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    All Season Lawncare | Spring 2007 Out Here Magazine

    Specifics of taking care of your lawn during all four seasons of the year.

    illustration of different seasonal states of a yard
    Out Here

    By Carol Davis

    Illustration by Tom Milner

    Taking care of your grass now can result in a healthy, green lawn through fall.
    • As soon as your grass needs cutting, mow it. Allowing grass to get tall before mowing means you cut more than you leave and that stresses the plants and encourages diseases. Most grasses should be cut to about 2 inches, so mow when your lawn reaches 3 to 4 inches.
    • Avoid fertilizing too early. Applying nitrogen tends to stimulate shoot development to the detriment of root growth. Your lawn needs to develop a deep, dense root system to prepare for summer's hot, dry conditions, and spring's cooler temperatures provide the right environment to accomplish that. Let spring do its job.
    • Control crabgrass with pre-emergent herbicides. Apply mid-March to mid-April, before crabgrass emerges in your region, because pre-emergent herbicides will not combat crabgrass that is already up and growing.
    • Apply lime, if necessary, in early spring. First, take a soil sample to have your pH analyzed to see if it falls between 6.0 and 7.0, the range that most lawn grasses grow best. The soil test results will recommend how much lime to apply. Your soil should be tested every two or thee years to make sure that your lawn stays in that range.
    • Seed as soon as possible. Most grass seed needs two months of good growing to mature, so seed by mid-April. To germinate, seeds need constant moisture so daily or twice-daily watering may be required, depending on your climate.
    Help your lawn thrive despite summer's hot, dry conditions.
    • Mow at a higher setting. Keep your grass at least 2½ inches, because it not only promotes stronger roots, but taller grass keeps soil temperatures cooler.
    • Mow in the cool of the morning or evening. Mowing during midday's high temperatures causes additional stress on the turf.
    • Keep mower blades sharp. Dull blades tear and bruise the leaf tips. That strains your lawn and makes it less resilient in times of drier weather.
    • Keep the lawn consistently watered. If your area experiences drought, turn the sprinklers on before the grass turns brown. Trying to revive a dried-out, lawn depletes energy reserves and stresses the plant.
    • Water lawns deeply and infrequently. Apply about 1 to 1½ inches each time, per application, depending on your environment. Water early in the day, if possible, to avoid evaporation. Evening watering tends to encourage disease and insects.
    After months of hot, dry weather, it's time to help your lawn rejuvenate itself and prepare for cooler weather ahead.
    • Mow until the grass stops growing. This reduces the amount of springtime thatch.
    • Lower the cutting height. Cutting it short — to about 2 inches — not only will allow for better air circulation, but it will keep the grass from bending and laying over on itself under snow or heavy moisture, creating favorable conditions for diseases to develop.
    • Control dandelion and clover. Treat broadleaf weed problems now. Chemical treatment for weeds works much better now, because weeds prepare for winter by pulling nutrients and starches from their leaves into their roots.
    • Aerate. Aeration — pulling small cores of soil out of the ground — opens up the soil surface, allowing water and nutrients to the roots.
    • Fertilize. Apply one last application of fertilizer to ensure a healthy start to spring growth. This application is the most important, because it contains nutrients to help your lawn endure winter and green up faster in spring. Use quick-release fertilizer so roots can absorb nutrients right away.
    • Dethatch. Thatch is a build-up of living and dead grass roots and stems and looks like a thick tangle of dark brown roots above the soil level. Check it by cutting 3 or 4 inches down into the grass lifting up a piece of sod. If thatch is greater than ½ inch, the lawn should be core aerated or dethatched.
    • Plant grass seed. Establish a new lawn or renovate a poor quality one from mid-August to mid-September. Grasses grow rapidly in September's cool fall weather and get less competition from germinating weeds. Aerate for best results.
    Lawn care slows down, but it doesn't stop just because cold temperatures roll in.
    • Water your lawn. During winter drought, when soil isn't frozen, water every two or three weeks for about 20 minutes to offset dry conditions and the drying effects of winter winds.
    • Be careful with ice-melting products. Take extra care when applying salt or other ice-melting products to icy sidewalks because they could burn your lawn.
    • Clean your hand tools. Salt and other minerals in the dirt can decay your tools. After a thorough cleaning, coat them lightly with oil to prevent rusting.
    • Rake up spilled seeds and hulls from your birdfeeders. Keep the seeds from creating unsightly, thick clumps of grass on your lawn by raking every few weeks.
    • Work on your yard equipment. Cold winter months are the best time to tune up your mower and other yard tools and sharpen or replace your blades. Take care of these projects now and you'll be ready to go when spring arrives.
    • Take a master gardening class. You'll learn more about lawn care than you ever thought possible, and you'll be ready to apply that knowledge come spring.

    Carol Davis, editor of Out Here, is a master gardener.


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