Lawn maintenance can be tricky, but a little knowledge can take the crowning glory of your home from mediocre to showstopper, and reduce the amount of work you have to do throughout the year.
The Right Lawn Care for Your Grass
Determine the type of lawn you have. Aside from the name of the grass, you'll want to know if it's cool season or warm season. Figure this out because if you’ve got cool-season grasses planted in Florida, now you know why it’s never lived up to your expectations. Maintenance is similar, but this distinction will help determine when you should fertilize, mow, dethatch, etc.
Cool-season grasses are vulnerable right now in northern states subject to extreme weather. Limit foot and vehicle traffic and focus instead on some prep and machine maintenance. Sharpen those mower blades and get your lawnmower and edger serviced now when before the season gets started.
The Southern half of the US should start getting ready for action once warm weather kick starts the lawn. Resist the urge to tramp along the soggy yard. Calm yourself and get a soil test first, then neaten up the edges of your dormant lawn while waiting for the results.
It’s not too late to get your tools and machinery serviced for you northerners. Spring is just around the corner, and your cool-season lawn is nearly ready for its annual soil tested once it’s thawed a bit and isn’t too wet. Once you're thawed out a bit, flush water through soil that may have suffered from salt used to de-ice the roads or sidewalks.
Warm-season lawns could use an application of pre-emergent herbicides to help thwart any weed seeds that have taken root.
Once it’s thawed and dried out enough, those of you in the northern part of the country can finally get out there to give your lawn some much-needed TLC. Start by raking up any debris and dead grass to improve circulation and reduce the opportunities of fungal disease.
Warmer states can start mowing once grass gets growing again. If you suspect disease, bag the clippings rather than mulch it.
For both cool and warm-season areas, apply any soil amendments indicated by the results of your soil test. It’s also a good time to treat any moss actively growing in the lawn.
Lawn maintenance is in full swing for the cool-season grasses. With warm spring still heading your way, you’re a step behind your warm clime cousins, so you’ve got lots to catch up on. Once growth starts, you can start mowing but don't mulch those clipping just yet. They may be diseased, so best to bag and dispose of them. Wait until soil temps register at least 55 degrees before applying pre-emergent herbicides. Seed and repair bare patches.
Continue mowing warm-season grasses, but now you can start mulching the clippings. Spread seed on thin lawns and attend to any damage that occurs along the way.
Northern areas can start mowing and mulching the clippings. Apply post-emergent herbicides, or if you'd rather, stay away from the chemicals and manually pull any tough weeds before they get out of hand. Fertilize based on the recommendations from your soil test.
It’s time for some minor surgery for warm-season grasses. Aerating and dethatching improves drainage and must be done during active growth. Moisture will return the dormant grasses to its lush green splendor. Keep them well hydrated with 1 to 1¼ inches of water per week.
Well-established cool-season lawns need one inch of water per week. This includes regular rainfall. Now that summer is around the corner, continue mowing the lawn, but at an increased height of 3-4 inches to shade the roots for deep growth and so the grass can beat the heat.
Warm season grasses are pretty hungry by now. They’d like to eat every four to six weeks now that they’re actively growing and taking in nutrients.
Grubs and other pests can wreak havoc during this time in both cool-season and warm-season grasses. Be on the lookout for them near the soil’s surface feasting on tender roots, and treat them using your preferred method. Keep mowing at an increased height for reduced moisture evaporation.
Those of you with cool-season grasses will be busy preparing for the end of season. If you plan on seeding, test the soil again to add appropriate amendments. Now’s the time for aeration and dethatching. If your lawn looks thin, you can overseed up to 45 days before first frost.
Warm-season grasses should be mowed only when needed. They’d like to eat before bedding down for winter though, so fertilize and plan for the last feeding to be within 6 to 8 weeks of the first frost.
Cool-season grasses would like to eat now, but don’t feed after six weeks of first frost. Treat or pull weeds and lower the mowing height.
Warmer southern areas are still getting some precipitation, so you can reduce weekly watering. Treat with pre-emergent herbicide to thwart the efforts of cool-season weeds. Because these grasses lose their green during this time, overseeding with perennial ryegrass (a cool-season grass) can add temporary winter green.
Rake and mulch fallen leaves that can suffocate and damage grass causing bare patches or fungal diseases. Growth is slowing now in both cool season and warm season areas, so you can reduce watering and mowing. Add soil amendments recommended by soil test results so they have time to work during the winter.
Keep mowing cool-season grasses until it stops growing. Keep the length short to reduce the likelihood of snow mold. Continue to water if rains don’t materialize so the grass is well hydrated for winter.
If you overseeded with perennial ryegrass to add wintergreen to your warm-season lawn, you’ll need to continue to fertilize and maintain it. Remove and mulch fallen leaves and get rid of those weeds that happened to get away from you.
Cool-season lawns are sleeping right now, so spend your time cleaning and winterizing your lawn equipment. Warm-season lawns would still like a drink if you’ve overseeded them, so maintain a regular schedule if rains don’t suffice.
Lawncare isn’t glamorous, but an emerald carpet in front of your home is oh so satisfying!