Lawn Care Calendar for Cool-Season Lawns

Your local climate plays a huge role in determining the best type of grass to use on your lawn. If you live in the upper two-thirds of the United States, it’s likely your lawn is composed of cool summer grasses. These states include Connecticut, Ohio, New York, Idaho, Delaware, Massachusetts, Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Nebraska, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington and Wyoming.

What is a cool-season grass? These grass types perform best in areas of the country that see broad temperature variations: hot summers and cold winters. They grow best in the spring and fall when temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool-season grasses list includes Kentucky bluegrass, annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and tall fescue.

The key to keeping your yard looking great during the growing seasons of spring, summer and fall is regular maintenance. Here are some factors that contribute to having a lush, green lawn you and your family can enjoy:

  • Knowing the best time of the year to apply weed killers and fertilizers
  • Mowing the grass to the proper height, so it creates optimal growing conditions
  • How often you should water your lawn depending on the temperature and weather
  • When it is ideal to aerate or dethatch your lawn

 

Common Types of Cool-Season Grasses

Interested in knowing what type of grass grows in Pennsylvania and the northeast? Here’s a guide to cool season grasses identification.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass grows with a lovely true green color, but it can turn brown during hot weather. It has narrow, fine leaves. If you want a fine-textured, deep green and beautiful lawn, Kentucky bluegrass is the right choice.

  • This type of grass has a medium tolerance for cold and heat and is a winter-hardy grass.
  • Bluegrass has a medium tolerance under stress conditions like foot traffic but can perform well in high-traffic areas of your lawn.
  • Too much shade is not ideal for bluegrass. It works well in areas that have moderate shade and performs best in sunny areas.
  • As noted above, it can go dormant and lose color during a hot, dry summer.

 

Perennial Ryegrass

This ryegrass is a non-spreading variety that germinates quickly from seed. It grows at first with a bright green color that darkens over time. A fine-bladed grass, perennial ryegrass’ distinguishing feature is the whitish cast you’ll see on the top of grass blades after mowing. It grows well in a wide range of soils, including those that are wet.

  • Perennial ryegrass does not have a good tolerance for drought or cold. It performs best in coastal areas that have mild winters and cooler, moister summers.
  • It has a very high tolerance for stress and performs well in areas of your yard that have a lot of traffic.
  • Like Kentucky bluegrass, it only has a low to medium tolerance for shade.

 

Fine Fescues

These grasses — which include creeping red fescue, chewing fescue, sheep fescue and hard fescue — are fine-textured, upright, dense and good-looking leaves. The leaves have a gray-green color. They do not need much fertilizer, which makes them ideal for low-maintenance lawns. When added to other grasses, fescues increase resistance to disease and pests.

  • Fine fescues do not perform well in heat, although they have a good tolerance for colder temperatures.
  • If you know your lawn will receive a lot of foot traffic, do not seed it with fine fescues, as they are not the best choice for high-traffic areas.
  • Fescue is the best cool summer grass to use if your lawn is very shady.

 

Tall Fescues

Tall fescues, another bunching-type grass, reliably produce a dark green color even if you live in a location with prolonged summer heat, thanks to its deep root system that helps it tolerate drought and warm weather. It features big-bladed leaves and bunching characteristics that give it a rougher look than the finer bluegrass or perennial ryegrass.

  • That deep root system makes it an ideal grass for areas of the country that can have temperature swings from deep cold winters to quite hot summers.
  • Tall fescues have a reasonably good tolerance to stress and are an ideal choice for playgrounds which require a hearty utility grass.
  • It performs reasonably well in shaded areas but is an excellent choice for sunny lawns. With too much shade, it will thin out and clump.

 

Month-by-Month Lawn Care Calendar

Helping your lawn look its very best requires year-round care, even during the winter months when you might not even be able to see your lawn because of snow. There are things you can do to help create a do it yourself lawn care schedule to prepare for the spring, summer and fall months when your grass will need the most attention. Here is a suggested month by month lawn care calendar.

January

  • Be careful with those de-icing salts on your driveway and front walk. Salt runoff can damage grasses and other plants.
  • Now is the time to work on preparing your lawnmower and any other lawn tools for the coming months. If your lawnmower has had some problems, now’s the time to take it to a repair shop when things are less busy.
  • If your area of the country does not receive a lot of snow — or if there are periods between storms when warmer temperatures have melted the snow away — don’t allow a lot of foot traffic on the lawn. It will create bare spots and paths that are harder to repair later in the year.

