How to Care for Your Lawn

how to care for your lawn

A well-maintained lawn adds value to your home and provides a safe and comfortable area for you and your family to enjoy the outdoors. When you know how to care for your lawn, you can create an oasis for relaxing and entertaining.

Proper lawn maintenance allows you to have the best-looking lawn in your neighborhood and enjoy a luxurious outdoor space.

How to Care for Your Lawn

Assess Your Lawn and Make a Plan

The first step to any problem is assessing the situation. Learning how to care for your lawn is a challenging task. Objectively evaluate the current condition of your lawn and consider the overall health of the grass and soil.

Look for drainage problems, bare patches, dead grass, and weeds. 

drainage problem

Make a detailed list of everything that needs to be fixed and create a plan to address each concern. The following information will help guide you in this process. 

Test and Improve Your Soil

Basic do-it-yourself lawn care starts with improving your soil because healthy lawns require healthy soil. Before adding anything, you should test your soil to determine the baseline and figure out where your soil is deficient. 

While many home test kits for soil are available, they are less accurate than a lab test. Contact your local extension office for help obtaining test kits and finding labs in your area.

The lab test results will let you know precisely what your soil needs. Then, you can add amendments like turf builder and compost to improve your soil’s structure, allowing for better drainage and absorption of water and nutrients. The soil test results will also help you decide which fertilizer to use on your lawn.

Repair Bare Spots in Your Lawn

Bare spots on your lawn occur due to various factors, including damage from pets, diseases, pests, and annual weed growth. Unsightly patches of bare dirt can ruin the appearance of an otherwise lush, green lawn.

Grass patch repair to care for your lawn

When you notice bare spots, patch your lawn at once to keep it looking its best and prevent further damage.

Aerating Your Lawn

Aeration is an essential part of caring for your lawn. Aerating your lawn helps to reduce compaction, break up thatch, and improve water and nutrient absorption. It also helps to reduce runoff, allowing water and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil.

Some soils naturally compact more than others, but all lawns benefit from aeration at least once per year. Understanding how to aerate your lawn correctly ensures optimal health and growth of your grass.

Dethatching Your Lawn

Your lawn needs light, water, oxygen, and nutrients for healthy growth. Over time thatch builds up in your lawn and needs to be removed so that your lawn can breathe and absorb nutrients and water.

Thatch is a layer of organic material that builds up between the blades of grass and the soil. It is composed of dead roots, stems, and other plant debris. Not only can thatch impede water and nutrient absorption, but it also harbors pests and diseases.

Learning how to dethatch your lawn makes it easier to keep your grass healthy and vigorous. It’s a relatively simple process that involves using a special rake or dethatching machine to remove the thatch layer. After removing the thatch, apply a layer of topsoil and fertilizer to help your lawn regrow.

Don’t miss out on our guide to lawn care costs!

Choose the Right Grass for Your Region

Understanding the climate in your region is key to growing a healthy lawn. Different types of grass grow better in certain parts of the world, and several factors can affect grass growth in your area.

  • Temperature: Warm and cool seasons significantly affect your lawn’s growth and dormancy periods.
  • Precipitation: The amount of rain or snow that falls in a region will affect the health of a lawn. Too little rain or snow can cause the grass to dry out and become stressed, while too much can lead to waterlogging and disease.
  • Sunlight: Too much sunlight can scorch your lawn and cause it to turn brown, while too little can cause it to be weak and spindly.
  • Soil: Sandy soils are often not ideal for lawns as they can be too dry, while clay soils are prone to waterlogging.
  • Wind: Strong winds can affect the health of lawns, causing the grass to dry out faster.
  • Pollution: Pollutants such as car exhaust and industrial emissions can damage your lawn.

Contact your local extension office to learn more about your area’s growing zones and potential climate issues that can affect your lawn.

Cool-Season and Warm-Season Grasses

warm and cool season grasses

There are hundreds of species of grasses, but lawn grass falls into two main categories: Cool-season and warm-season grasses. They thrive in distinctly different growing conditions, and choosing the right type of grass is the first thing you should do when you plant a lawn.

Generally, cool-season grasses grow best in the northern regions of the United States because they are well-adapted to cool, wet springs and frigid winters. Warm-season grasses thrive in the warmer climates of the southern United States and are well adapted to hot summers and mild winters.

