Lawn Care 101
If that perfect, green lawn has always been your dream, this is a good place to start! We’ll walk you through the steps to bring your lawn up to your expectations throughout the seasons. Just remember, it can take some maintenance to keep it picture perfect!
Aerating: This is the process of creating holes in your lawn to reduce compaction to allow for better absorption of water, air and nutrients. In turn, your grass develops deeper, stronger roots. Aerating should be one of the first things done in the spring as soon as the soil has warmed up and is workable. Aerators can be rented from a hardware store or you can hire a contractor to aerate your lawn for you.
Cleaning: Rake up any old leaves, branches, loose thatch (old dead grass) and dead plant material before applying any fertilizer or pre-emergent herbicides.
Top Dressing: If you have poor quality soil, you can top dress your lawn prior to reseeding. Be sure to use a soil consisting of peat moss (holds moisture), compost (improves soil structure), and loam (soil that contains equal parts sand, silt and clay). This can be either Fafard Viva Lawn Soil or Triple Mix.
Corn Gluten: Corn Gluten is a pre-emergent herbicide that prevents the newly germinated weed seeds from developing roots and it can be a very useful product if used correctly. However, timing is critical for you to have success with this product. Corn Gluten must be applied before weeds have had a chance to develop root systems or it will not work. It also must be watered into the ground (¼ inch of water, either by hose or rainfall) within 5 days of application. A dry period of 1-2 days is then needed to prevent weeds from rooting. A single application of corn gluten can help suppress around 60% of weeds for 4-6 weeks. DO NOT APPLY CORN GLUTEN IF YOU PLAN ON SEEDING YOUR LAWN. You must wait 6 weeks after applying corn gluten before putting down grass seed.
Seeding: If you are looking to overseed your lawn or fill in some bare spots, spring is a great time to get started. Once soil temperatures are above 10°C (typically when air temperature is between 15°C and 20°C), it is warm enough to lay seed down and for it to germinate. Most stores carry grass seed that is labelled for its specific use (i.e. sunny, shade, drought tolerant) and it is best to use the appropriate type for it to thrive. Remember to water your lawn frequently and deeply after applying seed.
Fertilizing: A spring application of fertilizer is important to give your lawn the kick start it needs to grow. Generally, you want to apply your fertilizer when the soil begins to warm and you see signs of new growth from your grass. When picking a fertilizer, look at the 3 number analysis on the bag that represents nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium respectively. For example, 20-5-10 means your fertilizer contains 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphorous, and 10% potassium. In spring, look for something with a higher nitrogen content, and lower phosphorus and potassium content.
Scouting & Treating Insects: Check for signs of insect damage in mid-late spring. Damage from skunks and racoons digging in your lawn, along with brown patches, are usually signs of grubs. Even if you don’t notice any damage, an application of a grub killer can be helpful as a significant number of the grubs in a lawn are Japanese Beetle larvae, and treatments now will reduce the number of Japanese Beetles you will have to deal with in the summer.
Mowing: Raising the height of your mower can have many benefits, including reducing the amount you need to water, making it more difficult for weeds to germinate, improving the health of your grass and reducing the impact that chinch bugs can have on your lawn. The recommended height is between 6-7.5 cm.
Watering: Water your lawn deeply a few times a week rather than lightly every day to promote deep root growth. Not only is this less work for you, but it will also help keep chinch bugs at bay! Consider watering early in the morning to prevent evaporation, and don’t forget to follow any water restrictions set out by your town or region. In the hottest months of the summer, let your lawn go dormant! Your lawn can survive for 4-6 weeks without adequate water. Letting your lawn rest means it is conserving energy and will bounce right back as soon as the weather cools, so only water during extreme drought or if you are trying to establish a new lawn. While it may not be as attractive, it will also reduce the likeliness that you will have to deal with other issues (such as fungus) that only arise on a growing lawn in the summer heat. Plus it saves you having to mow as an added bonus!
Weeding: With most pesticides banned from the market, the best (and sometimes only) course of action is physical pulling. For best success, pull any weeds as soon as you see them to stop them from going to seed and try to get as much of the root as you can. Some weeds are incredibly difficult to get rid of and will require you to continuously pull them as they appear in hopes you will eventually exhaust the root system. The longer you leave weeds the more energy they will gather, and the larger their root systems will grow. Frequent weeding will give you the best results
Scouting: During the hot dry months of summer, you may see chinch bug damage appearing. It usually appears as dry yellow/tan spots in your lawn that quickly spread, specifically in the hottest periods as they thrive on heat and dry soil. A severe infestation can kill an entire lawn. Watering deeply, keeping your lawn long, aerating your lawn and avoiding a high-nitrogen fertilizer can help keep chinch bugs out of your lawn, or at least reduce the effects of them.
Seeding: Fall is one of the best times to re-seed or sod your lawn as the temperatures are more moderate for seed germination. Again, use a seed developed for your specific area (sun, shade, etc.), and remember to water your lawn frequently and deeply after applying seed.
Fertilizing: Use a fertilizer with nitrogen and potassium to help encourage growth and increase the overall health of your lawn, as well as improve winter survival rates. Any excess nitrogen that is not used will be stored in the roots for next year's growth.
Cleaning: To prep for the winter season, remove excess thatch from your lawn as any more than 2.5 cm can be detrimental to the health of it. Also, clean up any fallen leaves from your lawn and raise your mower height a bit before you mow your lawn for the last time in the fall.
Grub Treatment: Apply another round of grub treatment while the soil is still warm to reduce the amount of grubs that survive the winter. In late fall or early winter, the grubs will move deeper into the soil and the treatment will not be effective, so be sure to put it down before it gets too cold.