds: overseed in spring and fall. This issue comes up a lot. Homeowners are always asking about weeds in their lawns. While their lawns will never be weed-free, dense grass stands will make it hard for weeds to establish and thrive.
  • Speaking of weeds, hand pick them and overseed the bare patches you create with seed.
  • In the fall, mulch your fallen leaves into your turf.

Brand new sod

Learn from Red Seal Vas

I find that landscapers and homeowners make the same basic mistakes over and over. It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve taken the worst five mistakes people make and developed them into a stunning online course called “Lawn Care Mastery 101: the top 5 mistakes“. Now you too can mow like a professional. Click the link above or button below and change your life! Your lawns will thank you for it. If you’re reading this blog post to the end and inflation is making your life difficult, contact me for a discount code.

Take good care of your lawns!

Is #NoMowMay a good idea?

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PlantLife did it!

The PlantLife conservation group from the United Kingdom started #NoMowMay in 2019; and it’s a great idea because it makes us think about pollinators and how to help them thrive. We need pollinators for their free services and getting people to talk about them. The key idea is to stop mowing in May so dandelions can feed pollinators early in the season.

I first heard about #NoMowMay from a buddy who was totally frustrated about his strata council telling him to stop mowing in May. His work days start with lawn care all year so now he had to adjust his service. He was basically down to finesse and pruning work for all of May and it threw him off. I would be lying if I told you that my buddy was deeply concerned about dandelions and pollinators.

And then comes June

#NoMowMay sounds great but not if homeowners and condo landscapers struggle to get their lawns back up to shape in June. One problem with long, meadow-like lawns is that some weed species get easily established and may be difficult to eradicate later. Another problem is suddenly cutting your lawn low in June; back to its normal height. This stresses the lawn as it removes storage.

My buddy clearly struggled with his first regular mow in June. The grass was long and the cut required more effort, time and extra tarps. Don’t even get me started on the long faces his workers had.

Two alternatives

The Guelph Turfgrass Institute proposes two different ideas. One involves moving beyond turfgrass monocultures by adding mowing tolerant flowers such as crocus, creeping buttercup, English daisy or snowdrop.

Another idea is creating naturalized zones close or next to your lawn areas. You can let the naturalized area go wild and grow into a meadow that will support pollinators. As for your lawns, mowing every two weeks is the best way to support pollinators.

The future

We’ll see how the #NoMowMay idea evolves in the future. I love that it gets people talking and thinking about pollinators. We need their services and yet their numbers are declining. But we also have to consider the health of our lawns and their function. When homeowners struggle with their lawns in June, something is wrong. My buddy grumbled about dandelions but he survived the season. And I hope his long lawns helped pollinators get through the early part of the season.

Are you planning to mow your lawn next May?

Why you must fight lawn edge creep

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What’s this?

As a landscape manager I often visit sites after being away for months so I notice when things change. One example is from last week. I did my routine line trimming session and then I noticed the sidewalk lawn creep. This was new and fairly recent. Take a look.

Edging is done to keep grass from overwhelming the sidewalk. If you allow it, it will slowly creep over the edge and annoy people using the sidewalk. Now, I personally prefer to use a blade edger because the metal blade is sharp and skinny. You run it along the sidewalk edge at ninety degrees and use it to separate grass from the sidewalk. It’s very narrow and hardly noticeable. Edging shouldn’t be noticeable; we aren’t building ditches. All we are after is sharp, clean edges. Blade edgers are designed for this kind of work.

Vertical sinners

Not every landscaper is willing to walk back to his truck to grab a blade edger. What if the blade needs changing? Horror! Let’s just use the line trimmer to vertical edge the sidewalk instead. Right, creeps.

Note how wide the edge is getting in the picture above. That’s because the landscaper is edging from the lawn side and it’s not done at ninety degrees. It looks like forty-five degrees or worse. Now, when you do this weekly, the lawn edge starts to creep away from the sidewalk. Very soon pets lodge their paws in the gap and weeds drift in. Now you’ve just created more work and your edges looked horrific. And Red Seal Vas gets to rant about it.


If you insist on vertical edging with your line trimmer, you must do it from the sidewalk edge. That way, if you miss you hit the sidewalk which is solid and unlikely to start creeping away. The other adjustment you must make is to aim for ninety degree angles. Make sure your string hits the edge at ninety degrees so we avoid lawn creep. This is easily accomplished with a blade edger.

Do not get sloppy and allow your edges to creep from the sidewalk into your lawn. This creates an unsightly gap that eventually harbors weeds. Edge like a pro.

Very aggressive edging

A new round of watering restrictions

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Now what, Vas?

