Lawncare 101

Something happens to you when you buy your first home. A transformation occurs, when all of a sudden, you start to care about how your lawn looks. Is it nice and green? Is it getting too long? Did you cut it too short? Every homeowner dreams of having a healthy lawn that‘s the envy of all their neighbors, and here’s how you can get one.

Like all of gardening in the Midwest, it starts in the spring. The preparation and care you put in now will set you up for the season. It is the best time to plant seed and lay down new sod. Just be sure to keep it well watered for about two or three weeks after planting.

Spring is also the time to apply pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides. These help with preventing crabgrass and other broadleaf weeds from invading your lawn.  Just be sure that you do not apply these herbicides at the same time as laying down new seed, because the herbicides will prevent the seed from growing. Also, with post-emergent herbicides, we recommend applying only in the areas that you have weeds rather than on your entire lawn.

Aerating your lawn is another step to a healthy lawn. Doing this in the spring will help prevent thatch problems during the season, as well as aid in drainage.  And as you begin to mow your lawn, remember not to cut it too short. Keep it between two and three inches.

During the summer, both the heat and increased traffic on our lawns can really take its toll on the grass. This is also the season where we can have problems with grubs and other insects.  You can tell if you are having insect problems if you have areas of dead, browned patches that pull up like carpet.  Depending on the damage, you may want to repair your lawn with seed in late summer.

During the summer heat, you want to keep your blades of grass a little bit longer, about three inches in height.  You’ll also want to make sure your lawn is getting sufficient water throughout the summer. To keep a nice green lawn, be sure it’s getting about an inch of water per week. Using sprinklers is a great way to manage this, just be sure you’re not overwatering if there is a lot of rain.

Last summer, we had such terrible drought and heat that most lawns went dormant. This means they turned a little brown and didn’t look their best, but once cooler weather came they greened up.  While it isn’t the most appealing look, it is okay to let your lawn go dormant. Simply make sure your lawn is getting about a quarter-inch of water each week to keep it alive. Once it has gone dormant, wait for the cooler temperatures to bring it back to life. You don’t want to stress it by bringing it in and out of dormancy.

Also, with the extreme temperatures, you want to avoid using fertilizers with lots of nitrogen or using post-emergent herbicides. These can damage a lawn during the heat, especially if it has gone dormant.

During the fall, your lawn is recovering from a summer of heat and overuse by kids and pets playing outside.  During this time of year, there are several steps you’ll want to take in order to prepare your lawn for the winter.

The first is raking up any leaves that have fallen onto your lawn. Leaving the piles on your lawn through the winter can encourage lawn disease and is not recommended. Another alternative is to mulch the leaves with your lawn mower and spread them over your lawn. As long as it’s not a thick layer of chopped leaves, these will help add nutrients back to your grass.

You’ll also want to take this time to aerate your lawn. Aerating your lawn allows water and fertilizers to get into the compacted soil, feeding the roots before the winter.

As suggested, after you aerate your lawn, go ahead and fertilize. Using fertilizers that are high in nitrogen and potassium is best this time of year. You’ll want to look for a lawn-specific fertilizer or a fertilizer that has higher first and third numbers (i.e. 32-0-12).  Be sure to follow the directions on the package so that you do not over fertilize your lawn.

Continue to water your lawn throughout the fall, decreasing as the winter draws closer.  It is especially important to continue to water in the fall if you experienced a drought during the summer. You will also want to continue to mow your lawn. At this point in time, you want to leave the blades of grass at about two inches tall.  Continue to mow into October, and you can stop once the first few frosts come about and your lawn’s growth stops.

During the winter, whether there’s snow or not, there isn’t much you can do for your lawn.  Letting it go dormant, like the rest of your plants, helps it gear up for another season.  There is however, some harm that can be done during the winter months.

When using salt on your driveway and sidewalks, be sure to avoid getting it on your lawn. This will kill the roots of your lawn, leaving brown, dead patches come springtime.  There are products out there that are just as effective as salt that do not harm your lawn or other plants that may be near your driveway.  These de-icing agents typically have the ingredient calcium-chloride or calcium magnesium acetate, so they are salt-free and can be used in extreme cold.

Unfortunately, most damage resulting from over-salting will not be evident until the spring. So be sure to sweep away any extra salt you have laid down or has gotten onto your plants. 

Using this seasonal guide on how to care for your lawn will result in a healthy, lush lawn that will be the envy of all your neighbors.

Christian Goers