Cool-season grasses include Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass. Warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, and centipede grass.

People in transitional areas often choose a blend of warm- and cool-season grasses designed for their region.

Best Time to Plant Grass Seed

The best time to plant grass seed depends on your region and the type of grass you are growing. The best time to plant grass is when the peak growing conditions for your type of grass match the current climate in your region.

If you’re growing cool-season grasses, the best time to plant grass seed is in the fall because your lawn will have three seasons to get established before it’s threatened by hot weather. You can also plant it during the spring, but you will have to water it more carefully in the summer, which will likely be affected by the hot summer sun.

With warm-season grasses, spring is the best time to plant grass. Warm-season grasses quickly germinate with warmer weather and spring rains, and unlike cool-season grasses, they are resistant to drought and hot weather.

How to Plant Grass Seed

Once you’ve tested your soil and chosen the correct type of grass, always follow best practices and use quality seeds and materials for your lawn. Whether patching a bare spot or reseeding a whole new lawn, knowing how to plant grass seed will help you achieve the best results.

Prepare the soil for planting and add soil amendments. Smooth it with your rake, then spread the grass seed by hand or use a broadcast spreader for large areas.

The grass seed needs about a ¼” of soil on top of it. Rake the area again to ensure the seed is covered, and the ground is level.

Use an erosion mat or weed-free mulch to protect the seeds and keep them in place. Sprinkle your new lawn lightly with water to avoid washing the grass seed away. Gently water it two to three times a day until the grass has germinated and is about one inch tall.

It usually takes about 5-7 days for grass seed to germinate, but sometimes it can take up to three or four weeks. Once it starts to grow, you can taper off watering.

Instead, drench it deeply to encourage deeper root growth. It’s ready to be mowed when it’s about three months old.

Fertilize Your Lawn

Fertilizing lawn

Fertilizing your lawn is an essential part of grass maintenance. Fertilizer keeps your lawn healthy, green, and lush by supplying essential nutrients to the grass and soil.

Healthy grass growth hinders weed growth and helps prevent pests and diseases, which means fertilizing can save you a lot of trouble later on.

Lawn fertilizers have varying amounts of three nutrients: Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K), and can be designed for slow-release or special applications. An essential part of knowing how to fertilize your lawn is knowing what type of fertilizer to use and how often to apply it.

Several factors will affect what fertilizers you choose and when you use them on your lawn. Many people fertilize their grass three to four times a year, with most applications occurring in the spring and fall.

You may need to apply fertilizer more often if you live in an area with high temperatures and low rainfall.
When applying fertilizer, spread it evenly across the entire lawn. It’s best to use a fertilizer spreader for this purpose, as it will help ensure the fertilizer is evenly distributed.

Follow the instructions on the fertilizer label to determine how much fertilizer to use on your grass.

How to Care for Your Lawn by Using Weed Control

Controlling weeds in your lawn requires a persistent effort and a strategic approach. The first step is identification because knowing what type of weeds you are dealing with and understanding how they grow will help you decide the best way to fight them.

Not all weeds respond to eradication methods the same way. The most common lawn weeds include dandelions, crabgrass, broadleaf plantain, and quack grass. But there are many others, and it’s essential to know which ones are in your yard before you start using products on your lawn.

Weeds are uniquely designed to take advantage whenever you let your guard down. In some cases, using herbicides will be necessary, but in others, simply pulling weeds by hand is the easiest way to kill them.

With some types of weeds, you’ll have to use various methods to keep them from taking over your lawn.

When you take time to understand the growth habits of weeds, you can avoid providing them with peak growing conditions. For example, if you’re trying to kill crabgrass, keep your grass at least three inches tall and use a crabgrass preventer early in the spring to keep it from sprouting.

When you mow your grass too short in the spring, you create the perfect conditions for germinating crabgrass.

How to Mow Your Lawn Correctly

mowing lawn

Regular lawn mowing ensures healthy growth. Mowing reduces the spread of pests and diseases and keeps your lawn tidy and fresh, enhancing your home’s curb appeal.

