A beautiful lawn can add value to your home, so it's worth developing a year round lawn maintenance schedule. In warmer climates, this means maintaining your lawn during winter months. In colder climates, while you won't have any regular maintenance, there are precautions you can take to ensure a green, healthy lawn in the spring.
At the first signs of spring (and well before the calendar says it's spring), start thinking about putting down "weed and feed," otherwise known as fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicide. This is a must-do step no matter where you live. You want to get this important treatment down before either your grass or weeds are actively or vigorously growing. The pre-emergent herbicide stops weeds before they can get started and the fertilizer strengthens the soil.
Invariably, weeds will crop up in your lawn. If they're something as simple dandelions, you can spot treat them with small amounts of herbicide that's safe for lawns. It will take a day or two for the weeds to wilt and die, but it's a lot easier and cleaner than digging out weeds. If you notice large patches of clover or ground ivy, you can use the same herbicide, but will need a larger amount depending on the area.
Don't wait too long in the spring for your first mowing. You never want to cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade. Also, resist the temptation to mow your lawn short. A longer grass blade absorbs more nutrients from the sun, helps the grass grow stronger and healthier, and chokes out weeds. Spring showers should keep your lawn growing quickly, but don't be afraid to start watering in anticipation of the summer.
After the spring rains comes the drier, hotter summer months. Depending on your climate you'll need to water one to three times a week. Water deeply, meaning water for longer periods of time. You should water in the morning instead of the evening or warmer afternoon. While it seems like you should be watering at night to conserve moisture, this can actually encourage disease in your lawn.
About four months after your first application of fertilizer and herbicide, put down another treatment. This one will be specially formulated for summer growth and summer weeds. Continue with regular mowing. Also, look for signs of insects and treat accordingly. Grubs and other insects can destroy a perfectly good lawn in a matter of weeks.
Fall is the perfect time to over seed your lawn or repair dry or dead patches. Weeds have stopped growing, the ground is warm from the summer months, and the air is cool and dry. When planting new seed, just be sure to till the soil properly, add fertilizer and water every day until the seedlings get a foothold. When watering, don't water too deeply. You just want to keep the seeds moist to about an inch deep so they can germinate.
In about September, apply fertilizer only. No herbicide. This will help strengthen the roots in anticipation of winter. If you sow new seed, be careful not to over fertilize it.
If you live in a warmer climate, another application of fertilizer should be put down in late fall or early winter. This step won't be necessary in colder climates. However, when snow and ice build up on your sidewalks and driveway, be careful to keep snowmelt and salt away from your grass. Otherwise, you could burn out your grass right along the edges.