Throughout the year there are several important tasks which, when done properly, will increase the density, health, and appearance of the lawn. The most important services to provide your lawn can be divided into three categories: initiation, maintenance, and preparation.
Before the grass is able to grow during the summer, it is crucial that you give it every possible advantage to start growing early. Here are the three biggest benefactors to your lawn's growth in the spring:
- Spring Leaf Cleanup
- Spring Core Aeration
- Spring Dethatching
Spring Leaf Cleanup: The first step in the process of preparing your grass for the spring is removing the debris from the surface of the lawn. Here are three quick reasons why a spring cleanup benefits your lawn:
- The sun can reach the grass, encouraging early root growth.
- Proper ventilation. When the grass is covered by leaves it has trouble growing.
- The grass can dry faster from the melting snow before the fungus has a chance to grow.
Spring Core Aeration: The second step in the process of preparing your grass for the spring is performing a core aeration. Again, here are three benefits of aerating in the spring:
- Enables oxygen to get below the topsoil (encouraging root growth).
- It allows the soil to absorb more water (encouraging root growth).
- Reduces puddling and flooding of grass.
Spring Dethatching: Though it is more effective to dethatch your lawn during the fall season, in some cases it can be helpful to dethatch in spring as well. To learn more check out our other articles on dethatching. Here are three reasons why you should dethatch your lawn in the spring (if necessary):
- It allows for better water drainage.
- It allows grass roots to grow deeper.
- It allows the sunlight to reach the soil.
To learn more about each one of these three important steps, check out our other articles that go into more detail on each subject.
After the lawn has been prepared for summer and the grass has been given full potential to grow, it is important to regularly maintain the lawn to ensure that it stays healthy and does not get over-run. Here is a list of the three most important things to do during the summer to allow the lawn to continue growing:
- Maintain a Healthy Grass Height
- Keep the Ground Hydrated
- Don't Hinder Growth
Maintain a Healthy Grass Height: This is possibly the single most important thing you can do for your lawn. Keeping it at the right height (not too short and not too tall) will force it to keep growing deeper and healthier roots. It is also important to cut the grass regularly. Here are three tips on maintaining your grass height:
- Cut the grass to about three inches. This is generally a good height to cut grass.
- Keep your blades sharpened. Dull blades will not leave a clean cut and will make it difficult for the grass to continue growing.
- Don't cut the grass too short. If you ever get behind, don't cut more than 50% of the grass off in one day. This is true with bushes as well.
Keep the Ground Hydrated: Depending on your climate, you may need to water your lawn regularly, or never. If the temperatures are cooler the lawn can go for a couple of weeks without needing water. But if the temperatures are somewhat high it is a good idea to water the grass regularly. Here are a few basic guidelines for watering your grass:
- If the temperatures are below seventy degrees, make sure the grass gets about half an inch of water a week.
- If the temperatures are between seventy and eighty-five degrees, the grass should get about one inch of water each week.
- For every fifteen degrees above seventy, apply one more inch of water. (for example, apply three inches when the temperature is around eighty-five degrees).
Don't Hinder Growth: It is important to be aware of the different ways that the growth of your lawn is hindered. If you are able to remove these hindrances, your lawn will experience better growth.
- Do not allow pets to relieve themselves anywhere they choose. Animal urine will not just hinder the growth of grass, but will actually kill it and prevent grass from growing there in the future.
- Remove trees that cast shade onto the lawn. Unless your grass is specifically meant to grow in shaded areas, the shade caused by large trees will often prevent grass from growing to its full potential.
- Reduce foot traffic on the lawn. Grass that is constantly being stomped on will be less likely to grow and will have increased likeliness to die. Consider installing a simple paved walkway in high traffic areas.
The final step to keeping your lawn healthy is to prepare it for the upcoming winter. In Minnesota weekly mowing usually slows down towards the end of September and ends about halfway through October. The same three tasks that were done in the spring to prepare the lawn for summer will be used to prepare the lawn for winter:
- Fall Cleanup
- Fall Core Aeration
- Fall Dethatching
Fall Cleanup: This is the most important thing you can do to prepare your lawn for the winter. There are many different options and strategies for fall cleanups. Here are the most common things you can do:
- Remove all the leaves. Though you will still need to do a small clean up the following spring, removing the bulk of the leaves in the winter will prevent the fungus from growing over the winter.
- Mulch the leaves. Running over the leaves with a mower but leaving the particles on the lawn may not look as pretty, but the particles will decompose faster over the winter and provide nutrients to the soil. (You will still have to clean up the remaining pieces in spring).
- Mulch the leaves and put them in your flower bed. Instead of mulching your leaves and putting them back on your lawn, you can dump the small leaf particles onto your flower beds. This will provide nutrients to your flowers, make your lawn look nice, and you won't have to pick up any leftover particles from your yard in the spring.
Fall Core Aeration: Just as in spring, a fall aeration will allow more root growth. Here are three things to remember when performing a fall aeration:
- Don't do it too early. You want to wait until the grass has slowed down growth, and when the temperatures are a bit cooler. In Minnesota, fall aerations are typically started in September or October.
- Don't do it too late. You don't want to wait until the ground is frozen. The latest time to perform an effective aeration in Minnesota is usually about one or two weeks into November.
- Do not pick up the grass cores that are left behind my the aerator. They will break down quickly and add to the growth of the lawn.
Fall Dethatching: Dethatching should not be done yearly. It is typically done once every two to four years because the process of dethatching puts many stains on the lawn. Dethatching in fall is usually better than in the spring because, when done in the spring, dethatching will put stress on the grass and slow its growth. Here are a few things to consider when dethatching in the fall:
- Is it absolutely necessary? If there is not at least one inch of thatch on your lawn, it is probably not worth putting your yard through the strain. Wait until it is necessary.
- Is there one specific area that has deep thatch? If so, just focus on that one area and save the rest of your lawn from the stress.
- Make sure to water your lawn afterward. This is especially important when dethatching in the spring.