As soon as the owner of this new house asked me what to do about his dry, sad-looking lawn, I knew I would have to pick my words carefully. Since new watering restrictions came into effect on August 4, we can’t water this lawn. And water is obviously missing from this picture.

Now, the owner hasn’t lived in the house very long and he’s been busy with the back lane area of his house. Once the grass faded, weeds moved in. That’s usually when people call me with desperation in their voice. They want nice green grass and they definitely don’t want long stares from their neighbours. When the man tells me he’s embarrassed, I believe him. The yellow-flowered weeds were visible from across the street.

Baby your lawn

Having a nice green lawn takes a lot of work. You must have regular watering, seasonal fertilizer applications and proper mowing heights. And definitely expect to see some lawn weeds. Even golf courses have weeds.

Obviously, our West Coast lawns go dormant in summer and come back with fall rains. So there’s no need to stress about your yellow lawn. Except, last year the drought dragged deep into fall and, I think, the forecast is the same for this year.

So, the owner has to wait for watering restrictions to ease up before fixing his lawn. In the fall we can top-dress his lawn with soil and over seed but this too requires water. Fertilizers also require water to activate.

My advice

For now we wait until we get water in the form of rain or irrigation. Since the weeds are tough, they will poke out again and I will run them over to keep them from producing seeds. At least this gives the lawn a decent look, otherwise the neighbours think it’s been abandoned.

Yes, you can have a great looking lawn but you’ll have to earn it.

So help me Vas: two adjustments you can make to your strata maintenance work

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I love filling in on strata sites when the regular foreman is missing. Sometimes they’re on vacation, sick, ill with COVID, or laid off by choice. Whatever the case, it’s fun to examine their sites and look for adjustments that can be made when the new season hits. 2023 here we go.

Mow lines

What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Obviously, the lawn care dudes mow like robots so now we see clear dips in the lawn where the mower wheels run. Every single time! Now that the grass isn’t growing in January, it’s especially noticeable. And I’m not a fan. I prefer seeing a uniform green lawn without any dips that could potentially injure my ankles or swallow small pets.

I would correct this problem by instructing the crew to alternate the starting lines of their mowers. For example, start mowing a bit farther away from the sidewalk edge and the wall. Yes, you will have to line trim a little bit more grass but it’s worth it.

Don’t mow like robots.


Whatever you do inside the complex, this curb will always detract from your work presentation. I know that some of you will disagree, telling me that the city is responsible for curb maintenance. And technically speaking you’re right. However, nobody knows when the city sweeper is coming. Can he handle curbs caked this badly in soggy, decomposing leaves? And are you sure that all of the parked cars will obey your signs and move away from the curb?

Landscapers are definitely responsible for keeping drains open. Since I know this, I blew away the curb edge to let the water flow away.

I would correct this problem by blowing the curb edges as soon as leaves start to fall. Early on the leaves are still dry and fluffy. Blow them onto lawns before you mow or, make small piles and rake them up.

If it’s windy, then you can discreetly blow the leaves into the neighboring municipal park or directly across the street to your competition. Of course, this could start a war so be careful. Conversely, if your curbs are caked in leaves and your competition is super clean across the street, you know you’re getting abused.


Your strata complexes will look better in winter if you take good care of your curbs and mow correctly all year. Avoid heavy leaf accumulations in curb edges; and don’t mow your lawns like a robot. Alternate your starting mow lines to avoid creating huge dips in the lawns with your mower wheels.

What other adjustments can you think of?

Requiem for a clover lawn

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Love at first sight

When I saw this clover front lawn a few seasons ago, it was love at first sight. It’s fluffy, only requires occasional blade edging to keep it from spilling over, keeps the weeds down by shading them out, and bees love it when it’s in flower.

You don’t have to mow it or line trim it, it’s very low maintenance. I thought it was a brave statement from the owners. I never got to meet them. People are generally afraid of sticking out in the neighborhood.

New owners

Then, months later, I walked by again and the clover lawn was gone. People love green lawns. But if it were up to me, I wouldn’t go back. Now I miss the fluffy clover lawn when I walk by.

The new owners overseeded their new lawn and the grass was coming in.

Of course, now that you have a new lawn, you have to do some work. The previous owners must have been busy or away frequently.

Now you have to water and fertilize the lawn; and once it’s long enough, you have to cut it. But not too short. Edging is also required to keep the lawn nice and neat. Next spring, they will likely aerate the lawn to keep it healthy. The clover eliminated most of these extra steps that cost money and time.

Fall 2023

To each his own. If you want a lawn, by all means get a lawn. But when I saw this lawn recently, it didn’t inspire me. I missed the fluffy clover. Some people do a mix of the two, grass and clover. I believe this kind of mix discourages the European chafer beetles from attack.