 

February

  • Now’s the best time to test your soil. Wait until it isn’t frozen or too wet. If you test now, you’ll get results back in time to make any soil corrections before things really heat up in the spring. If you have a healthy lawn, test every three or four years. But if you have any problem spots, even if the rest of your lawn does quite well, test them every year.
  • Hose down any areas of your lawn that have gotten a lot of salt or pet activity over the winter. That helps keep the salt away from roots and limits any damage.

 

March

  • Once the snow is gone and conditions are dry, it’s time to get out the rake and remove all the debris and dead grass. Raking reduces snow mold and other diseases because it improves air circulation and helps your lawn release trapped moisture.
  • Now is the time of the year to apply soil amendments like lime. Apply it as needed, or if you tested your soil, apply it according to instructions.
  • March is also the best time to treat lawn moss. Moss isn’t like a typical weed. The best time of the year to kill it is early spring when it’s in its active growing phase. If you wait too long, it’s a headache you will have all spring, summer and fall.

 

April

  • April is when you’ll notice your grass is starting to grow, and that means it’s time to mow. But mow it a little closer to the ground than you will the rest of the year. Rake up those clippings from the first few mowings to avoid possible fungal diseases.
  • Early spring is a good time for weed control. Apply a pre-emergent, such as crabgrass controller, before it takes root in your lawn when soil temperatures reach around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you have bald spots in your lawn, this is the best time to repair them. You can buy products that will help repair damage from snow removal equipment, pets, salts or voles.
  • Let the seeding begin! Early spring or late fall are the best times of the year to seed cool-season summer lawns and the best time to plant grass in the northeast region.

 

May

  • It’s time for more mowing, so mow your lawn to a different recommended height — a little higher. You can leave the clippings on the lawn now because they add nutrients.
  • Go after tough weeds with post-emergents. The best time to knock out weeds is when they are small and growing.
  • Fertilize your lawn.

 

June

  • As summer approaches, make sure your lawn is getting an inch of water a week. It doesn’t all have to come from you — it can come from natural rainfall. Just keep an eye on the weekly rain forecast.
  • When you mow, raise your level to around three or four inches to help give roots shade during the warmer weather and encourage growth.

 

July

  • Make sure your lawn continues to receive at least one inch of water per week.
  • Keep mowing at that higher level, especially during long, hot, dry periods. You want to try to remove less than one-third of the blade in a single mowing. Yes, that does mean mowing more often, but it keeps your lawn looking healthy and green even in the hottest weather.
  • Keep an eye out for grubs and other turf pests. They feed near the surface on the roots of grass. If you find some, there are treatments to get rid of them.

 

August

  • Time to test the soil to see if you need any corrections before the fall seeding.
  • Cool-season grass will start to grow again, so now’s the time to aerate the compacted soil, and once again dethatch your lawn.
  • If you want to protect or strengthen lawns that appear to be thinning, don’t forget to overseed. Do this about a month and a half before the first projected frost.
  • If you have a new lawn, seed it. Fall moisture and cooler temperatures are great times for germination. Remember to keep any newly seeded areas consistently moist.

 

September

  • Cool summer grasses should get another round of fertilizer. Do this in late summer or early fall, about six weeks before the first frost.
  • You’ll still need to mow, but lower levels back to regular clipping heights.
  • Treat broadleaf weeds with a post-emergent spot treatment.

 

October

  • It’s time once again to add soil amendments, such as lime, to your lawn. When you apply them in the fall, it helps them work their magic over the winter.
  • Mulch fallen leaves.
  • Your lawn now needs about one inch of water every two weeks.

 

November

  • If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that features cool summer grasses, and it hasn’t started to snow yet, continue to mow until your grass stops growing. Make your final mowing of the year slightly lower than normal, as this helps prevent damage from snow mold and bowls.
  • Keep watering, if you think your grass needs it. You want it to be fully hydrated for the winter.

 

December

  • When your lawn becomes dormant in the winter, it’s cleanup time. Clean your lawnmower and other lawn tools.
  • Use the winter months to read up on things you can do to help your lawn flourish when grasses start to grow again.

 

Seasonal Lawn Care Schedule for the Northeast: Your Calendar for Cool-Season Grass Maintenance

Here is a more seasonal do-it-yourself maintenance calendar for a cool season lawn.

1. Fertilization

“When should I fertilize a cool-season lawn?” is a common question, but the fertilization of cool-season grasses doesn’t have to be complicated. You should fertilize two to four times per year, based on soil testing. The best months are March or May and September or November.

