Mowing and cleaning up are the common tasks for lawn maintenance, however, there are a couple of actions to take with your lawn recommended at least once a year. Let’s check it up and put it on your schedule for the next fall.
Core aeration is the best method to aerate your lawn. It is performed by using a machine to remove plugs of soil and thatch from a lawn creating holes from ½ to ¾ of diameter to reduce compaction and allow oxygen, water and nutrients to get inside the soil. Follow the below recommendations when aerating your lawn:
- Never aerate your lawn when the weather is extremely hot and dry.
- For cool season grasses, called C3 grasses (cool weather loving, temperate) core aeration must be performed at early fall.
- Warm season grasses, known as C4 grasses (warm weather loving, tropical) require core aeration from mid-spring to early summer.
Thatch build up due to dead grass and debris can kill your lawn, verticutting is a procedure to bring up that dead layer accumulated on your lawn to easily clean up.
Verticutting is also known as vertical mowing and is an essential routine to enhance your lawn and keep it healthy and a good appeal. The safest way to perform verticutting is with a vertical mower machine or verticutter, other procedures are by using a rake with tines or a dethatching machine but are not safe and can damage your lawn.
The Verticutter machine uses vertical blades to cut and bring up the thatch, making it easy to collect and remove from your lawn.
By removing thatch, verticutting will help your lawn to grow healthy and keep it away from insects at the same time it helps the grass breathe and properly absorb the nutrients and allow moisture to reach the roots of your lawn. Anytime is fine to verticutting, however, the best time to do it is in the spring or summer to get your lawn ready for the growing season and to overseeding if necessary.
Tip: if your lawn feels spongy when you walk, it is a signal of thatch build up and needs verticutting.
When it comes to overseeding there are some previous steps people may consider before putting their hands on the seed sprayer. We are going to talk about that today, so you can make sure when you are overseeding to do it the right way.
First thing first: choose the right time of the year to overseed your lawn. The best time is in September, before the cold season in the zones where temperature descends to 0 degrees or down, because the seeds need at least 50 degrees to germinate. It is also a good time to clean up your yard at once because it coincides with the fall season. However, if you are not able to overseed your lawn by that time, you can also perform it in early spring. In both cases it is very important to follow up the below recommendations for better results.
Dethatching and Loosening
We already aboarded this topic above when talking about verticutting, those are 2 lawn care activities that can be performed together.
Spray weed killer at least 2 weeks before to start your seeding project if your lawn has a lot of weeds (be sure to select the right chemical to not kill your grass, it may be a 2-4-D Base).
Mow your existing lawn as short as 1 to 1.5 in to avoid seed stay on top of the grass and to get more exposure to sunlight that will be necessary for seeds to germinate.
Rake up the datch and grass clippings: this process is better if performed with a verticutting machine, make sure to clean up all the debris after the dethatching process because new seeds will need to be in contact directly with the soil in order to germinate.
Loosen the soil: there are several methods for prepare the soil for new seed, the more appropriate one is by using an aeration machine, for that reason aeration, verticutting and overseeding are recommended activities to be performed simultaneously in september, before the cold season in non tropical zones.
Prepping the Soil
Test the PH of the soil, the ideal level is between 6.0 and 6.8, you can do it by yourself, hire us or ask your city to perform a ph test for you. You can apply lime to your lawn if necessary to balance the PH on the soil. Spread a thin layer of enriched soil on top of your existing lawn using a dethatching rake.
Spreading and Nurturing the Seed
Spread grass seeds over the entire lawn. Help the seeds to get into the soil by raking slightly the new seeded area.
Apply a slow release nitrogen fertilizer. Install a lightly top dressing over the seeds and remove it with the back of the rake.
Water the lawn immediately after seeding and continue watering 3 or 4 times daily until the seeds germinate. Apply a quick-release of nitrogen fertilizer five weeks after seeds germination and once again six weeks later.
Mow the lawn when it reaches from 2 to 3 in.
How often should you fertilize your lawn?
The experts recommend fertilizing your lawn more frequently in spring and early summer because it is more active during that season. During the summer and early fall you don’t need to fertilize so frequently.
The rule of thumb while fertilizing is twice a year, this is enough if you are using a granulated fertilizer with a high level of nutrients, because this kind of grass feed slowly releases the nutrients to the soil long lasting the effectiveness of it.
Soluble fertilizers can be applied every three weeks depending on the brand and their quality and manufacturer’s instructions.
To avoid lawn burn, excessive growth and waterways pollution don’t fertilize your lawn too much. Always follow the product instructions while fertilizing.
So, never fertilize your lawn every two weeks, even with soluble fertilizers.
Grass clippings also act as a natural fertilizer with a low dose of nutrients when composted with the help of earthworms, you will need to scarify your lawn later, but don’t worry there will be time for that in late summer or early autumn as part of the verticutting or dethatching activities.
Below is a table with popular fertilizers in the U.S. with important instructions to consider before applying fertilizer to your lawn:
|PRODUCT||HOW OFTEN||MAX. PER YEAR||PERIOD OF USE||NPK*||WEED KILLER|
|Dr Earth Super Natural Ready to Spray Hose End||4 weeks||7||Growing season||3-0-1||No|
|Greenview Lawn Food||8 weeks||4||Growing season||22-0-4||No|
|MiracleGro Water Soluble||4 weeks||5||Growing season||36-0-6||No|
|Pennington Ironite||12 weeks||4||Growing season||1-0-1||No|
|Pennington Ultragreen Weed & Feed||3 weeks||3||Growing season||10-0-4||Yes|
|Purely Organic Lawn Food||8 weeks||4||Growing season||10-0-2||No|
|Safer Brand Lawn Restore Natural Fertilizer||8 weeks||4||Growing season||9-0-2||No|
|Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food||6 weeks||8||Growing season||32-0-4||No|
|Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food For New Grass||N/A||1||When new lawn is seeded||25-25-4||No|
|Scotts Turf Builder UltraFeed||26 weeks||2||Growing season||40-0-5||No|
|Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed||4 weeks||2||Growing season||28-0-3||Yes|
*NPK stands for = Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium.
When should you fertilize your lawn in spring and fall?
Now that you already know how often to apply fertilizer it is very important to consider when is the best moment to do it. Well, as described above, spring and fall are the key seasons to perform that lawn task. However, there are some general guidelines to consider when feeding the lawn. Take note, the best time to apply fertilizer is when:
- The grass is actively growing.
- The soil is damp and the grass is dry.
- The grass is frost-free.
Finally, remember: don’t mow the lawn 3 days before or after applying the fertilizer and never fertilize in winter, because this will increase the risk of polluting waterways and it is really bad for the life cycle of some small living beings in the ecosystem.
How often should you fertilize a new lawn?
Do not fertilize a new lawn until the grass has raised up and you have mowed at least three times. Then use a fertilizer that focuses on building strong roots instead of increasing grass growth, it is even better if the formula includes weed killer.
For U.S. based gardeners, probably the best option to fertilize your lawn is Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer, this product is always available on Amazon.
The effectiveness of these fertilizers is because they will slowly release nutrients into the lawn. You will only need to apply these once every 12 weeks while the lawn becomes established.