A lawn is a space for gathering, playing, and enjoying the outdoors. Lawns provide a soft, resilient surface that is comfortable underfoot. They are resistant to wear & tear, and tolerate regular mowing to maintain a short, even height. Lawns cool the air above them and the soil below. They help slow moisture evaporation, control runoff, and prevent erosion. Their root systems provide organic matter, habitat, and nutrients to soil and soil-dwelling organisms. Want to provide even more resilience and some extra support to local wildlife? Clover Lawns might be for you!
Visually, lawns can be beautiful, serene, and inviting. And while there’s certainly a lot to love about lawns, there’s no getting around it: they are a lot of work! Traditional lawns require regular maintenance like mowing, overseeding, watering, weeding, and fertilizing. We’ll be going through everything you need to do but our best tip right out of the gate? Think about how you use your lawn! You can save SO much extra effort by only maintaining as much lawn as your household needs.
In this post: Maintaining Your Established Home Lawn in…
First, sharpen your mower blades! Dull blades will damage your grass by tearing out new seedlings and making ragged cuts that are more likely to succumb to disease. After the lawn has “greened up,” go over the area with a flexible leaf rake to break up matted areas, remove debris from fall & winter, and prepare the lawn for new growth. Make a note of any bare patches or sparse areas; these will have to be overseeded.
Overseeding your lawn is an important part of lawn maintenance because a dense, healthy lawn is more resistant to weeds, extreme weather, disease, infestation, and wear & tear. If the grass is long, it might be a good idea to mow down to a height of 3 inches before overseeding. This will ensure better seed-to-soil contact and sunlight exposure for the new seeds.
Overseeding can be done as soon as the lawn has greened up and been raked. However, optimal soil temperatures for germination of standard lawn seed species are as follows:
- Perennial Ryegrass: 10C minimum
- Fescues: 14C minimum
- Bluegrass: 18C minimum
Overseeding in cooler conditions will lead to slower germination. Keep seeds moist during the entire germination window. Wet spring conditions will help with this but check your soil regularly and watch your weather because you will need to water in dry spells. During germination, watering “light & frequent” is key. Then, wait 3 weeks for new seedlings to establish before resuming heavier traffic and mowing.
For home lawns, keep your grass at least 3 inches long and never cut more than 1/3 of the height at one time. These measurements are the “sweet spot” for grass. Lawns that are routinely mowed below 3 inches will suffer from stress and a long list of problems unless you have sourced a specialty variety that thrives at a shorter height.
Use a mulching attachment on your mower to leave mulched clippings on the lawn as organic fertilizer. If you have an aesthetic preference for a raked lawn, you can apply a spring fertilizer (or starter fertilizer if you’ve overseeded) after the first spring mowing.
Summer is all about keeping your grass alive. The heat will stress it so growth will be slowed and fertilizers should be avoided.
Water “deep & infrequent” during the summer months. Once a week, using a moisture meter or an upturned frisbee to measure, give your lawn an inch of water. The water must permeate deep into the soil to ensure the grass gets enough moisture right down to the roots (about 8 inches deep). Water s l o w l y and watch nearby paved areas like driveways and sidewalks for runoff. Runoff is wasted water that has been applied too quickly to be absorbed by the soil. This will require some trial and error on your part. Time your sprinklers and make note of your water pressure. When you can fill your moisture meter or frisbee with an inch of water without causing runoff, lock in those settings and repeat weekly!
Always water early in the morning or after the heat of day has passed in late afternoon.
Hand-pull weeds as-needed. This may expose some soil so go ahead and toss some grass seed over the bare spot. If you have a dog, you will also notice dead patches on your lawn from urine. These will need to be overseeded as well. Germination is challenging in the summer heat. It is difficult to keep seeds moist for the entire germination window unless you are able to water them several times a day. To help, watch your local weather and choose a wet week to overseed these types of spots and patches throughout the season.
Remember not to cut your grass below 3 inches unless you have a specialty variety. Mowing will be less frequent during the summer months. You might notice your grass yellowing which is a sign that it has gone dormant; that’s ok! Stay off dormant grass in the high heat of summer. Resume regular mowing and “deep & infrequent” watering after the heatwave has passed. The dormant yellow grass will green up again.
Cooler temperatures will lead to more active growth from the lawn so you may notice more frequent mowing is required. Towards the end of fall, consider bringing the height of the grass up a little in preparation for winter- about 4 inches tall. This slightly taller grass will trap a little more snow and provide better insulation during the winter months.
Break up piles of fallen leaves or they will smother and kill the grass below them during winter. Use a mulching attachment on your mower to mulch the leaves and leave them in place as organic fertilizer, or rake the leaves and apply a Fall Fertilizer.
If necessary, overseeding in Fall is possible but it is important to do it early enough for the grass to become established before winter comes. Check your local frost dates and overseed no less than 4 weeks before your first anticipated frost date.
Just before the ground freezes, give it a good watering and break up any last piles of fallen leaves before a snowfall buries them. Your lawn is now ready for winter!
There you have it, how to care for your established home lawn in spring, summer, and fall. As we mentioned, lawns take work so you want to make sure you aren’t maintaining more lawn than you need. You can also simplify things considerably by working with the space instead of against it.
For example, if you have shaded, hard-to-reach, or unused areas, consider converting those areas to perennial groundcovers instead. If you have high-traffic areas that are hard to keep seeded such as walkways and outdoor dining areas, consider hardscaping options like patio stones. If you experience extremely hot summers or wish to conserve water, consider a drought-tolerant lawn alternative such as our Xeriscaping Mix. Or maybe you have a sunny corner that gets too hot for grass, a wildflower garden might be just the thing! If you’re interested in what Common White Clover or Microclover can do for your lawn, read our blog post about Clover Lawns here.
Don’t hesitate to email our in-house garden team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions that might come up along the way.
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