A well-manicured lawn starts with the right equipment and supplies, especially when it comes to mowing. Here is a short list of the equipment you’ll need to cut your grass:

  • Lawn mower–Get one that matches the size of your yard. For large yard care, you’ll need a riding lawn mower.
  • String trimmer–You need a trimmer to reach places your mower can’t. Choose between gas and electric models.
  • Edger–Use edgers to create a distinct edge along borders.
  • Lawn rake–Use a lawn rake to clean up large clumps of clippings.

Mow for Height and Health

Regular mowing will keep your lawn healthy and reduce weed growth. It also improves air circulation, increases sunlight exposure, and encourages deeper root growth, which leads to lush, green lawns.

Remember that mowing is essentially pruning. Never cut more than ⅓ of the height of the grass. Otherwise, you can stress your lawn, making it vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Mow your lawn regularly to control weeds, but don’t cut it too short. Cutting your grass short will keep weeds from going to seed, as many weeds, such as crabgrass, can set seed when they are under one inch tall.

Mowing your lawn too short also invites weeds to germinate.

Some types of grass like to be kept shorter than others. Use this guide to determine the best mowing height for your grass.

Type of GrassSpeciesMowing Height
Cool-seasonFescue2 to 3 inches
Kentucky Bluegrass2 to 2.5 inches
Perennial Ryegrass2 to 3 inches
Annual Ryegrass2 to 3 inches
Tall Fescue2.5 to 3.5 inches
Warm-seasonZoysia1.5 to 2 inches
Centipede1.5 to 2 inches
Bahia grass2 to 3 inches
Bermuda grass1.5 to 2 inches

When to Mow Your Lawn

How often you need to mow your lawn depends on how fast it grows. You can start mowing your lawn in the spring when the temperatures have consistently warmed to about 40°F (4-5°C).

You might need to cut it every 5 to 6 days during peak growing conditions, and you can keep cutting until it stops growing in the fall.

Avoid mowing after it rains or in the early morning when your grass is still covered with dew. When grass is wet, the grass clippings clump together.

Also, the grass bends over when it’s wet, making it impossible to get a neat cut.

While it’s best to mow when the grass is dry, avoid the hottest parts of the day because freshly cut grass blades can turn brown and invite pests. Always use sharp blades to prevent ripping the grass, and keep it growing straight by changing the pattern every time you mow.

How to Care for Your Lawn by Watering it Properly

watering lawn

There are no hard and fast rules about watering your lawn because climates and seasons vary, and people grow grasses with varying watering requirements.

A fully established lawn does best with deep watering, usually equal to about one inch of rainfall per week, but how often you water your lawn will change throughout the year.

When to Water Your Lawn

Rainfall, soil types, grass species, sun, and shade all factor into how often your lawn needs to be watered. Use the following tips to help you determine the best time to water your grass.

  • Water early in the day because it evaporates when you water it in the middle of the day.
  • Watering at night encourages plant diseases and fungi.
  • Water less in the cool seasons and more often in the warmer months. In cooler regions, lawns don’t need watering from late fall to early spring.
  • Use a rain gauge to determine how much water your lawn is getting, whether it’s from rainfall or your sprinkler.
  • Probe the soil to determine the moisture level in your soil. When it’s dry at a depth of 4 to 6 inches, it’s time to water.
  • Pay attention to the color of your grass. When it needs water, it loses its vibrancy and turns a blue-gray color.
  • Your footprints will disappear quickly if your lawn has enough water. If it takes longer than a half hour, it’s time to water your grass.

Using a sprinkler system can take much of the work out of watering your lawn, but you still need to pay attention and adjust your system so your grass care gets the right amount of water. Too much water can be as detrimental to your lawn as too little.

How to Provide Seasonal Lawn Care

Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, you should complete a few do-it-yourself lawn care tasks to keep your yard looking its best. Use the following information to create a seasonal checklist to make it easier to stay on top of lawn tasks throughout the year.

How to Care for Your Lawn in the Winter

No matter what region you live in, winter is when you can ensure your lawn is ready to flourish in the spring. Depending on weather conditions in your area, you can remove debris, aerate, and over-seed your lawn in the wintertime.

Keep lawn furniture and other objects like kids’ toys off your lawn throughout the winter. Even if it’s covered in snow, these items can damage your lawn when left for long periods, so you should do the basic lawn care to have it ready in the winter.

Be careful when using de-icing products on paths and driveways near your lawn. The runoff from these products can kill patches of grass.

