While you may spend the most time relaxing outside during the spring and summer months, caring for your lawn is an all year round project. If you don’t follow some type of do it yourself lawn care schedule, it’s easy to miss something vital, like fertilizing or watering. It takes a large amount of discipline to keep your lawn looking lush and healthy, and getting a do it yourself lawn care schedule in place can help you stay on top of what you need to do at different points throughout the year.
If you’re someone who has the time and likes to take care of your lawn and garden on your own, this quick do it yourself lawn care schedule will outline all of the important parts you should do in each season, and this will help you plan everything out in advance to ensure your lawn gets the best care possible.
Spring Lawn Care
Starting your do it yourself lawn care schedule in the spring will give your lawn a strong start for the growing seasons.
- Months: March, April, May
Spring is when you do it yourself lawn care schedule really takes off. There are a few things you can do very early in the spring, but be patient. You don’t want to start too early because this can do more harm than good. The ground should no longer be frozen, and the surface should feel firm, and you should see your grass turn green and start to grow. Any premature work you do before this point is useless, and it can actually damage your lawn.
Clean up the Yard
Rake up any dead grass, fallen leaves, and debris you see and get rid of them. This will give you a clean lawn to work with.
Test the Soil
Healthy lawns need a strong foundation, and spring is the perfect time in your do it yourself lawn care schedule to test the pH and nutrient levels in the soil. This is also the season when you want to fertilize everything, so you need to figure out exactly what your lawn is lacking. You can get an at-home sol test kit, or you can work alongside your local agricultural extension office, university, or nursery to get your soil sample professionally tested.
Flush Road Salt
You want to apply gypsum to sidewalk and road salt-damaged areas that are adjacent to driveways, cubs, and sidewalks. Ice melters and road salt can harm your grass. Applying a generous amount of granular gypsum as soon as the ground thaws and then dousing the area in water will help flush the salt out of the soil. This gives you less toxic growing conditions for your existing grass and any new seedlings you plant if you choose to reseed these spaces.
Maintain Your Lawn Mower
Now that winter is over, you’ll be getting back into your usual mowing schedule, so you need to ensure that your lawn mower is ready to go. Start by carefully sharpening your mower blades as sharp blades will cleanly slice the tops off grass blades. Dull mower blades will shred or tear the grass, and this will make your lawn more prone to issues. Next, fine-tune your mower. You can replace the spark plug and get a new air filter if needed, and get fresh gas.
Your lawn mower is a very important piece of equipment, so it’s essential that you take steps to maintain it early in the season.
Check Your Irrigation System
If you have an irrigation system installed, now is the time to make sure it works. Check for proper sprinkler coverage and head operation, and look for leaks. A leaking system can easily cause thousands of dollars in damage. And, because it’s common to program these systems to run early in the morning or late at night, you may not even know there’s an issue until you get your water bill.
Aerate the Lawn
Aeration will alleviate soil compaction by adding small holes to your lawn, and this opens up the pathways for water, air, and nutrients to get to the roots. You want to aerate at least once a year, and more if your lawn gets heavy foot traffic or someone parks on it. A core aerator is a nice machine to use, and it pulls out two or three inch cores in the lawn. This allows the soil to breathe better, and you can break up the cores and leave them on top of your lawn to allow them to decompose into the soil.
Dethatch the Lawn
Thatch is a thicker layer of living and decomposing organic matter that will build up between the soil and the grass. A thin layer is very beneficial as it will work to insulate the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations and help it retain moisture. However, a thatch layer that is more than ½-inch thick can reduce the roots’ ability to get access to water, air, and nutrients. During the springtime, check to see if the thatch layer is greater than a ½ inch thick by digging up a patch of grass with a sharp spade. You can get a dethatching rake and use it to break up this layer.
If you have cool-season grass in your yard, you want to fertilize it once during the spring months. For warm-season grass, you can wait until mid or late spring. The goal is to fertilize the grass during the most active growth period, and you should consider using a slow-release fertilizer. Fast-release fertilizers will show quicker growth, but they can be bad for your lawn in the long run. Organic fertilizers have natural nutrients mixed in like guano and blood meal, are more expensive to buy but they offer thicker, greener growth.
This step on the do it yourself lawn care schedule is only necessary if you have crabgrass in your yard. If you don’t you can skip it. The best time to apply this prevention tool is when the soil temperatures reach between 50°F and 55°F. When you apply it at the recommended rate, most herbicides in this category give you crabgrass protection for three or four months. d
Summer Lawn Care
Summer’s hot temperatures may make it challenging to follow your do it yourself lawn care schedule, but there are a few essential things you have to do to help your grass survive it.
- Months: June, July, August
Depending on where you live, the summer heat can scorch. It may not be the most pleasant time for you to go out and work on your yard, but you need to do it if you want to follow your do it yourself lawn care schedule. You don’t want to overdo it during the humid, hot months. You can keep the lawn work to a minimum by watering and mowing as needed and applying your fertilizer once.
