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Follow This Lawn Maintenance Checklist for the Greenest Grass in Town

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated October 18, 2021
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Keep your lawn lush and green

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When it comes to having the best lawn on the block, the secret lies in routine maintenance. Showing your lawn regular love, in the form of weeding, mowing, edging, and aeration will give you the lush, emerald lawn of your dreams. Follow this lawn maintenance checklist to keep the grass greener on your side of the fence.

What Should Be on Your Lawn Maintenance Checklist?

Whether it’s a little patch of lawn or you’ve got an expanse worthy of weekend football games, all grass needs regular maintenance to keep it looking in tip-top shape.

1. Water

Yes, grass needs water to thrive, but not watering might be one of the smartest moves you can make for a successful lawn. 

Unless you live somewhere very dry and hot, try to not water your grass every day. Frequent watering actually discourages the grass from growing deep roots—instead, aim to water deeply and less frequently.

Depending on your climate, once a week is a typical schedule, but if you live somewhere with rain during the growing season, you can cut back even more. The best time to water is early morning before sunrise. Don’t water in the heat of the day—the water evaporates too quickly. You should also avoid watering in the evenings as it can encourage lawn fungus.

2. Mow

While there’s nothing like the smell of fresh-cut grass, how and how often you mow affects your lawn’s health. 

Don’t cut your grass too short—longer grass can withstand stressors like heat and requires less frequent watering. Also, longer grass actually can help repel common lawn diseases, like blight and fungus.  

Mow in a different pattern each time. This helps avoid compacting soil and makes your lawn actually grow evenly. And don’t mow when the grass is wet, as this can damage your lawn. 

Make sure to maintain your lawn mower. Keep the blades sharp and perform seasonal tune-ups.

3. Weed

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An expansive lawn of dandelions is on no one’s wish list. Healthy grass can outcompete weeds, but there are some things you can do to hedge your bets.

  • Use a weed and feed fertilizer at the beginning of your growing season—it encourages the grasses to grow and discourages certain weeds

  • Hand dig weeds whenever you see them

  • Don’t let weeds like dandelions get to the blooming state—those white fluffy balls are seeds waiting to spread

  • Avoid using your grass clippings as mulch if you have excessive weeds

  • Try a long-handled weeding tool to dig them out without straining your back

  • Consider other non-toxic methods, including using vinegar and boiling water

4. Fertilize

Depending on the type of grass you have and where you live, you’ll likely need to fertilize your grass at least once or twice a year.

  • Fertilize your grass when it is growing, not when it is dormant

  • Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall and then again lightly in the early spring

  • Warm-season grasses should be fertilized in the spring

  • Do not over-fertilize. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully or your lawn will burn and turn brown.

5. Mulch

Using your grass clippings as mulch is another way to feed your lawn.

Look for a mower that is a mulching mower. After you’ve cut the grass it recirculates underneath the blades and cuts the clippings down even more. 

Smaller, shorter clippings break down faster. If you have a bag mower and remove the bag, you may just have longer grass clippings. These longer clippings will still make great mulch; they just take longer to break down.

But take note: If you have a lot of weeds in your yard you don’t necessarily want to mulch with this, as it will spread the seeds. Use a bag mower or rake up clippings until your weeds are under control. 

In the fall, leave some of your fall leaves on the grass and mow back over them to create a natural mulch.

6. Rake

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Raking clears your lawn of debris, such as fallen branches and leaves. It’s also a great way to remove thatch—dead plant material that builds up in between the blades of grass. Thatch removal keeps your lawn healthy by allowing water and air to reach the dirt

  • Raking clears your lawn of debris, such as fallen branches and leaves. It’s also a great way to remove thatch—dead plant material that builds up in between the blades of grass. Thatch removal keeps your lawn healthy by allowing water and air to reach the dirt

  • Use a thatch rake to remove dead plant material that builds up on your lawn

  • Remove thatch if it gets close to being 1 inch thick

7. Repair Where Necessary

Even the most well-attended lawns can be in need of occasional repairs. If your lawn grows in patchy or has thinning areas, you can overseed it.

  • Overseed in early spring as part of your spring lawn care routine. Late summer and early fall are other optimal times to overseed. The soil needs to be warm enough to support seed germination.

  • Remove the thatch from the area you wish to overseed

  • Add a mulch or compost-rich soil

  • Spread the seeds evenly

  • Spot water and keep moist for two weeks until seeds grow

  • Try to stay on top of thinning areas for overseeding, to avoid having to redo your entire lawn

If your lawn is looking more damaged than a few small patches, it may be time to consider the more extensive project of reseeding.

8. Mind the Dirt

Your turf grows in soil, and that soil needs attention, too!

  • Test your soil in early spring to see what type of PH balance it has. Generally speaking, you want a PH level between 5 and 7.

  • Adjust your amendments based on the current needs: your soil may be either too acidic or too alkaline. Acidic soil can be balanced with lime; alkaline soil can be balanced with a sulfate.

  • Add a layer of compost rich-soil to your turf at the very end of the fall season (before the first frost). It will break down into the soil over the winter.

  • Check for signs of fungus in patchy areas.

  • Watch for small lawn grubs.

9. Aerate

Water, food, and sun are all critical to the success of your lawn. But did you know your lawn also needs air? Aerating your lawn will make sure the water and nutrients get all the way to the root of your grass.

  • Aerate your lawn at least once a year, either in early spring or in the fall. You can also aerate a lawn whenever the soil seems compacted.

  • Use a push aerator tool, which is handheld and easy to use, or rent a high-powered gas aerator to cover a larger area in a shorter period of time

10. Edge

Edging is a gardener’s secret weapon. Edging adds neat, straight lines to your garden beds and helps keep your lawn from growing into the beds. 

Homeowners can use a hand-held edger to keep their lawns neat along walkways and beds. You can also use an electric or gas-powered trimmer (or rent one) to get the job done.

Seasonal Lawn Maintenance Checklist

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The early spring is one of the most important times to give your lawn some love.

  • Assess the state of your lawn. Spring is the best time to overseed or reseed your lawn.

  • Rake and remove thatch.

  • Fertilize your grass

  • Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall and then again lightly in the early spring

  • Warm-season grasses should be fertilized in the spring

  • Many gardeners choose to use a weed and feed at this time, which is a combination herbicide to kill weeds and fertilizer to encourage grass growth

  • Add compost or planting soil and overseed thin patches

In the late summer and early fall, your lawn maintenance checklist should include reseeding or overseeding your lawn. This is the ideal time to plant seeds because:

  • The soil will be warm enough to support seed germination

  • Weeds won’t be growing as rampant, so your new seeds won’t have to compete

  • There will be enough time for the grass to grow before the first frost

Your fall lawn maintenance checklist should also include:

  • Raking leaves, but leave some on the grass to create a natural garden mulch

  • Mow directly on top of the leaves to create a chopped leaf mulch

  • Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall and then again lightly in the early spring

What Tools Do You Need to Maintain Your Lawn?

While the maintenance list may seem long, the good news is you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to keep the average lawn in shape. The most expensive thing you’ll buy is a new lawn mower.

  • Garden rake

  • Thatch rake

  • Spreader for fertilizer or seeds

  • Lawn mower

  • Aerator

  • Edger

  • Sprinkler

  • Hose

  • Soil test kit

No matter what time of year, following a regular lawn maintenance schedule will help you keep your lawn green and healthy. If lawn care is taking up too much of your time, you can always consider hiring a local lawn maintenance crew to handle things for you.

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