Lawn Care Calendar
 

Adjust lawn care practices based on grass growth. In spring, long days, cool temperatures and usually plentiful moisture make roots and tops grow quickly, represented by the first peak on the calendar.

Warmer temperatures and lack of moisture usually slow grass growth in summer. If moisture is adequate, cooler temperatures speed growth again in fall as plants store food in their roots.

For more information, see How Grass Grows in the Lawn Care Library.


Early spring

Don't damage turf while cleaning up branches and other winter debris. Footsteps on wet ground can kill turf and give weeds a foothold. Wait for ground to dry and stabilize.

Do not apply fertilizer - or allow your lawn service to apply it - onto frozen or saturated ground. Especially do not apply fertilizer onto snow. This can be a waste of money as much of the fertilizer can run off and end up polluting our streams, rivers and lakes.

Introduce Kentucky bluegrass into your lawns by broadcasting while soils temperatures are below 50 F.

Seed bare spots early to crowd out warm-season weeds such as crabgrass later in the season.

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Mid-spring

Delay fertilizer applications until after Memorial Day for most home lawns. Spring fertilizer applications should not exceed .75 lb. N/1,000 ft.2, and you can skip spring nitrogen all together if you applied N in late fall.

Crabgrass germinates best at 59F to 65 F. So wait for soil to warm before applying pre-emergence crabgrass control. Soil in thin or bare spots warms up sooner. Reseed these spots in early spring, or be prepared to apply crabgrass control earlier than for the rest of the lawn.

Core aeration in spring can do more harm than good, particularly if soils are wet. Wait until soils are on the dry side to avoid compaction.

Even if dandelions are blooming, spraying 2,4-D amine (the formulation found in most home broadleaf herbicides) will not be effective until at least 225 GDDs (Growing Degree Days) have accumulated since March 1. More about GDDs and a map to find out how many have accumulated in your part of New York.

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Summer

Prepare your lawn for more moisture stress by mowing high (at least 3") to encourage strong root systems. Leave the clippings.

Sharpen your mower blade to reduce water loss from plants after mowing. Also avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day.

Unless you have an in-ground system or small area, consider not watering and allowing the sod to go dormant until weather cools. If you water, water right.

Midsummer is not a good time to reseed or renovate lawns. Wait until temperatures cool. Best time for New York is 8/15 to 9/25.

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Fall

Keep leaves out of roadways or drains. (They can wash away and pollute waterways with phosphorus.) Shred fallen leaves with a mulching mower or collect leaves and compost them before snowfall mats down leaves, which can kill turf.

Avoid walking on grass until frost burns off. Foot traffic can easily injure or kill frosted plants.

If you fertilize only once a year, a single application around Thanksgiving is the best time. (Most home lawns with modest expectations do just fine with a single late-fall fertilization.) Apply 1 lb. N/1,000 square feet while the grass roots are still growing, about two weeks after your last mowing.

Do not fertilize during "Indian summer" - a warm period following hard frost. This may cause excessive topgrowth, reduce root storage and increase winterkill.

Make your last mowing cut about to 1 inch lower than your normal mowing height to discourage matted grass and snow mold.

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Winter

Avoid walking on grass until frost burns off. Foot traffic can easily injure or kill frosted plants.

Take time to maintain your mower, including sharpening the blade and its height.

Avoid plowing or shoveling salt-laden snow onto the grass. Apply only enough salt to do the job after you remove the snow. Calcium chloride based de-icing salts don't cause as much damage as sodium chloride.

Even though it's often suggested, do not use urea or other fertilizers as de-icing salts. They can run off when snow melts and pollute surface and ground waters.

Spring rains may leach salts from the soil if drainage is adequate. If it's dry, you may need to water by hand to flush them out.

Salt damage is often compounded by compaction from foot traffic, auto tires and piled snow. Even if the damage is not enough to kill sod, it increases stress on the grass, making it more prone to diseases and weed competition. Weak turf in these areas is especially vulnerable to runoff into storm sewers and surface waters. Plan to reseed weak areas next season.

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