Your lawn might only be green for one or two seasons out of the year. But lawn care and maintenance services can be necessary year-round. Neglecting care, preparation, or planning when it needs to be done can result in an unsightly, yellowing, or overgrown lawn later. Hiring a professional company to provide lawn care and maintenance services, such as a landscaping firm or shrub care company, will help you take care of your landscape and keep it healthy, but you still need to know what has to happen when.
Remember that your grass is alive all year long: even when it is lying dormant and not physically growing taller, the roots still need food, nutrients, water, and oxygen, and the plant itself needs to be cared for and protected. The ground in which your grass is growing is just as important as the plant itself, which is why it is important that your lawn care and maintenance services plan includes attention to maintaining the health and structure of your soil as well.
You and your lawn will be happier if you get an early start preparing for the growing season. Getting ready in advance will make all of the rest of the work go much smoother. A qualified lawn care and maintenance service or shrub care company can point you in the right direction and help you make a good start to the year.
After the snow melts in early spring, get started with the following tasks:
Remove debris from your lawn
Rake off any leaves that fell over the winter, pick up branches and twigs that have fallen, and remove any litter. Giving your lawn time to breathe, and to gather sunlight, is important early in the spring when the sun is not overhead as long during the day. It will also help keep the grass from getting smothered.
Replace the gas in your mower and storage jugs
Leaving gas in a tank or storage jug over the winter will likely render it useless; in fact, if moisture has built up in the gas, it could damage the mower’s engine. Drain or siphon out any old gas and replace it with freshly pumped fuel. Remember that ethanol is not recommended for most mowers. Consult local authorities about any regulations, restrictions, or guidelines for discarding old gas.
Tune-up your mower
The start of the year is the right time to replace the sparkplug and air filter and tighten any loose connections or wires. Check all of the belts, cables, and hoses to ensure nothing is broken, leaking, stretched, or worn out.
If you are looking to extend or redesign your lawn area, hire the appropriate lawn care and maintenance services company that can assist with sod installation. Remember that sod installation is a delicate and precise project that requires a great deal of planning, preparation, and expertise. Done well, sod installation can be an excellent way to enhance the appearance of your lawn; done poorly, however, sod installation can result in an exponential number of problems down the road.
Once the weather warms up in late spring, your grass will begin growing. Take care of it by having your lawn care and maintenance services company review the property and do the following:
Aerate the ground
Using an aerator that is properly sized and designed for your lot, punch a pattern of small (two- to eight-inch) holes into the ground to allow water, air, and fertilizer to reach the roots directly and relieve soil compaction. If your soil is hard clay, you will need to aerate more often than if it is sandy. Smaller lots can be done with hand-aerators, but larger lots will require a power core aerator or, less desirably, an attachment for your tiller.
Once active growth has started, feeding the grass with a nutrient-rich fertilizer will allow for stronger root growth and thus healthier grass later in the year. Be sure to use the most appropriately balanced fertilizer for your particular soil and grass type. If you are uncertain about this, you can have the soil tested by your local Cooperative Extension Service. Consider also consulting a professional landscaping or lawn care company for advice on the best product to use. Garden fertilizers, tree fertilizers, and potted plant fertilizers are not appropriate for use on lawns and they may actually kill the grass.
Apply pre-emergent herbicides
Use a soil thermometer to determine when the soil temperature reaches 58-degrees Fahrenheit. Crabgrass will begin to germinate at this temperature, so now is the time to apply a reliable pre-emergent herbicide. Keep an eye out for non-grass seedlings that might be sprouting up in your lawn; mowing these may not fully kill off the plant, so have a garden fork that is the appropriate size for pulling them up by the root.
After the grass starts growing, let it reach a height of around three inches before mowing. If you cut it before that height, the stalk may not have sufficient strength to recover. Also be sure to avoid mowing wet grass; doing so can spread diseases, result in ragged or uneven cuts, and clog up your mower.
Early summer is when your lawn will really start to thrive; unfortunately, so too will many of the things that can damage your lawn. Proper vigilance is essential and sod installation may be required if some parts of the lawn become too seriously damaged; if this is needed, be sure to hire a professional lawn care and maintenance services company. Also consult with your shrub care company about the best regimen of pruning and mid-season fertilizing for your bushes and trees. The earlier you catch and mitigate damage, the more likely you will be to avoid developing underlying problems that could recur year after year.
