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Keeping a Pristine Lawn All Year Round

By Guest Blogger Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The secret to a pristine lawn year-round is a year-round maintenance program. Whether you hire a lawn care company or do it yourself, that green lawn can be a lot of work and likely requires something more than a lawnmower. That’s a hard sell if you only think about your lawn in spring and summer.
It all starts with the type of grass you have and where you live. Northern U.S. properties usually grow cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky Blue or a fescue. In the South, lawns usually consist of a warm-season type, such as Zoysia or Bermuda. For the best selection for your area, check with your local extension office.
Pro tip: a fescue will stay green throughout the year. Tall fescue is also one of the most heat and drought-tolerant varieties which is also able to resist winter freezes.


A must-have is an irrigation system. The lawn needs water to stay green and grow. Supplemental watering depends on the type of lawn you have. No irrigation and long spells of dry, hot weather will cause grass to go dormant in summer. Stressed lawns also show footprints when walked on.
If you don’t have a programmable irrigation system, be prepared to use sprinklers to water the lawn. Opt for a sprinkler that delivers water close to the ground rather than overhead. Concerns about this precious resource – water usage, availability, and drought – have spread beyond the West to the Upper Midwest.
How much water? About 1 inch a week. When using a sprinkler, place tuna cans or something similar in the area being watered. When the cans have an inch of water, turn the sprinkler off. Or, apply one-half inch of water twice a week using the cans as a guide.


The best time to fertilize your lawn is in September. The second best time is November. Indeed, two fall applications of winter formula lawn fertilizer go a long way at keeping the grass green in winter. It also helps the lawn green up earlier in spring. Whether you or your lawn care company fertilizes in spring is up to you. Spring temps encourage the grass to grow, so fertilizing in spring frequently increases mowing duties.
Lawn fertilizer is typically a granular product. There are several types of applicators, which also can be used with other lawn care products. There are synthetic and eco-friendly, natural or organic lawn fertilizers on the market. With any lawn and garden product, always read and follow the directions.


Pesticide is an umbrella word for bug killers (insecticides), weed killers (herbicides), mites (miticide), and fungus (fungicides). Several brands of lawn fertilizers add weed killers to the mix, such as for crabgrass or dandelions.
Most of these lawn products are used if there’s a problem with insects, fungus or weeds, rather than as a preventative. It’s always best to know what the problem is before you treat it. That will save you money.


The best way to have a pristine lawn is to mow it correctly. That means the mower blade should be sharp, so the grass is cut evenly and not torn. You’ve probably heard the grass mantra to “mow high.” Mow lawns to 3 or 4 inches tall. Grass at that height shades out any weeds looking to take root. It also helps shade the soil to reduce the loss of moisture.
When mowing, avoid removing more than one-third of the grass blade. If the lawn is 6-inches high, mow at 4 inches. If 4 inches, mow at 3. Mowing duties are usually the most demanding in spring and early summer. Fewer mows are needed in late summer when grass growth slows.
A mulching mower allows the clipped grass to remain on the lawn, gradually breaking down and adding trace nutrients to the soil. Mowing leaves and leaving the bits on the lawn in fall also adds trace nutrients.


Leaving leaves on your lawn can allow them to become soggy, which leads to snow mold and insect infestations. Raking them allows the grass to breathe and absorb moisture. A thick layer of leaves will also deprive your lawn of the sunlight it needs to thrive.

Tips for DIYers
  • You will need a mower, a spreader for granular products, and an applicator for liquid products, such as insecticides. You may also need tools like a rake or shovel.
  • Check with your county extension service for a lawn care guide. It will lay out the lawn care schedule for you to follow. It also will explain when and if to use pesticides.
  • Make sure your lawn equipment is ready for the job. Keep the blades sharp and spreader distributing the correct amount of lawn product. Replace parts, such as blades or spark plugs, as needed.
  • Remember always to read and follow the label directions of any lawn and garden product.
Tips for Hiring a Lawn Service
  • Have a clear understanding and schedule of what the service will do and when. Ask what products they use and what precautions they take, especially around children or pets.
  • What is the service’s policy if a treatment damages or kills your garden plant? This can happen when the spray from weed killers drifts on the perennials, shrubs, or trees.
  • Tell the service that you prefer them to mow high, even if it means increased mows, especially in spring.
  • Ask the service to reduce mowing in the fall if it isn’t needed.
Keep in mind: Your lawn doesn’t have to be green year-round to be pristine. A healthy lawn may go dormant during the colder months. But with the proper care (and by keeping heavy foot traffic off the lawn in winter), it can bounce back stronger than ever once spring returns.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp award-winning garden writer, editor, and speaker. (She speaks at libraries, garden clubs, public gardens, home and garden shows, and horticulture industry events.) She frequently says her eyes are too big for her yard. She blogs at

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