Depending on what part of the country you are in, the climate can vary widely. These differences in climate affect landscaping routines based on best practices. This includes lawn care, which can be relatively low maintenance as long as you follow the right schedule, make the appropriate preparations, and pick the right species of grass for your area. In this article I’ll provide my lawn care schedule Northeast US guide to help you discover what to do when for best results.
Following this guidance will pave the way to a thriving, lush, and green lawn in the Northeastern US.
Annual Lawn Care Schedule Northeast US: Spring, Summer & Fall
Click a link to jump to the Northeast US lawn care projects I recommend for each season.
Spring Lawn Maintenance Projects in the Northeastern US
Spring is all about preparing your lawn and tuning up your lawn mower.
Tune Up Your Mower in the Spring
Whether your mower needs a simple at-home tune up or professional service, it is best to get on this earlier in the season in order to beat the rush.
Properly winterizing your mower before putting it away in storage goes a long way to keeping this process simple.
Clean Up Your Yard
If you have residual leaves or debris from the Fall and Winter, then your first step will be to tidy things up. Leaves and garden clippings can make great mulch or an excellent addition to a compost bin.
Depending on which route you decide to go, you could rake the leaves up to add into your compost bin or you can set your mower blade to a higher setting and “mow” the leaves left on your lawn. The latter will leave the debris on your lawn to act as a mulch. It is okay to also trim grass at this point, but no shorter than 3 inches tall.
Should You Aerate Your Lawn?
Often the ground can get quite compacted in some yards due to foot traffic and the like. Compacted soil can make it difficult for grass or other plants to grow deep roots and thus leaves them more vulnerable to heat, drought, and being uprooted.
It may not be necessary every season, but lawn aeration is an excellent way to loosen up the earth in your yard. Taking this step can lead to a hardier lawn that is more resilient to high traffic or extreme weather.
Overseeding in the Spring
While it is best to lay seed in the Fall for the following Spring, it is also okay to seed your lawn when the weather gets just warm enough in the spring.
Don’t wait too long though, as summer temperatures are not ideal for grass seed germination and propagation.
If you plan to apply pre-emergent herbicide or corn gluten to prevent weeds and crabgrass in your lawn, plan ahead. You will need to make sure that this is applied before you spread grass seed, or your seed won’t germinate.
Most pre-emergent herbicides for lawns block weed seed germination for 3 months or more.
Seed mixes are often available with fertilizer included since this is also a good time to fertilize your lawn.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
The next application of fertilizer should not happen for at least 6 to 8 weeks, or the next time your lawn is long enough that it needs to be mowed.
The appropriate height to trim the grass to will depend on the species of grass and the climate you are in, but usually about two to three inches of height is appropriate. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn can look unsightly, but can add valuable nutrition and shelter to emerging grass.
Start Weed Control
Using post-emergent herbicide or weed control products is also an important part of Spring maintenance towards the end of the season as things really get going. There’s a reason for the phrase “nipping it in the bud” – weeds are especially vulnerable during the active growth cycle and thus treating them at this stage will help keep them at bay through the Summer.
Manually pulling weeds and crabgrass or using lime are two examples of eco-friendly ways to manage the problem, and knowing what type of weeds you have will help as well.
Summer Lawn Care Schedule: Northeastern States
With the proper Springtime preparations, the Summer months are largely about adequate watering and mowing.
How Often to Mow Your Lawn in Summer
You should aim to mow the lawn whenever it grows to being more than three inches tall and never mow it shorter than two inches tall.
Mowing the lawn too short is called scalping. Do this and you’ll hinder the growth below the surface as well. As above, so below – if you want deep and hardy roots then it will be equally important to allow for adequate growth above the soil.
In hot and dry stretches, this may be every three weeks or more whereas in cool and damp periods it may need mowing more often.
Watering Your Lawn in Summer
Watering requirements will largely depend on the species of grass that you buy. Some are highly resilient to drought and thus don’t need much water at all whereas others need regular watering.
Generally, most grass needs about one inch per week of watering, whether that comes from rainfall or a sprinkler.
If you ever experience a drought or even if you go away and are unable to water the lawn for a period of time, it is okay to let the grass turn brown. The color change is only as a result of the grass going dormant and it will revive once it is adequately watered again.
If you experience a lot of hot and dry weather and/or you want to be able to avoid watering your lawn, then picking a species of grass that is resilient to drought will be important for you.
This is also another reason why it is important to let grass grow a little taller to establish those deep roots that can access water further beneath the ground.
Treat for Grubs and Pests
Later in the Summer, grub treatment using nematodes will be essential to preventing scavengers from tearing up your hard-earned lawn come the following Spring.
Grubs also eat grass roots, which will destroy your lawn.
Northeastern Region Fall Lawn Care Projects
In early Fall, you will begin preparations to winterize your lawn and prepare it for the following Spring.
These steps will go a long way to making your Spring preparations easier. In fact, many of them mirror the steps you also take when Spring arrives.
Overseed Early Each Fall
As we mentioned before, in the Northeastern US, overseeding your lawn in the Fall is best.
Seeding an existing lawn is called overseeding. It is crucial to do this at least a month before the first expected frost in your area. You can actually search the expected first frost dates online thanks to the Farmer’s Almanac.
For most, this will mean applying no later than mid-September although if you are further north then you may even need to think about doing this in late August.
Fertilize Your Lawn
Fall is also the best time to apply potassium-rich winterizer lawn fertilizer to support a growth spurt in your lawn and prepare it for the frost and temperature swings.
This is also a step that needs to take place at least a month before first frost. Given the ideal timing of both fertilizing and seeding together, this process is often called “feed and seed”. There are a plethora of options for all-in-one seed and fertilizer mixes that make it easy to apply this in a single step.
Alternatively, weed management will be necessary before winter arrives, so “weed and feed” is another option as a combination of fertilizer and herbicide or corn gluten.
If you choose to do the latter, then you will need to seed earlier to ensure that the seed has enough opportunity to germinate before applying herbicide that would prevent germination.
As rain returns after a hot and dry summer and makes the ground damp enough, you may want to consider aerating to loosen any compacted soil.
You will also need to clear leaves and debris, as in Springtime, by mulching them with the mower or raking them. Your final mow should also be on the shorter side.
I recommend you mow to a length of about two inches high. Grass should enter into winter well-hydrated, but do not saturate the ground with water.
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