Mow Your Grass High
During the summer, you will need to adjust your mower so it’s on the highest or second-highest setting to cut your grass much higher than you usually do. Tall grass will encourage healthier, deeper roots. This will help make your grass more competitive with any weeds. Mow as high as you can, according to your specific type of grass recommendations. Never mow more than the top ⅓ of each grass blade every time you mow to prevent scorching.
Treat for Grubs
Grubs are c-shaped, milky white larvae that come from Japanese beetles and they will eat through your grass to leave dead patches behind. Grubs are a natural part of the ecosystem, and they only become an issue if you have a population explosion. If you think you may have too many grubs, you can dig up a square foot of sod and count them. If you have less than 10, you don’t have anything to worry about. If you have more, you’ll have to apply a chemical control, or you can use an organic method like nematodes or milky spores. The natural approach can take longer, and it may be three years before you see results.
Control the Weeds
Summer is the time for you to take on any perennial or annual weeds that have sprung up using a post-emergent herbicide. Depending on the type of weed you have, you can use a non-selective or selective herbicide. Selective herbicides work to target the weed, and non-selective herbicides can kill the grass around it. Always read the labels and follow the instructions.
Early summer is a good time to kill off broadleaf weeds like clover, dandelions, and creeping charlie. Spray applications are usually more successful than granular options because you can spot spray only weedy areas. Weed-and-feed applications, or granular fertilizers with a broadleaf herbicide mixed in, are common but not as effective as spraying.
Monitor the Local Rainfall and Irrigate Accordingly
To keep your lawn watered correctly, pay close attention to the rainfall. Some weeks, you may get up to an inch or two in the lawn, and you don’t need to irrigate that week. When it’s dry, hot, or windy, you may find yourself watering two to three times that week. Getting stuck on an odd/even watering rule that many municipalities have in play isn’t something you want to deal with. This usually means you’re wasting water and doing more harm than good to your lawn.
Fall Lawn Care
Fall is when you do it yourself lawn care schedule starts to wind down and you prepare your lawn to go dormant for the winter.
- Months: September, October, November
Autumn is your time to feed any cool-season grasses you have and get the lawn prepared for the colder winter months.
Fertilizing your cool-season grasses now will help to encourage strong root growth. Your lawn will take and store nutrients that it’ll use as it goes dormant during the winter. Early fall is also the best time to spread your last fertilizer application. This is a very important process because it gives your grass the nutrients it needs to survive until spring. It helps your lawn get healthy for the colder winter months and sets it up to rebound in the spring for another year.
When late fall comes around, you want to adjust your lawn mower setting so it’s roughly 1.5 to 2 inches shorter than you had it during the summer months. In cool areas, this step will help stop snow mold from growing, and in warmer areas, the falling leaves will have a harder time matting down short grass.
Patch and Seed
Less than ideal growing conditions coupled with the heat of summer can lead to bare patches in the yard or thinning. When the temperature starts to cool, you can patch these areas with seed to restore an even, full look. Pick a grass seed that will thrive in your planting zone and lawn. It should be able to tolerate full shade or full sun as needed.
Make a point to remove any dead grass or debris. Use a spade or trowel to break up the soil and work an inch of compost in to boost the nutrients. Spread the seed over the soil and use a rake to work it in. Put a thin layer of stray over the space to help protect the seeds from birds or the elements. For the first few weeks, you want to water this area more regularly than your lawn until the grass hits an inch tall.
Salt Damage Remediation Head Start
Finally, before your ground freezes over for the year, apply a layer of gypsum in the areas where ice-melt or salt damage usually happens during the winter. THis will give you a head start on spring salt damage remediation.
Winter Lawn Care
There isn’t a lot to do during the winter for your lawn, but it’s the perfect time to refresh your do it yourself lawn care schedule and maintain your lawn care equipment.
- Months: December, January, February
Lawns will start to go dormant in the cooler winter weather, and you need to take a few quick steps to protect it for the spring.
Maintain Your Lawn Equipment
Make sure your lawn equipment like your edgers, trimmers, and leaf blowers are all ready to go. Check any rechargeable batteries, replace oil filters and gas, and change out the spark plugs as needed.
Limit Foot Traffic
Walking on a dormant, tender lawn can compress the soil and kill off the grass. Avoid walking on your lawn if possible, don’t park anything on it, and don’t store anything heavy on it if you can help it.
Carefully Melt the Ice
If you have ice on your lawn, you have to carefully follow steps to de-ice it. Some products that melt the ice are specifically designed to use on your lawn, and things like rock salt can damage it.
One of the biggest things you can do with this do it yourself lawn care schedule is do your research. There are dozens of great sources to look at to help you get an environmentally-sustainable approach to caring for your lawn. They’ll give you unbiased information for your location, and local colleges may offer lawn care classes during the winter months.
