We all have different goals with our lawns, ranging from having the most pristine yard in the neighborhood, to doing just enough to not upset the neighbors. For the purposes of this article, I will be splitting the difference and focusing on those who would like an acceptable looking lawn, but maybe are not quite willing to put a significant amount of time and money into it. One maintenance activity that you may being thinking about sooner rather than later is that of crabgrass control, particularly if you have battled this weed in the past. Even though we typically don’t notice it until it is taking over a yard during the summer months, it is best controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide, which should be applied between now and mid-April in Northern Indiana, as crabgrass will likely begin germinating towards the end of April.
Whenever the grass begins to green up and grow, Purdue recommends mowing lawns at a height of 2.5 – 3.5”, while never removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in a single mowing. Also, remember to sharpen your mower blade, as this will also lead to a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing lawn. As May comes around, further weed and disease scouting begins. The most common lawn weed is dandelions, which can be controlled by spot spraying with a broadleaf herbicide once they begin to flower. The most typical disease is known as “red thread,” which appears as circular patches of pink or tan grass. Red thread is a sign of a malnourished lawn and can be alleviated in future years by a supplemental nitrogen (N) fertilizer that will promote grass recovery and limit the severity of the disease. A rate of about 0.2 lbs of N per 1,000ft² should suffice in the spring time to aid in recovery.
For the summer months, continue with your mowing routine/disease scouting, and begin to keep an eye out for grubs, which can be controlled with an insecticide application in July or August. Mid-August to Mid-September is the ideal time to reseed your lawn if you are noticing thin or bare areas. If you only fertilize your lawn one time per year, it is recommended that time be in September to help your grass recover from the stress of summer. September fertilization should be at a rate of 1 lb of N/1000ft². Prior to the dormancy of winter, if necessary, one final herbicide application should be done in October to help with dandelions and other broadleaf weeds. Then, after your final mowing while the grass is still green, consider applying one final fertilizer application at 1.5 lbs N/1000ft² using a fast release N product such as urea. Following these steps each year should be enough to help your lawn flourish and will go a long way in preventing future issues with weeds and disease, as the best defense against these problems is a healthy lawn.