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    Tractor Supply Company

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    Seeing Green: Total Lawn Care for Perfect Grass

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    A well-manicured lawn can add curb appeal and value to your home. One study has shown that nicely landscaped properties have a 5.5% to 12.7% price advantage over those with no landscaping. A great lawn can also add enjoyment—who doesn’t love the feel of lush, healthy grass under their feet?

    Hiring a professional lawn care service is one way to achieve the lawn of your dreams, but the task is well within the capabilities of the average DIYer. Just remember—growing great-looking grass is a year-long job that involves applying the right lawn care at the right time. In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know and do to have the perfect yard, including:

    • Types of grass
    • All seasons lawn care
    • The right lawn care equipment
    • Mow tips for the right cut

    Read to learn all you need to know about quality lawn care and maintenance.

    Know your grass 

    Before beginning a yard maintenance schedule, it’s important to know what kind of grass you’re growing and how it affects your lawn treatment. Grasses generally fall into cool-season and warm-season categories:

    • Cool-season grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrasses and Fescues and grow best during the spring and fall.
    • Warm-season grasses include Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass and Zoysiagrass and grow best during the summer.

    Typically, cool-season grass is planted in the northern half of the U.S., while warm-season grasses are a fixture of southern U.S. lawns. However, some southern homeowners will overseed in the fall using cool-season varieties to boost the green to their lawn when warm-season grass goes dormant in the winter. 

    Spring lawn care   

    Spring is a period when your lawn requires a great deal of attention, as it lays the groundwork for future lawn care. Springtime is when cool-season grasses enter a major growth stage and warm-season grasses come out of winter dormancy. These steps can help you prep your grass for optimal growth:

    1. Clean up. Start your spring yard care program with a clean palette by raking up dead grass, leaves, and other debris. 

    2. Dethatch. Thatch is a layer of decomposing material that can block air, moisture, and nutrients from growing grass. Break it up with a special rake or dethatcher. 

    3. Aerate warm-season grassesAerating perforates the soil to help relieve soil compaction, making it easier for water, air and nutrients to penetrate the soil and allows grass to grow deep roots. Late spring is an ideal time to aerate warm-season grasses. For the best results, aerate on a cool day when the soil is moist. 

    4. Overseed warm-season grasses. Spring is the time to overseed. The process involves spreading grass seed onto existing lawns to help thicken and reinvigorate warm-season grass lawns. 

    5. Apply herbicide. Warmer weather also makes weeds, like crabgrass, grow. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide in spring can prevent them from taking root in your lawn. To ensure it’s on the ground before crabgrass germinates, the best time to apply pre-emergent herbicide is when the soil temperature reaches 55°F for three consecutive days. 

    6. Apply fertilizer. Fertilizing in early spring provides fuel for cool-season grasses as they enter one of their busiest growth periods. A layer of fertilizer also gives warm-season grasses a boost of nutrients as they awake from dormancy. 

    7. Raise your mower deck. Let spring grass grow high to encourage the growth of strong, deep root systems and a thick, healthy lawn. 

    Take care when using lawn care equipment, like mowers, in the spring. Mowers can compact soggy soil and create ruts. Cutting wet grass can also clog mowers, leaving grass-killing clumps behind that may spread disease. 

    Summer lawn care

    The extreme heat, minimal moisture and increased activity of summer make it a stressful time for cool-season grasses. Conversely, warm-season grasses thrive, as summertime is the period when they experience peak growth. No matter where you’re located or the type of grass you’re growing, these steps can help ensure your yard care routine is centered around helping your lawn survive the dog days of summer:

    1. Let grass grow. When the temperature rises, so should the length of your grass. Long grass holds more water, produces more chlorophyll, reduces root stress by keeping the ground cool and keeps light from reaching weeds. 

    Cool-season grass growth slows in the summer and might require less mowing. Aim to keep the height of it between three and four inches. 

    Warm-season grass is kept a little shorter—shoot for between two and three inches. 

    Follow the “⅓ rule” when summer mowing and avoid cutting any more than one-third of the height from the grass. Also, leave the grass clippings behind—they decompose quickly, are between 80% and 85% water, and return nutrients to the soil.   

    2. Water regularly. Grass needs about an inch of water a week, so watering is one of the most vital lawn treatments of the summer. To reduce evaporation, water your lawn early in the morning before the day heats up. Deep and infrequent watering ensures moisture reaches your lawn’s roots.

    3. Treat for pests. Lawn pests, like grubs, munch on your turf’s roots, leave dead spongy spots in your lawn, and attract animals like raccoons and skunks. Apply a preventative grub control early in the summer to nip this problem in the bud. 

    4. FeedFertilizing your lawn in the summer is beneficial for both cool- and warm-season grasses. The influx of nutrients helps fortify cool-season grasses against the heat and dry soil and nourishes warm-season grasses during their peak growth stage. 