6 Beginner Lawn Care Mistakes to Avoid
With your do it yourself lawn care schedule, timing is everything. You can weed, aerate, mow, and water and still have a lawn that is struggling. No matter if you choose to hire a professional or follow a do it yourself lawn care schedule, it’s important to give your grass all of the nutrients it needs during the right time.
For example, even turning your irrigation system on a few hours later in the day could encourage diseases to come onto the lawn and you waste water. So, the following are the six biggest beginner lawn care mistakes you can make so you know to avoid them.
1. Treating Broadleaf Weeds During Dry Weather
Clover, dandelions, and creeping charlie are a few of the most common broadleaf weeds that can crop up in your yard, but plenty of weeds can show up quickly and take over. To keep them in check, you may want to spray a liquid organic broadleaf fertilizer on the lawn or use a weed-and-feed product. To treat weeds that are actively growing, apply granular weed killers in the early morning hours or spot treat them with herbicides.
- Why Timing Matters – When you use them properly, broadleaf weed killers are very effective when the conditions are right. For example, the granules in weed-and-feed products get applied using a spreader, and they have to stick to the leaves for them to be effective. This requires moisture, so the best time to apply it is early in the morning hours as there is heavy dew on the lawn at this point. If the grass isn’t wet, you’ll waste both money and time. Warm temperatures will also help liquid products work better. If you’re in the middle of a hot summer, water the lawn before applying them.
2. Applying Pre-Emergent Herbicides (Weed Preventers) Too Late
Pre-emergent herbicides (weed preventers) help to control crabgrass and other types of weeds by stopping the seeds from germinating. In your do it yourself lawn care schedule, make sure to pencil in an early application of this product. You want to do so from March to May if you can as this is when forsythia blooms drop.
- Why Timing Matters – Weed preventers won’t be as effective against the weeds in your yard if they’re already growing. Crabgrass is the main target of these products, and it usually germinates just after your forsythia blooms. When you notice these bushes dropping the blooms in March to May, apply your weed preventer as soon as possible to activate it.
3. Not Fertilizing Your Lawn
As your grass or plants grow, it sucks up soil nutrients. When you mow and bag up the clippings, the soil nutrients will slowly get used up, so you need to replenish them with a fertilizer. If you allow the clippings to decompose back in the soil, this will help a small amount, but you still need to give it a nutrient boost once in a while. A soil test each year will show you how much you have to add. When you feed your lawn is important too. For in the north, you’ll feed it in the fall and spring. The south does best with spring and summer feedings.
- Why Timing Matters – Grass needs nutrients when it’s actively growing. For cool-season grasses like ryegrass, fescues, and bluegrass, this means in the fall and spring. For warm-season grasses like Bermuda, zoysia, and St. Augustine, later in the spring and summer are the best times.
4. Watering Too Late in the Day
No matter what type of grass you have or where you live, your lawn will need some irrigation to keep it green during the hotter summer dry spells. You’ll want to water early in the morning hours.
- Why Timing Matters – Early morning is the best time to water your lawn. The sun’s warmth will dry the grass out and reduce the chances of diseases. Avoid watering at night as this can encourage disease growth due to prolonged wetness. Also, avoid during the hottest parts of the day because the water will evaporate before the plants have time to absorb it.
5. Not Mowing Frequently Enough
Mowing your yard may seem like a staple on your do it yourself lawn care schedule, but how often and how short your take the grass will affect the appearance and health of the lawn. Mow your lawn as needed, and you want to make a point to not cut it over ⅓ of the height of the grass at the time of mowing. For example, if you set the blade to two inches, don’t let the grass exceed three inches before you mow it.
- Why Timing Matters – A lot of homeowners mow on the weekends, and this puts their lawns into a seven-day stretch. Most of the year, mowing weekly is fine. But, during the spring during rapid growth, you may have to mow every four or five days to keep up with it. Longer intervals allow the grass to get too tall between cutting it, and this stresses your lawn out and makes it less attractive. Keeping your lawn well-mowed is an easy way to discourage ticks or fleas from hiding out.
6. Aerating Your Lawn at the Wrong Time
You aerate your lawn, right? Over time, you compact your soil by walking over it, and thatch will start to build up. Aerating helps to loosen up the soil again, and this allows the water to more easily reach the root system. Aerate when the grass is actively growing and the soil is moist.
- Why Timing Matters – One very common mistake when the soil is hard and dry is to aerate it. The aerator won’t be able to get as deep into the soil. Water your lawn before you aerate it or wait for a heavy rain. Ideal conditions to aerate appear in the spring and fall, and this is why it’s on your do it yourself lawn care list at these specific times.
This simple do it yourself lawn care schedule walks you through the important tasks to take on as the seasons change to help ensure that your lawn has the proper nutrients to grow lush and full from spring to fall. Following it can help you get a full lawn that is healthy and pest and disease-free.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.