Lawn Care

Can you mow your lawn between Christmas and New Year’s?

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Winter mow?

I did it! Today I mowed a lawn just three days away from the new year. In my twenty-five seasons in landscaping I had never mowed a lawn past early December.

First time ever: lawn cut between Christmas and New Year’s.

Here’s how it happened. My client called me to see if I could clean up her garden beds. Of course I could; I’m off on holidays recovering from a long season and she lives ten minutes away. But why the rush, right after Christmas? Mother-in-law is coming! Aha. I wonder how excited she gets when she looks out at the backyard and it’s not exactly looking mint.

Always a pro

Now, when the topic of lawn care came up, I did smile and tell my client that I had never mowed a lawn between Christmas and New Year’s. However, I didn’t tell her that it would make for a good blog. Why not try something new and see what happens?

Of course, I’m a professional. I don’t ruin lawns for profit, in any season. So, I checked the lawn. It did look shaggy because it was never put to bed. My client’s mower died in the fall, allegedly. I know people are busy; I’m not judging.


The test is always frost. Frosty grass blades have very little water and oxygen and can, therefore, break easily. That’s why you shouldn’t even walk on frosty lawns, if you can help it.

This shaggy winter lawn passed the test because we’re having a mild start to the winter. And I hope it stays this way until spring because it helps me financially. Cold weather affects my side-gigs, except tree work.

So I brought my mower, fuelled it up and went at it. I think it turned out well. The lawn needed a final mow and it also sucked up any remaining leaves. We should be good until spring.


Most lawns stop actively growing by late November, depending on the weather. You should aim to have your last cut done by November. But if your mother-in-law comes to visit and you haven’t done your last cut, give it a shot. Just make sure the conditions are decent: do not mow in freezing temperatures when the grass blades don’t have water and oxygen in their tissues. Frosty grass blades can break when you step on them. Definitely don’t mow over frosty grass.

Why I added lawn creep to my online course

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Lawn care mastery online course

When I first put together my course outline, I had five of the biggest lawn care mistakes covered. The course was done and published on Teachable: I thought I was done and I started working on course number two. But then I started noticing lawn creep at work and in online posts.

What’s lawn creep?

Lawn creep happens when the edge between say a sidewalk and lawn gets bigger and bigger. Eventually a large gap develops, giving the impression that the lawn is retreating from the sidewalk.

How does it happen? It’s caused by landscapers vertical edging with line trimmers from the lawn side. Since the line doesn’t hit the edge at precisely ninety degrees the way a blade edger can, the lawn edge gets shaved off on weekly or bi-weekly basis. Here’s an example.

Lawn creep in the USA: note how wide the gap is between the lawn and sidewalk

What’s wrong with lawn creep?

Lawn creep looks ugly and, once the gap is wide enough, weed seeds will take hold in the gap. Now you’ve created extra weeding work for yourself. See below how beautiful the blade edger is. The difference is huge.

How to prevent lawn creep

The best way to prevent lawn creep is by using a blade edger with a skinny blade. Since the blade follows the hard sidewalk edge at ninety degrees, there is no creep. All we get is a sharp line that keeps the lawn from spilling over the sidewalk. Here’s an example:

No creep happens with blade edger use.

I can hear the complaint: what if I don’t own a blade edger? No problem. When you vertical edge, stand on the sidewalk. That way if you don’t achieve the desired ninety degree angle, you will just chew up your line, not the lawn.

Lawn creep happens more than you think.

Another massive gap created by poor vertical edging. I didn’t touch the grass.

Here the homeowner wondered why the edge was creeping closer to her house.

Stop lawn creep

Stop unsightly lawn creep by using a blade edger or vertical line edging from the sidewalk, not the lawn side. The gaps created by lawn creep look awful and invite weeds to move in.

Poor strategies from experienced workers!?

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Lessons learned?

It’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s why I put together an online course which covers other people’s lawn care mistakes. It’s on sale for only $5 until January 1, 2024. Check it out.

This blog post covers two strategic mistakes committed by experienced workers!? How, you ask? I honestly don’t know why experienced workers work like amateurs. But I know that we can learn from their mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new landscaper or homeowner. Use good strategies to get things done efficiently. Every time.

Leaf clean-up

What’s wrong with this picture?

After all, the leafy pile looks tight, doesn’t it? Sure, but it should be blown onto the lawn for several reasons. One, it’s an obstruction. Think visually-impaired passerby with a seeing-eye dog or someone disabled using a motorized wheelchair. Your pile could cause trouble before you get to it. Remember, some disabled people ride around like pirates. They will finger you for making life difficult for them.

Two, it’s easier to rake up leaves on the lawn and, as a bonus, you don’t have to come back later to blow off remnants. You’re saving time and creating less noise and air pollution. If you’re mowing, the mower will suck up any remnants left on the lawn.

Now, I would expect senior landscapers with tons of experience to do better.

Lawn care

When you’re mowing, keep your tarps close by so you don’t have to waste time walking. But please don’t put your tarps on the lawn edge where they’re in the way.

Here you’re asking the line trimmer to stop and move your tarp!?

In the above picture I’m line trimming and I only have two hours to spend on this site. So it’s tight. The last thing I want to do is move tarps out of the way so I can edge the lawns. This is really dumb from another experienced landscaper; the kind of dude who frequently shoves his experience in your face.

Place the tarp near the lawn but not in the way. It’s slowing down the line trimmer for no good reason. It’s not like there is a lot of car traffic inside this complex. Always use the best, most efficient strategies to get your lawn care done. Click the button below to see my online course which covers the biggest lawn care mistakes. Learn from other people’s mistakes. The course is on sale for only $5 until January 1, 2024.

How clover saved grass in a fire lane

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A tough spot

Imagine grass growing on a fire lane made with bricks and very little soil on top; and towering above are mature Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) which limit the amount of sunlight the grass gets. These conditions, limited light and soil volume, make it difficult for the grass to thrive. Now, add lack of irrigation and foot traffic and no wonder the entire fire lane has a patchy look.

If you want a great lawn, you need regular watering, fertilizers and proper cutting heights.

Some years ago, we top dressed the fire lane with quality, weed-free, lawn and garden mix soil. Then we put down quality – and expensive- shade seed mix; and for a while everything looked great. Then the same poor conditions took over. Shade from the trees above, lack of regular watering and relentless foot traffic from adults, kids, and pets.


In 2023 the strata council became more active in their landscape. They organized weekend work parties and planted their own plants like English laurels. This allowed them to build a community and save money. Incidentally, this strata complex is where my favorite fern lady lives. She’s the one who bought a native sword fern (Polystichum munitum) at a native plant nursery with after-tax dollars. If she had taken a shovel and traveled maybe ten metres into her forest buffer zone, she could have dug up massive specimens for free.

So, this same strata group decided to plant clover in their fire lane. Clover mixes nicely with grass, when it matures and flowers, it attracts insects, it grows fast, and it’s not as demanding as grass. It’s also disliked by European chafer beetles. Of course, since this lawn has limited soil volume, it’s unlikely the female chafers would lay their eggs in it. Clover is also cheap to buy and available.

Months after planting the clover is noticeable and there are fewer bare patches in the fire lane lawn.

One look and I would call the whole clover project a success; and it didn’t break the budget. It also fits nicely in a forest setting.

Success: clover and grass mix and fewer patches

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!