    Fall lawn care

    The return of cool weather brings another growth stage for cool-season grasses, while warm-season grasses slow down and edge toward winter dormancy. Fall is an important time for lawn maintenance, as your actions at this time will ripple through the winter and into the spring. As cooler weather sets in, follow these steps to keep your lawn healthy:

    1. Mulch leaves. Instead of raking leaves, consider mulching them with your mower. Mulched leaves add valuable organic matter to the soil and are a hallmark of natural lawn care programs. Just be sure not to leave any clumps, which can suffocate the turf underneath. 

    2. Fertilize. Fall fertilizing is a critical part of all-season lawn care for both cool- and warm-season grasses. It strengthens turf after the stress of summer, fortifies it for winter, and provides energy for emergence in the spring. The best time to apply fall fertilizer is after your last mow but before the ground freezes.   

    3. Overseed cool-season grasses. Consistent moisture, cool air temperatures, warm soil and minimal weed pressure make fall a good time to thicken and strengthen cool-grass lawns in the north. Some in the south will also overseed their lawns with cool-season grass to keep them green through the winter. 

    4. Aerate cool-season grasses. Cooler fall weather means less heat stress and competition from weeds in cool-season grasses, making it an ideal time to aerate. Fall aeration also gives the soil time to recover and lets removed soil plugs break down before spring.   

    5. Lower your mower height. Begin cutting your lawn an inch or two lower than normal in cool regions. Shorter grass keeps leaves from matting down turf and prevents snow mold from appearing in the spring. 

    Winter lawn care

    Snow and dormancy make winter a less time-intensive season for lawn care, but that’s not to say there aren’t things to do. Although some in the deep south might need to give their lawns a quick trim, most homeowners can use this time to prepare for spring with these steps: 

    1. Mark borders. Stake out the perimeter of your driveway, walkways, patios and any other areas you clear snow from to ensure you don’t damage the turf you’ve worked so hard to maintain. 

    2. Minimize the deicer around your yard. It can burn grass and damage its roots. 

    3. Perform mower maintenance. Take advantage of the slow season to perform some much-needed maintenance to your mower: 

    -Clean thoroughly 

    -Sharpen the mower blade

    -Replace air and fuel filters 

    -Swap in new belts 

    -Install a new spark plug

    -Lubricate linkages 

    If your mower sits all winter, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for winter storage, whether it’s filling the fuel tank, running it dry or adding a fuel stabilizer. This guide to lawn mower maintenance can help keep your mower in top shape all year.

    Lawn care and equipment 

    A stunning yard needs the right equipment. If you don’t have them already, consider adding—or upgrading— these pieces.

    Mowers

    No piece of lawn care equipment sees more use than a mower. Choosing the right one for your yard can save you time and aggravation. 

    • Push mowers are preferable for use on lawns smaller than a half-acre. They’re also great for yards with lots of obstacles, like landscaping, trees and hardscape. 
    • Riding mowers are a great option for those with more than a half-acre of grass to cut. For those with large yards, look for machines with higher horsepower and wider mower decks.
    • The speed and maneuverability of zero-turn mowers make them a favorite of those with large, flat, open yards with minimal obstacles. 
    • Self-propelled mowers work great for people with lawns well-suited to push mowers but who don’t want to, or are unable to, push a mower. 

    Lawn spreader

    Spreaders are a popular lawn care tool used for dry applications, like spreading seeds and applying fertilizer. The two most common types of spreaders are broadcast and drop push-behind models.

    • Broadcast spreaders: Also called rotary spreaders, these use a spinning disk to distribute material in a fanlike manner to cover a wide area. The range of broadcast spreaders makes them perfect for covering large yards quickly. However, their speed comes at the expense of accuracy. For example, it’s easy to spread seed into unwanted places, like your flower beds. 
    • Drop spreaders: As their name implies, drop spreaders release (or drop) seeds straight down. Drop spreaders are best when accuracy matters but pay attention when applying—it can be easy to miss or over-apply an area.   

    To deal with the challenges of smaller and larger lawns, handheld and tow-behind spreaders are also frequently employed. 

    Mowing Tips 

    Frequent, weekly mowings aren’t necessarily best. Follow these tips mowing to keep you on the cutting edge of lawn care. 

    • Ditch the schedule. Mow your lawn when it needs it, not because it’s your designated day to mow. Twice-a-week mows might be needed in active growing seasons like the spring, but a bi-weekly cut might be all that’s necessary when things slow down in the summer. 
    • Break the pattern. Mowing in the same direction every time can cause the grass to lean and may lead to ruts. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, so mix up your mowing pattern. 
    • Mow dry grass. Wet clippings can clog mowers and leave clumps on your lawn that can kill the grass underneath. 
    • Stay sharp. Sharp mower blades make cutting grass easier and ease strain on mowers. They also ensure a cleaner cut, which helps grass heal faster and promotes photosynthesis. 
    • Grasscycle. There’s no need to bag grass clippings, as they provide nutrients and moisture to growing grass. Just make sure you don’t leave behind any big clumps. 

    The right lawn care schedule is the key to keeping the grass greener on your side of the fence. These seasonal tips can help you grow a lush lawn that creates curb appeal and enjoyment all year.