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The Best Year-Round Lawn Care Schedule

Author Icon By Stephanie Koncewicz Updated 02/15/2024

Lawn care is a yearlong job with very few shortcuts. The process takes planning— fertilizing can’t happen whenever it’s convenient, and weed control needs to be timed. Putting a plan in place can help you stay on top of what needs to be done at different times of the year. We’ll walk you through the best times of year for various lawn care tasks to help you develop a personal plan.

If year-round lawn care seems daunting, you may want to consider hiring a professional lawn care provider. Lawn care companies offer annual programs with every treatment your lawn needs, from fertilization to aeration, soil amendments, and grub control. We’ll also give our recommendations for the best self-service and full-service lawn care providers.


Before You Begin

As you may imagine, lawn care looks slightly different depending on the climate you’re in and the type of turf you have. Warm-season grasses tend to grow best in the Southeast and Southwest, and cool-season grasses tend to grow best in the central and northern parts of the U.S. Here’s how these two types compare.

Warm-Season GrassCool-Season Grass
Ideal temperature range60°–95°40°–75°
Growth seasonMidsummerEarly spring
Dormant seasonWinterSummer
Frost toleranceLowHigh
Shade toleranceLowHigh
Drought toleranceHighLow
ExamplesBahia grass, Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, St. Augustine grass, zoysia grassKentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue

Some grasses also work well in the transition zone between the north and the south, including zoysia, Bermuda grass, and tall fescue. Some transition-zone yards even have a mixture of grass types. Be sure to identify which type of grass you have so you know which schedule to follow. If you’re having trouble keeping your lawn alive, you may need to switch to a turfgrass that’s better suited to your climate.


Spring Lawn Care

Months Included: March, April, May
Lawn care in the spring is particularly busy as your lawn transitions from winter dormancy to greening up. Here are the crucial steps to take when caring for your lawn from March to May.
Clean up your yardRake up any fallen leaves, dead grass, or debris and dispose of it. This will prepare the way for other steps.
Test your soil: Healthy lawns start with a strong foundation. Spring is the perfect time to test the nutrient levels and pH of your soil. This is the season you’ll want to fertilize both cool- and warm-season grasses, so you need to assess exactly what your lawn needs. You can purchase an at-home soil kit or work with your local cooperative extension, nursery, or university to get a sample professionally tested.
Check your mower: You’ll need to mow your lawn to keep grass looking good and growing well, so make sure that your lawn mower is in good condition. Start by sharpening your mower blades. Sharp mower blades slice the tops of grass blades off cleanly—dull blades tear or shred them, making your lawn more susceptible to illness. Next, tune up your mower. Get a new air filter, replace the spark plug if needed, and fill it up with fresh gas.
Aerate: This process alleviates soil compaction by introducing holes into your lawn, opening up pathways for air, water, and nutrients to reach grass roots. Aerate at least once a year—more if your lawn receives a lot of foot traffic or if people park on it. We recommend using a core aerator, a machine that removes cores of dirt about 2–3 inches deep. Break up the cores and leave them on the surface of the grass to decompose back into the soil, reintroducing beneficial organic matter.
Dethatch: Thatch is the layer of living and decomposing organic matter that builds up between the soil and growing grass. A thin layer of thatch is beneficial, insulating the grassroots from extreme fluctuations in temperature and helping it retain moisture. But a layer greater than 1/2-inch thick can impede the roots’ ability to access needed air, water, and nutrients. In spring, check to see if your thatch layer is over 1/2-inch thick by digging up a patch of grass with a sharp spade. If it is, use a dethatching rake to lift and break up the thatch.
Fertilize: If you have cool-season grass in your lawn, fertilize in early spring when the growing season begins. Wait until mid-to-late spring if you have warm-season grass. If you choose a synthetic fertilizer, we recommend using a slow-release fertilizer. Fast-release fertilizers will show quicker growth but are worse for your lawn in the long run. Organic fertilizers, composed of natural ingredients like blood meal and guano, are more expensive but will yield greener, thicker growth.
Apply pre-emergent weed killer: Use pre-emergent herbicide to keep weeds like crabgrass from springing up in your lawn. You can apply pre-emergents when the soil reaches 58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Treat for grubs: Grubs are the milky-white, C-shaped larvae of Japanese beetles that will munch through roots, leaving dead patches in their wake. To prevent them from damaging your lawn in the fall, take preventive measures before they hatch. If grubs were a problem last year, apply chemical control or use an organic option like milky spore or beneficial nematodes. Treat cool-season grasses for grubs in late spring.

Summer Lawn Care

Months Included: June, July, August

Summer is the season when care of warm-season grasses differs most sharply from that of cool-season grasses. Cool-season grasses grow dormant in the heat, so leave more disruptive tasks like thatching, aerating, and herbicide application for spring or fall. Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, require a bit more summer maintenance.