Fertilizing your lawn is key to making sure it has the nutrients it needs to prosper and thrive. That is why it’s important to use a soil analysis kit. Finding that balance between too much and too little fertilization takes some thought. When thinking about a fertilization schedule for cool season grasses don’t be afraid to fertilize your lawn as many as four times a year, including late and early spring, once in the summer and once in the fall. These treatments will help your lawn be both healthy and resilient.

Pro tip: When you fertilize in the spring, you can use a “weed-and-feed” fertilizer that contains both a fertilizer and a pre-emergent.

2. Watering

From June until September, you should water your lawn weekly when rain levels are below one inch. That, of course, depends on where you live and the specific type of grass you’re using. You water your lawn to help it retain its color. When you water your lawn infrequently but deeply, it encourages roots to grow deep. However, if you water your lawn frequently and use water sparingly, the opposite effect occurs.

If it rains more than one inch a week during any week, you do not need to water your lawn.

Remember, water in the morning so you won’t scorch the grass. Another reason to water in the morning is that the grass will be dry by the time afternoon or evening humidity sets in.

3. Mowing

Mowing plays a more important role in the health of your lawn than you might first expect. If you cut the grass too closely, it makes your grass more susceptible to disease, and you’ll find yourself doing more to keep it in good shape.

During spring, mow your grass as often as once per week. During summer, mow once every two weeks. When the temperatures start to fall in autumn, you’ll need to mow your grass once a week again until it advances into a dormant stage. Usually, this happens when the temperature drops to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a week.

A good rule of thumb for mowing is never to remove more than one-third of the length at one time. Most cool summer grasses like it best when they are between two to three inches long.

4. Aeration

Aerate your lawn one to two times a year, once in March or April and again in September or November. Compacted soil reduces growth because it’s difficult for air, nutrients and water to reach roots. That can also lead to pest problems and make it harder for grass to recover from damage.

Core aeration is your best bet. Large hardware stores will rent variation machines for larger lawns, and you can use a hand corer for small areas. Leave the cores of earth on your lawn, because they add nutrients. New grass will fill in the holes you create by aeration.

5. Dethatching

Dethatch your lawn once a year, in either March or April. Recognizing thatch is easy. Grass grows excessively before it can decompose. Like compacted soil, thatch acts as a barrier to air, water and nutrients. Thatch will also harbor bacteria, insects and fungus.

Use a rake to dethatch your lawn, or try a verticutting machine on patches of excessive thatch.

6. Pre-Emergent Weed Control

You’ll want to use pre-emergent weed controllers twice a year — once in March and once in May. These products kill weeds below the surface. Apply them just before the soil reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit and weed seeds begin to germinate. Timing is crucial in applying pre-emergent weed killers. And pay close attention to mowing instructions on the product label. Mowing at the wrong time will reduce its efficiency.

7. Post-Emergent Weed Control

Apply post-emergents once or twice during the growing season, in June and then again in November if necessary.

Post-emergents attack already grown weeds. Choose a pre-emergent carefully. Some of them will only kill targeted weeds, while others will destroy anything they come in contact with, including grasses. Again, check the label for mowing instructions.

Why Is Year-Round Lawn Care Important for Cool-Season Grasses?

If a task is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. That axiom also applies to lawn care. If you want a beautiful, green lawn that’s the envy of your family and neighbors, it requires a little elbow grease. Cool summer grasses can look beautiful when properly maintained.

If you stick to the monthly and seasonal schedules we’ve outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your dream lawn. The schedule will also help reduce your stress about creating and maintaining that lawn. Too many people try to do all the steps at once and end up frustrated and with a less-than-healthy-looking lawn.

Don’t try to do it all at once. Stick to the lawn maintenance schedule.

Let Baker Lime Help You Restore the pH Balance to Your Cool Summer Grasses

If you’re concerned about the color of your grass and it’s not quite as thick you would like, limestone may be the answer you’ve been looking for. When you apply limestone, you increase bacterial activity, which helps create a better soil structure. Lime helps disintegrate organic matter in compost, which makes the soil more porous. That gives the air a better chance to circulate through the soil, which in turn helps with water absorption. The roots of your grass will grow stronger and be more efficient when it comes to collecting nutrients.

We’re happy to help with cool summer grass lawns in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Ohio and New Jersey. Our knowledgeable and expert staff are happy to answer your questions about our high-quality products. They can help you determine the best time to use lime on your lawn and how much you should use depending on the type of your lawn’s cool summer grass. You can call us at 800-233-1991 or go to our contact page, and one of our talented team will get back to you as soon as possible.
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