When it comes to your lawn, here are some things to pay attention to in early summer:
No herbicide is 100% effective and you will likely begin to see rose moss, nutgrass, mouse ears, spotted spurge, and other aggressive weeds creeping into your lawn around this time. Remove them by hand, garden fork, or with the right post-emergent herbicide application before they go to seed. A reputable shrub care company can help you decide on and apply an herbicide that will not harm your bushes and trees.
June bugs, Japanese beetles, and other insect pests will emerge in their larval form once the weather warms up. These grubs feast on tender grass roots, leaving patches of dead and wilting lawn. Carefully lift a portion of the sod near the edge of one of these patches and look for the fat, white grubs. If you only see a few, remove them by hand, but if you see a large number (ten or so per square foot), seek out a reliable pesticide that is specifically designed for grub control.
Keep your attention on mowing in this crucial season. As the weather warms, most types of grass will grow at an increasingly rapid rate, meaning you might need to mow more than once per week. Remember to avoid cutting when the grass is wet, and never cut more than one-third of the stalk. If you accidentally damage an area while mowing, consider sod installation as a way to repair the damage, but make sure that you match the height and type of the grass around the patch.
At the height of summer, your lawn will also be at its height. Mowing and watering are the two most important things for the grass at this time, though you should also be scheduling regular upkeep from your lawn care and maintenance services company. They will be able to assist with any out of the ordinary work that needs to be done, or if there are parts of your property that are difficult for you to mow yourself.
Keep the grass high enough so that the mower blade never has to be set further than three inches. Taller grass will stay thicker, form stronger roots, hold more water (and thus require less frequent watering), and develop fewer weeds. Rake off debris such as leaves, branches, and clumps of mown grass; finer grass clippings can be left to decompose and return valuable nutrients to the soil. Keep your mower clean—including under the blade deck—in order to avoid spreading diseases or damaging the engine.
Most lawns need one inch of water per week, and it is typically better that they get it in the form of deep, infrequent waterings rather than light, frequent waterings. When the weather grows hot, the grass may go dormant and stop growing for a time; remember, though, that even dormant grass needs about one inch of water per week.
With the growth rate of grass slowing, early autumn is the ideal time to arrange with your lawn care and maintenance services company for repair work on your lawn through a course of re-seeding and sod installation. To recover dead areas, follow these steps:
Remove all of the patches of dead grass and loosen the soil.
Work an inch or so of compost into the soil.
Spread the appropriate grass seed evenly on the patch and work it in to about half an inch deep.
Cover the soil with grass clipping to retain moisture.
Water the patch lightly once per day until the seeds germinate and the grass reaches one inch in height.
Re-seeding and sod installation can also be done by a qualified lawn care and maintenance services company. Make sure that the company you hire specializes in sod installation, however, and is not just a mowing service. Do some research into the company’s profile, ask around for recommendations and references from people you trust, and drive around to look at other lawns in your neighborhood on which they have worked.
Later in the autumn is the time to work with your lawn care and maintenance services company to prepare your lawn for the winter. The groundwork you lay know establishes the foundation for the lawn you will have in the spring, so be sure to take good care.
Clear off all leaves and debris
Mulching fallen leaves is a good way to return nutrients to the soil. Avoid leaving a layer of mulch that is so thick that the grass cannot breathe or get sufficient light and water. Do not allow branches or other large debris to lie on the grass for any length of time. The blades are very sensitive at this time of year, as they prepare to go into dormancy, and anything heavy that is left on them risks damaging or killing them.
Aerate and fertilize
Especially in colder zones, right before the expected first frost date is the time to aerate the soil again and apply a fresh course of fertilizer. This is the source of the food and oxygen that will keep your grass roots alive when the plants go dormant over the winter.
Remember that even under a thick layer of snow, your grass is still down there and—though slumbering—alive. A good shrub care company can help you prune any bushes or trees that need special care over the winter. Avoid too much traffic over the lawn and do not leave lawn furniture and other equipment out over the winter. If you use an ice melt, choose a product that will not cause damage as it seeps into the ground. Consult with your lawn care and maintenance services company to start making your lawn care plan for the spring!
Lawn care is a year-round project, but it does not have to be difficult or overly time-consuming. Understanding what goes into growing and sustaining a healthy lawn can be made easier by seeking out professional assistance. Developing and following a carefully thought-out schedule can actually help reduce the amount of work you have to do. And it is the best way to ensure that your lawn remains healthy, thriving, and vibrant, seasons after season and year after year.