How to Care for Your Lawn in the Spring

Spring is when your lawn care schedule kicks into gear. Several important tasks need to be done during the spring.

Fertilizing, mowing, and weed control are priorities in the spring. Your lawn needs the nutrients from fertilizers to thrive and promote new growth.

It’s also important to mow regularly in the spring, but keep your blades high because short grass will encourage weeds to germinate. Use spring fertilizers that contain pre-emergent herbicides to combat weeds in your lawn.

In many areas, your lawn will only need a little extra water because there is usually plenty of rainfall in the spring. However, pay attention and look for signs that it needs water.

Most yards only need aeration once or twice a year, but spring is the perfect time to aerate your lawn if you have soil that gets compacted easily. It’s also the best time to fix bare patches in your grass.

How to Care for Your Lawn in the Summer

Summer is the time for your lawn to shine. Fertilize your lawn at the beginning of the season, and keep it watered and mowed during the summer months.

Deep watering in the morning is best during the summer. Keep your eye out for pests, diseases, and fungi, and treat your lawn with insecticides or fungicides if necessary.

Continue to mow your at recommended heights to prevent weeds from germinating.

For weeds that have germinated, it’s time to switch to a post-emergent herbicide to keep them from going to seed. Identify your weeds and use recommended herbicides, applying them on hot, sunny days without wind.

Keep your lawn equipment in good condition throughout the summer. While it’s natural for lawns to go dormant during the hottest part of the year, sharpening your lawn mower blades every month will ensure good, clean cuts and help prevent your grass from turning brown in the heat.

How to Care for Your Lawn in the Fall

Fall is an excellent time to plant cool-season grasses and repair bare spots in your lawn. Even though you won’t have to water as much, you’ll be busy keeping dead leaves and debris off your lawn when the weather turns.

In the fall, you can mow your grass shorter. The short grass will encourage annual weeds to germinate, and they will die when it freezes. Short grass also keeps your lawn from getting smothered under the snow.

Fertilize your lawn in the early fall to promote thick growth. You can fertilize again in late fall because the roots will continue to absorb nutrients. When your lawn grows in the spring, there will be fewer weeds because of the thick fall growth.

Before you put your lawn equipment away in the fall, clean it well and drain the fuel. Then, sharpen the blades on your mower one last time, and it will be ready for the first mow in the spring.

More Tips on How to Care for Your Lawn

There’s a lot to know about how to take care of grass, and as you continue to learn about your climate, grass, and soil, you’ll get better at caring for your lawn.

Here are a few more tips for taking care of your grass.

Tip 1: Apply Herbicide to Stop Crabgrass

Crabgrass is a tough weed to eradicate, but if you understand how it grows and properly use pre- and post-emergent herbicides, you can kill crabgrass in your lawn and prevent it from taking over.

Tip 2: Add Mulch to Protect Trees

Use mulch to protect young trees from getting damaged by string trimmers and edgers. While you can protect them with tree guards, using mulch around them also keeps them from competing with the surrounding turf for water and nutrients.

Mulch protects mature trees, too. Bare ground exposes tree roots to the elements, and by adding mulch, you can protect the roots of your trees and improve the appearance of your yard.

Tip 3: Plant Ground Covers in Shady Areas

If you’re having difficulty getting grass to grow in the shady areas of your yard, consider switching to ground covers. Ground covers help reduce weeds and require minimal care. There are several varieties to choose from; their colors, flowers, and textures add depth to your landscape.

Tip 4: Add Pathways and Fencing

Yard Fencing

Instead of struggling to repair bare spots caused by traffic, why not add a pathway? Pathways add character and charm to your landscape and create interesting outdoor spaces.

Fencing your yard is another way to protect landscaping features and keep people and pets from walking through certain areas. You can use small sections for specific areas or install a fence around the perimeter of your home, and there are many types of fencing to choose from that add to your home’s curb appeal.

Tip 5: How to Care for Your Lawn by Using a Mulching Lawnmower

Using a mulching lawnmower saves you time and money. Mulching lawnmowers finely chop the grass clippings and spread them on your lawn as you mow.

You don’t have to worry about bagging and disposing of lawn clippings; they will break down and provide nutrients and compost for your lawn. However, be sure to remove large clumps of lawn clippings so they don’t smother your lawn and cause bare spots.

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