Your lawn develops in a predictable cycle of growth and dormancy. At each stage the right care can enrich the soil, encourage healthy growth and discourage weeds and insects.
Be sure to:
- Plant a hardy grass for your region and soil type.
- Get a periodic soil analysis to pinpoint care and maintenance needs.
- Factor in rainfall and irrigation options—in arid climates, a drought-resistant ground cover may be perfect for hard-to-grow areas of the lawn.
Special Tips for Northeast Lawns
Lawns in Northeastern states benefit from rich soils and seasonal changes that optimize the growing cycle. For example, many diseases and pests that victimize warm-climate lawns are held in check by freezing Northeastern winters.
- Never mow lower than 2 ½ to 3 inches.
- Protect winter (dormant) lawns by limiting foot traffic.
- Don’t bag clippings. Instead, leave them on the lawn as nutrient-rich mulch.
- Lawn mower blades should be sharpened once a year or more often.
When to Plant
Seed should be sown between the middle of August and the end of September.
When to Water
Never water “automatically.” Instead, pay attention to rainfall levels and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. In general, summer lawns should be watered once in three days; winter lawns, once in five.
When to Fertilize
Lawns should be fertilized in the fall.
- In areas where grass is thinning, overseeding can help thicken turf and choke out weeds. Mow grass close to the ground, use a rake to loosen the surface, then scatter seeds. Plenty of water is needed until growth is established.
- Weed prevention is easier than weed eradication. The best defense is a healthy lawn. Be sure to monitor your soil condition regularly, fertilize on schedule and overseed thinning areas so that weeds can’t creep in.
- Pesticides should be used only when there is cause—not as a preventive measure. In the Northeast, check in late August for signs of sod grubs by cutting 3 sides of a square foot of sod, pulling it back and examining carefully. If there are fewer than 6 to 10 grubs, your lawn is in good shape.
- Be aware that even the best-looking lawns include up to 15% weeds. A healthy lawn, not perfection, is the goal!
Special Tips for Southwest Lawns
The Southwest region is a multi-featured area with lowlands, highlands and everything in between. Turf should be chosen according to climate and soil type. In locations over 6,000 feet, choose a cool-season grass. Warm or cool-season types can be grown at elevations between 3,500 and 6,000 feet—but either type will be challenged by extreme temperatures at opposite ends of the weather spectrum. One of the most challenging environments for grass is an arid or semi-arid climate. Sod types should be chosen carefully and nurtured appropriately. The most suitable require less water and are more pest-resistant than typical grasses.
Seed or Sod?
In arid climates, lawns are particularly vulnerable to invasion by pests. So, although grass from seed is less expensive initially, it may be more affordable in the long run to lay sod. Quality sod may be less susceptible to pests than homegrown turf.
It is common practice in Southwestern states to sow winter rye grass during the dormant phase of the dominant turf variety. This facilitates a green lawn almost year-round and helps prevent weed growth when the predominant grass is dormant.
Healthy grass requires a well-balanced “diet” of 16 nutrients, especially nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Also, sulfur can help lower the acidity of high pH soils. Fast-draining sandy soil—so common in arid climates—is often lacking in phosphorous and potassium. Be aware of the needs of the soil in your lawn by contacting your local agricultural agent or a local garden club or by having your soil tested by an expert.