We grew grass! And other thoughts on first-time homeowning in Southern New Hampshire

We’re entering our second summer as first time homeowners in Southern New Hampshire. We moved from Cambridge/Boston/city and wow has there been so much we didn’t know.

First thing: there are lots of bugs — flying bugs, biting bugs, ticks, mosquitos, mayflies that bite, spiders, ants, ants that eat your house… You will need to use insecticides on your lawn, GrubEx, diatomaceous earth on ant colonies, mosquito beater, bug repellent (we like the deet-free Off Botanicals), etc. Start in May, don’t wait until you have an insect crisis and have to hire pest folks unless you want to part with $500 unnecessarily. Use the spreader (see below) to put insecticide on the lawn and dust a perimeter around the house. Sprinkle the mosquito beater around the deck and front door. Check the dogs for ticks relentlessly and put the frontline to kill fleas.

Second thing: yes you need air conditioning in the summer. We have a standard rectangle house with 4 bedrooms. Each bedroom that we use required a small window air conditioner and we have one large window unit downstairs that blows all the way across the house. Last year we thought we could save money with fans and open windows, and it was really really miserable because (a) heat, (b) see the first thing. We tried buying the ACs at the store, but found them loud and ineffective. So we had to order, but then 2 weeks of miserable ensued before they arrived. Just save yourself the trouble and budget $1000 or so for window AC’s (unless you want something more powerful). Get them in May before it gets hot so you have time to figure out how to install them, and get the LG ones with dehumidification.

Third thing: yes you need a lawn mower. You need it in May when the grass is growing fast, not June when you already have a jungle. You need a gas (or battery powered) self-propelled mulching lawn mower at least, not a manual reel mower. Urban eco-friendly hipster reviews on Amazon may tout how pleasant and effective manual reel mowers are, but they are not sufficient for New Hampshire sized lawns. Lawn mowers cost $300+ or $1000+ for the riding type, maybe check CL. Don’t cut the grass too short or it won’t grow back next year, you just have to deal with cutting it more often — to 3″ every week or more. You will also need a leaf blower, weed whacker (+ gas cans), wheel barrow or cart, and spreader (see below).

On grass: all your neighbors will have perfect lawns and look like they know what they’re doing. Here’s what we learned to make our house appear inhabited and keep our lawn at least at the low end of average:

  • Your lawn is probably larger than 10,000 sqft, and certainly larger than 5,000 sqft (they often sell the bags of stuff in 5,000 sqft increments).
  • You have to use the spreader to put fertilizer in the spring and fall, otherwise the grass will be brown. We have the Scott Snap Spreader and we just refill the bags with other stuffs — we aren’t smart enough to handle a real spreader with complicated settings.
  • If you have pine trees you have to use the spreader to put lime to raise the soil pH otherwise nothing will grow right except moss and weeds and more bugs; we used Jonathan Green MagiCal. If you work in a biology, chemistry, biotech, or other lab (not unlikely if you’re coming from Boston) you can use the pH strips to measure your soil pH, just suspend some soil in di-water, incubate 30-60 min, and read.
  • You have to put the GrubEx in the first week of June or you will get tons of beetles that fly around and die in your house and look disgusting and eat your garden.
  • You can use the spreader to overseed your lawn with grass seed in the spring or fall (fall is better), this will prevent your grass from looking bare and dead. Overseeding just means putting new grass seed over your existing grass. The internet says many steps to doing this, but make sure you water the seeds. Buy a timer and an oscillating sprinkler (<$50) — you’ll probably need multiple sets, or seed only one area per week and move the sprinkler weekly. Or install in-ground automatic sprinklers like all our fancy neighbors.
  • You could also hire people to do all this stuff.

On leaves: leaf peeping is great when you drive north from the city and view pretty fall leaves from your car, but when you have a yard those leaves *fall* and become your problem. Don’t try to rake that many leaves, you will spend hours, make yourself sore, and new leaves will fall there tomorrow. Use the mulching lawn mower to mulch the leaves. That was so not obvious to us.

On snow: you will need a snowblower or hire a snow plow. The snow plow people cost 10x less than they do in the city — $30 or so per storm.

We are by no means done learning, but fyi it weren’t easy nobody told us anything… probably because it’s all so obvious.