When it comes to tackling any long-term project, going in with an organized schedule helps ensure everything goes according to plan. Lawn maintenance is no different— by having a system set in place that you can stick to, you’ll undoubtedly make your lawn care efforts easier to manage and more successful overall. Here’s how you can get started on developing a proper lawn care schedule for the upcoming seasons.
KICKING OFF YOUR LAWN MAINTENANCE PLAN
First things first, you’re going to want to test your soil pH levels in the early spring. You can purchase a soil test kit and easily do it yourself in your yard. The pH of your soil has a major effect on grass growth, because most lawn grasses do best in slightly acidic soil with a pH around 6.5 or 7. However, before you amend your soil pH, check the type of grass you plan to grow. Some grasses, like St. Augustine or carpetgrass, prefer a pH of 6.0-8.0, while others, like Centipede, grow well in a pH of 4.3-5.8. It’s important to match the soil pH to the type of grass, so that it can soak up the nutrients it needs to produce a lush, green lawn.. If the test reveals your lawn’s soil is at the optimal pH level– perfect! You can skip the lime application stage.
WHY ADD LIME TO YOUR LAWN CARE REGIMEN?
Lime is a lawn treatment made from powdered limestone that reduces soil acidity. It can be purchased in powder form or pellets, but many feel the pellet form is easier to apply. If you don’t lime an overly acidic lawn, applying fertilizer becomes pointless, because all those nutrients go to waste since the grass can’t properly absorb them.
The perfect time to lime your lawn is at the end of autumn before it starts to get frosty outside. This way, your lime will have all winter long to break down, resulting in soil that’s good to go the moment spring arrives. That being said, you can still apply lime in the spring with fantastic results, particularly if your soil test indicates a dire need for treatment. Just be sure to follow directions closely and don’t over-lime your grass. Reducing pH after a lime treatment takes quite a while because limestone keeps on breaking down long after it’s been applied, resulting in a long term slow-release of calcium and magnesium. Never apply lime to an overly stressed or dormant lawn.
GRASS SEEDING INSTRUCTIONS
When using grass seed on your property, it can be tough to determine how much seed you’ll need to buy. As a rule of thumb:
Use 2-3lbs of grass seed per 1,000 square feet for overseeding
Use 4-5lbs per 1,000 square feet of bare lawn
A 25lb bag covers 12,500 square feet of overseeding, or 5-7,000 square feet of new lawn
A 50lb bag covers 25,000 square feet of overseeding, or 12-15,000 square feet of new lawn
GRASS TREATMENT SCHEDULES: WEED CONTROL & WHEN TO FERTILIZE
Dealing with weeds definitely isn’t everyone’s favorite part of the lawn care plan, but luckily there are a lot of weed killers that only need to be applied once. The beginning of spring is a perfect time to apply pre-emergent herbicides, which stop weed seeds from germinating. However, these aren’t effective against weeds that are already growing. For the weeds already in your lawn, apply a weed control product in May. Because the herbicide granules need to have contact with the weed in order to kill it, apply it when there’s still dew on the grass in the morning or water prior to application. If your lawn is overrun with weeds, follow up with a weed killer with a different formula in September. September really is the best time to apply weed killer, because you’ll kill off existing weeds as well as the new seedlings that have germinated and will grow harder to kill in the spring after toughing it out through the winter.
When it comes to fertilizer, you should typically fertilize your lawn twice a year: once near the end of spring or beginning of summer, and then once more at the very end of August. However, fertilizing also depends on the type of grass. Fertilize cool-season grasses, like bluegrass, fescues, and ryegrass, in the spring and fall. For warm-season grasses, like zoysia, bermuda, and St. Augustine, fertilize in late spring and summer. There’s no point in fertilizing by September since we’ll be dealing with snow within a couple months’ time. The only other time it makes sense to fertilize is if your soil tests show high alkaline levels from too much lime. Though it takes a long time for the effects to kick in, fertilizer or manure introduces bacterial cultures that build up over time and help to break down the minerals left behind by lime.
LAWN CARE CHART
Test your soil pH levels
Apply lime if pH levels indicate a strong need
Apply 1st round of weed killer only if needed
Apply pre-emergent herbicide
Apply weed killer (use different formula if this is the 2nd application)
By following this basic lawn care schedule, keeping your yard healthy and green will become so much easier. Begin the year by penciling in your necessary lawn care duties into the calendar so you won’t forget, and enjoy a lush green lawn with no yellow spots or dry patches to be seen.