MARCH through MAY
At least once a week, mow the lawn to 3” in height. Mow before the grass gets above 5” tall, and do not remove more than 1/3 of the blades’ height at a time.
Also, practice grasscycling, which is simply leaving the grass clippings on your lawn. Grass clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25% of the lawn’s fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors delay mowing, and clippings are then too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don’t bag them — grass clippings do not belong in landfills.
Do not fertilize tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass after March 15.
Proper irrigation now may help prevent or reduce pest problems and environmental stress later in the summer. A dark, bluish-gray color, footprinting (when footprints on the lawn remain after 30 minutes) and wilted, folded or curled leaves indicate that it is time to water. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass need a weekly application of 1” to 1-1/4” of water per week. On sandy soils, it requires more frequent watering — for example, 1/2″ of water every third day.
Water the soil to a depth of 4” to 6”. Probe with a screwdriver to determine moisture depth. Depending on your irrigation system, it may be necessary to irrigate an area for three to five hours in order to apply 1” of water (it takes 620 gallons of water to apply 1” of water per 1,000 square feet of lawn area).
Because clay soils and slopes absorb water slowly, irrigate these areas until runoff begins to occur, and then shut off the water. Wait one-half hour or until the water has been absorbed, and then continue irrigating in this start-and-stop process until the desired depth of moisture or amount of water is obtained.
By the time dogwoods are in bloom, apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass and foxtail. Read the herbicide label, and follow the directions carefully.
In April and May, check for white grubs, and control them if necessary. To determine if white grubs are present, apply a soapy flush solution. Read the insecticide label, and follow the directions carefully.
Delay core-aerification until fall, to give the grass sufficient time to recover in the cooler fall months without the stress of heat and drought.
It is not necessary to remove thatch in tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.
JUNE through AUGUST
Raise the mower height to 3-1/2″. Mow before the grass gets above 5” tall, and do not remove more than 1/3 of the blades’ height at a time. Remember grasscycling — leave the clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients.
Do not fertilize tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass at this time. Submit a soil sample for analysis to determine nutrient requirements for fertilizer applications in fall.
Either water as needed to prevent drought (as indicated above in the irrigation guidelines for March through May), or allow the lawn to go dormant. Do not completely discontinue irrigation in midsummer.
Check for brown patch disease (circular patches of brown grass up to several feet in diameter), and control if necessary. Read the fungicide label, and follow the directions carefully.
Avoid the use of herbicides at this time, to avoiding adding to the stress of summer heat and drought.
Check for grubs in July and August, and control them if necessary. August is the best time to control grubs because this is when they are small and close to the soil surface. Read the insecticide label, and follow the directions carefully.
Avoid core-aerifying tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass lawns at this time, to avoiding adding to the stress of summer heat and drought.
SEPTEMBER through NOVEMBER
Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass should be 2-1/2” to 3-1/2” tall after mowing. As a general guideline, try to mow often enough that no more than 1/3 of the grass height is cut. Remember grasscycling — leave the clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients.
The best way to determine your lawn’s nutrient needs is by a soil test. In the absence of a soil test, use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (such as 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet in mid- September and again in November (about the time the grass is green but not actively growing).
To determine the amount of product required to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, divide 100 by the FIRST number on the fertilizer bag. For example, for a 12-4-8 fertilizer, divide 100 by 12. The result is 8.33 pounds of product to be applied per 1,000 square feet in order to supply 1 pound of nitrogen.
Follow the irrigation guidelines specified above for March through May.
Apply postemergence herbicides to control broadleaf weeds if necessary. Read the herbicide label, and follow the directions carefully.
Check for white grubs in September and October, and control them if necessary. Read the insecticide label, and follow the directions carefully.
To minimize compaction and improve rooting, core-aerate lawns that are subject to heavy traffic or on clay soils. Break up the core plugs.
Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions only! Overseed thin, bare areas as the grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures in September and early October. Use a mixture of tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass cultivars at 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Apply a starter-type fertilizer (high in phosphorus) at the time of seeding. To ensure good germination, keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day.
DECEMBER through FEBRUARY
Remove lawn debris (rocks, sticks, leaves, etc.). Mow at least 3” tall, and remove clipping debris at spring greenup. Mow before the grass gets taller than 5”, and do not remove more than 1/3 the blades’ height at one time. Practice grasscycling — leave clippings on the lawn.
In February, fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. In the absence of soil test results, use a complete (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-2-1 or 4-1-2 ratio.
Water, if needed, to prevent excessive dehydration. About 1” of water per application each week is adequate.
Apply broadleaf herbicides as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit or other weeds. Read the herbicide label, and follow directions carefully.