To be fair, I didn’t get to see the clover lawn in winter. Perhaps it was a sad, muddy looking zone. I have no idea. I was just sad to see it go. It was my favorite lawn!

Put your garden to bed with these late season tasks

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Steps to take

I have a great residential client in Port Coquitlam, BC, and his main concern is tidiness. So, when the pin oaks (Quercus palustris) from a neighboring high school drop leaves on his property, he usually calls me in a panic.

Let’s see what I did at this house to put it to bed for the winter.


Mowing in late November isn’t ideal but it had to be done. So, I pre-blew the oak leaf drop onto the lawn, raked up the bulk of it and then mowed over the rest. Done! Now we leave the lawns alone until spring.

The front lawn also got a final blade edge which should keep it nice and sharp until spring.


Obviously, annuals are toast by late November. I took out the petunias from the curb pot; and I removed annuals from the front bed. I will most likely plant bulbs in the pot so we can surprise the wife: she loves pretty flowers!

The show is over.


I have never winterized blueberries, so I Googled it and did it anyway. I pruned back most of the canes and moved the pots into a sheltered spot between the fence and shed. Then I put a tarp over the pots.

It might be better to park the pots in the garden shed but that’s not what the owners wanted. And it makes sense. They have two spotless Lexus cars in the garage, and when I forget to blow off their front door seat cushions, they text me about it!


Again, it’s all about the look. The hydrangea was fine; just the leaves were still hanging on and the owners were creeped out every time they used the front entrance. So, I pruned the hydrangea back by a few bud sections and manually removed the spent leaves. If I cut it back too much, into old wood, you won’t get any flowers next year.

Eventually I will remove the canes that are close to the ground but for now it will do.

New planted bed

The new planted bed in the back got a quick cultivate to freshen it up a bit and to uproot any weeds. I deadheaded lavenders and cutback Liatris spicatas. Note that I left the Rudbeckia stems alone. The birds can enjoy the seeds and I can cutback the stems later, closer to spring. When you do this, cut the stem off close to the ground so you don’t leave a stub.

Final blow

As always, everything ends with one final blow, so the property is nice and clean. Since the front lawn is shared with the neighbors, I’m not ashamed to admit that I blasted some of the remaining leaves on the lawn into their groundcover.

There you have it. One last service in late November seals the deal. The garden should hold nicely into spring. I might stop by to blow the stubborn pin oak leaves; and to install the bulbs, secretly.

When I got home, it was dark. So, I made some coffee and sent off my hefty invoice.

Nice and clean.

Echo 58v cordless power mower

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Time to switch?

Today I got a chance to see and touch the Echo 58v cordless power mower on my visit to the new Foreshore Equipment North Vancouver location. And now I’m considering getting one for my side-gig operation. Not that my old Honda gas-powered beast is falling apart; it’s still running well, many years after I picked it up second hand. But I’m tired of sucking exhaust, lifting it and paying for gas. It might be time to switch, if the mower is in stock.

Since I don’t mow that much, charging two batteries would be fine.

Two batteries.

One local landscape company I know has one of these battery-operated units on every truck. Because the mowers are light, they can be used in hard to access lawn areas. Some access is extremely awkward or it requires two crew members. Stairwells come to mind.

Well, not anymore; you can pick this baby up by the handle and go. I tried it and it’s really light. It almost feels like a toy.

There are two batteries in front and one simple throttle on the bar. It looks super simple.


As I’m writing this blog post in late February 2022, gas prices in British Columbia are climbing so not having to gas up your mower sounds great. The other, bigger benefit is avoiding unhealthy exhaust exposure. After twenty-two years in landscape maintenance, I wonder if I should have made the switch earlier.

This especially applies to my side-gigs, where I’m in charge. I obviously don’t call the shots at my day-job. But why suck exhaust when you’re mowing a small patch for your hard-of-hearing 87-year-old client when you could easily pull it off with a mower like this Echo 58v unit?

I also like how quiet it is when you let go of the throttle. Nothing is idling noisily while you try to talk to someone. It gets nice and quiet.

Another obvious benefit is solo lifting. This Echo mower can easily fold up and the lifting is a breeze. Gas powered units can be on the heavier side and that can seriously tax your back if you don’t have ramps.


The Echo 58v cordless power mower is decent for commercial operations and perfect for hard-to-access lawn areas. You can easily pick it up which frees up your co-workers and saves your back from pain.

I love the idea of not having to pay for fuel and most of all, avoiding exposure to unhealthy exhaust.

If this unit is in stock, I will consider getting it for my side-gig operation.

Is it time to switch? Contact Foreshore Equipment, the best dealer in the Lower Mainland, and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.