  • Mow grass high: In the summer months, adjust your mower to its highest or second-highest setting to cut grass higher than normal. Tall grass leads to stronger, deeper, and healthier roots that compete effectively with weeds. Mow as high as you can for your particular type of grass. As always, don’t cut more than the top one-third of the grass blade each time you mow.
  • Treat for grubs: Treat warm-season grasses for grubs in early summer to prevent damage later in the year.
  • Control weeds: This is the time to tackle any annual or perennial weeds that have sprung up with a post-emergent herbicide. Depending on the type of weed you’re dealing with, use either a selective or nonselective herbicide. Selective herbicides will target the weed, while nonselective herbicides can harm the grass around it—always read the directions and follow them exactly.
  • Fertilize: Since warm-season grasses grow in the heat, you can continue to fertilize them through the summer if necessary. Be careful not to overfertilize, which could stress your lawn and encourage fungal disease.
  • Watering: Both cool- and warm-season grasses require regular watering from spring through fall. Cool-season grasses tend to be thirstier than warm-season grasses, but the amount and frequency of watering will depend on the specific species and local climate. Do some research or ask a local plant nursery about your type of grass, and be careful not to overwater.
  • Overseeding: If your warm-season grass has bare patches, add more seed and fertilize gently during the late spring and summer.

Fall Lawn Care

Months Included: September, October, November
Autumn is your opportunity to feed cool-season grasses and prepare for the chilly winter months.
Fertilize: Feed your cool-season grass to encourage strong root growth. Your lawn will store up the nutrients it needs as it goes dormant during the winter. However, stop fertilizing warm-season grasses by early fall.
Mow short: When late fall rolls around, adjust your lawn mower setting so that it’s approximately 1.5–2 inches shorter than you had it during the summer. In cool regions, this will help prevent snow mold, and in warm regions, falling leaves will have a harder time matting down shorter grass.
Patch and seed: The heat of the summer and less-than-ideal growing conditions may have led to some thinning areas or bare patches in cool-season grasses. When the temperature cools down, patch these areas with seed to restore your lawn’s thickness. Use a trowel or spade to break up the soil, then work an inch or so of compost into it to add nutrients. Spread the seed over the soil, then work it in with a rake. Place a thin layer of straw over the newly seeded area—this will protect the seeds from the elements and curious birds. For the first few weeks, water this area more regularly than your lawn. It needs several mistings per day until the grass grows an inch tall.
Raking: Many homeowners prefer the look of a well-raked lawn, but those fallen leaves are a free form of fertilizer. Leaving large clumps of wet leaves can damage the grass underneath, but you’ll create a natural layer of mulch if you mow over fallen leaves.
Other treatments: If you find that your cool-season lawn needs aerating or dethatching, you can also do that in the fall. However, don’t do these things to warm-season grasses since they will stress the roots and make them less likely to survive the winter.

Winter Lawn Care

Months Included: December, January, February

Warm-season grasses go completely dormant in the winter, but cool-season grasses also stop growing and conserve energy during the cold months. Homeowners need to take some steps to protect their grass while it’s dormant.

  • Limit foot traffic: Walking on a tender, dormant lawn can compress the soil and kill your grass. Avoid walking on it if possible, don’t park on it, and try not to store anything heavy on it if that’s avoidable.
  • Melt ice carefully: If your lawn has ice on it, follow proper measures to deice it carefully. Some ice-melting products are specifically designed for use on lawns. Items like rock salt can damage your lawn.
  • Prepare for next year: If you want, begin to prepare for spring by catching up on mower maintenance or stocking up on supplies like seed and fertilizer.

Professional Lawn Care

Year-round lawn care is a lot to keep up with, and you can hire professionals if you haven’t got the time or effort to spend on it. We recommend TruGreen for comprehensive lawn care services. This industry leader is available in all states except for Alaska and Hawaii and offers five different annual lawn care programs to manage your schedule. TruGreen has natural options as well as a la carte services including pest control.

If you want to stick with do-it-yourself (DIY) lawn care but need help finding the right products, Sunday is our recommended choice. Sunday offers a range of customizable lawn care products and plans that empower homeowners to maintain a healthy and beautiful lawn on their own.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I take care of my lawn year-round?

Taking care of your lawn year-round means learning about the kind of grass you have to help you fertilize and aerate it at the right times. Start by looking at the care recommendations in this article for warm-season and cool-season grasses.

What is the best lawn care program?

Based on our research and comparisons, TruGreen offers the best lawn care services across the U.S. Our second and third choices are Weed Man and Lawn Doctor.

When should I fertilize my lawn?

You should fertilize your cool-season lawn in fall or spring, and fertilize your warm-season lawn in mid-to-late spring or summer.

When should I test my soil?

Test your soil in spring before choosing which fertilizer to feed your lawn with. If you want, you can also test it in the fall.


Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our lawn recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review lawn care plans and packages, navigate the provider website, and speak with customer service representatives, request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plan options, additional benefits and customizability, availability, trustworthiness, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.

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