Lawns may be maintained at different levels of quality according to individual preference, but good lawns seldom "just happen." This summary outlines major steps required to maintain a year-round high-quality lawn.
The practices refer primarily to cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and fine fescue. Timing is approximate for central USA, it may vary in weeks or even months from one area to another. Consult your local extension office for more specific help.
As needed, start mowing at recommended heights. Use broadleaf herbicides for perennial and winter annual weeds not controlled in the fall. Overseed thin spots early if missed last fall. Watch for moles; traps are the only effective means of control.
Aerate if thatch is 1 inch deep or soil is compacted. Use crabgrass preventers (preemergence herbicides) by April 15. Start top-dressing low spots as grass grows.
Fertilize if needed when spring growth begins to slow. Use a slow-release form of nitrogen, such as polymer- or sulfur-coated urea, urea formaldehyde, or a natural organic to improve lawn quality without promoting excessive leaf growth. Apply postemergence broadleaf herbicides for control of summer annual weeds. If needed, start postemergence control of crabgrass, goosegrass, or nutsedge near the end of the month. Watch for first brood of sod webworm. Apply insecticides about 10 days after major moth flight if damage to turf is seen.
Start watering as needed. Water infrequently to a soil depth of 6 inches. Overwatering can be harmful, but water frequently enough to prevent drought stress. Kentucky bluegrass under stress is susceptible to disease. Don't start watering if you cannot continue full season. Rapidly growing lawns need frequent mowing. Let clippings remain unless they are excessive.
Continue frequent mowing as needed and irrigate only enough to prevent turf wilting. When irrigation is needed and conditions are hot and humid, water between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. to reduce disease occurrences. Search for white grubs in brown areas. Dead turf in those areas can easily be peeled from the surface. If 5 to 10 grubs appear in 1 square foot, treat with an appropriate insecticide near the end of the month. Thoroughly irrigate to move the insecticide into the zone where grubs are active.
Fall seeding and sodding is best; but may be done at other times. Prepare seedbed now. Continue watering and insect control, if necessary. Make plans for fall lawn renovation. Select and purchase grass seed and fertilizer. If lawns are to be totally renovated, kill all vegetation with a glyphosate (Roundup®) application near midmonth. Have soil test performed if you are unsure of basic fertility level. Thoroughly water dormant lawns in last week to start fall growth.
This is an important time to fertilize. Apply 1-1.5 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Plant or seed new lawns early; keep well watered. Aerate where needed to relieve compaction. Rake; dethatch; kill weed patches; overseed thin spots. Resume top-dressing, if needed.
This is the best time to apply broadleaf herbicides, especially for chickweed control. Mow at regular heights until growth stops; mulch tree leaves into turf. Apply lime if soil test indicates need. Fertilize moderately by applying 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet after cool days slow leaf growth. Nutrients at this time will encourage root growth and thickening of turf. Soluble nitrogen fertilizers (containing urea, ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate) are used more efficiently by turf in late fall. Keep leaves from packing and smothering grass. Irrigate, if necessary, so that turf goes into winter with moist - not wet soil. Recondition lawn mower; store with clean oil. Use soluble fertilizer or calcium chloride instead of salt for melting winter ice.