Babied plastic turf

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Chill pill

Plastic turf is fairly common now and some companies are making a killing installing it. But when I cleaned up ash (Fraxinus) leaves from a few turf lawns this past fall, I wasn’t ready for the aggressive defense. First, let’s take a chill pill.

There she was in her backyard, a lovely mother of a young child, wearing stunning tights and sporting a blond ponytail. She was the kind of resident every single member of my male crew paid attention to; and extremely bad for crew production.

She was out to remind us to use a plastic rake she and her neighbors invested into. Leaf pick up with our regular rakes was too harsh on her turf. Fair enough. If she had told us to jump, we would have all jumped. I laughed to myself and stopped staring at her.

A plastic rake for gentler leaf pick-up.


I totally understand the lady’s concern. After shelling out C$3000 for her small plastic patch, she obviously wants it to last for a long time. This was my first experience with homeowners defending their turf.

Why get turf?

Personally, I hate plastic turf. Not only does it rob me of paid work, it also removes nature from our cities. Plastic turf tends to heat up in summer and, therefore, requires hosing off on hot summer days. And nothing lives in plastic; it’s terrible habitat for insects. Worse still, the soil underneath dies.

On this site, however, plastic turf makes a lot of sense. The lady and her neighbors live under towering Ash trees that shade out any grass plants attempting to form a lawn. We even tried pruning the ash trees to allow more light in but it didn’t make a huge difference.

The lady also owns a dog, which created a distraction every time she took it out to answer nature’s call. Unlike grass, plastic turf can take a lot of dog abuse and still look nice and green. Grass becomes very patchy because it can’t handle so much fertilizer at one time; you’d have to hose off the spots immediately after the dog goes. And who has time for that when there is a toddler inside.

As much as I hate plastic turf, there are instances when it makes sense. Like when you have heavy shade and heavy dog damage. But it will cost you. One small lawn goes for around C$3,000. Many people also switch because they’re tired of lawn damage related to European chafer beetles.

Once the lawn is removed, the company installs crush and runs it over with a compactor. Then comes the plastic, anchored with pins. The actual model depends on the owner.

Considering the cost of plastic turf install, don’t be surprised if the owners defend it. If you’re lucky, the defenders you encounter are super cute.

C$3,000 turf, unaffected by shade and owner’s dog.

Shocked by lawn damage!

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This scenario plays out every autumn on the West Coast: a panicked home owner calls me about a damaged lawn. In this case, it was a fairly new client, texting me about solutions after raccoons had dug up her lawn overnight.

The raccoons were looking for European Chafer beetle grubs which have been feeding on grass roots and getting fat since late summer. That’s when females come down from trees after mating to lay their eggs in the lawn. They quickly stick their bums into the lawn and disappear. This is why people are advised to keep their lawns longer; to make it more difficult for the females, and perhaps, to encourage them to lay eggs in your neighbor’s lawn.

Mature European chafer beetles. Only one was dead, 3 eventually made a run for it.

What to do in late fall

All you can do in November is fix the damage with some soil. Overseeding won’t help because it’s now too cold for seed to take. You’d just be feeding the birds, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just pricey.

The grubs are nice and juicy by now. You could always hope for cold temperatures to kill them but that would mean severe cold. The kind of cold that would deprive me of work.

Just let the crows and raccoons feed; and ask Proper Landscaping to help you fix the damage.

Chafer grub

Baby your lawn in 2022

If you want to avoid nasty shocks twelve months from now, baby your lawn next year. That means regular fertilizer applications, proper watering, and correct mowing heights. You will need to do all three religiously to have a nice looking lawn.

I often find homeowners cutting their lawns very short, presumably to avoid cutting weekly. But, very short lawns dry out, allow light to reach weeds, and in late summer, they make it easy for chafer beetle females to lay eggs.

Watering is also a problem. Regular watering is a must for good looking lawns. I have clients who complain about weeds in their lawns and they water twice in summer. That’s hopeless.

Anti-chafer products

Your local garden store sells granular anti-chafer products that can be applied anytime. And you can also order live nematodes for application in late summer so the nematodes can chase down the chafers before they get big.

I have no idea how effective the granular products are but they are easy to apply. Unlike live nematodes which must be watered in and applied early in the morning or in late afternoon. That’s because they are photo-sensitive. And I have also heard horror stories about the nematodes arriving dead. Since they’re microscopic, it’s impossible to confirm this.

You must also water your lawn deeply before, during and after application. That sounds easy enough but in late summer you’re likely to run into watering restrictions. So visit your municipal office for a pricey exemption before your neighbors report you to bylaw officers.

Don’t give up

Never give up. Baby your lawn and keep fighting. The European chafer beetles are here to stay. We can control them but I doubt we can eliminate them.

If your lawn gets abused in winter, just patch up the damage and wait for spring when soil and seed will cover everything up.