Lawn Care Calendar for Cool-Season Grass


Your personal calendar is filled with birthdays, holidays, and events, but what’s in store for your cool-season lawn each year? Your turf can’t directly tell you when it needs lawn care treatments, but worry not. This lawn care calendar is catered to the cool-season grass types and climate of the middle and upper half of the U.S.

What is cool-season grass?

Rust Kentucky grass
Photo Credit: Chris 73 | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Cool-season grass thrives in the northern states because of the cooler climate. It also grows in the transition zone, though it may struggle in the summer heat. It is well-adapted to cold weather and can stay green all winter long depending on how mild your winters are. 

Cool-season grass grows best in spring and fall. Homeowners in the southern states often choose to overseed their warm-season grass with cool-season grass to keep their lawns green for longer. 

Here are the most common cool-season grass types:

Each species of grass has its own unique characteristics. While this article is focused on cool-season grasses as a whole, we’ll mention the quirks of different grass types when relevant.

Why does this all matter? Most lawn care treatments will work best in spring and fall when cool-season grass is actively growing. Cool-season grass actively grows in the spring and fall, halting growth in the winter and turning brown and dormant in the hot summer months.

  • Root growth happens when soil temperatures are above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and is strongest between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Shoot growth is optimal when the air temperature is between 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

By applying treatments based on the growth patterns of cool-season grass, you’ll get the greatest benefits and avoid damaging your lawn. Keep an eye on the calendar to avoid any crucial treatment windows. 

Pro Tip: Carefully read all product labels. Not all products work on every grass type or at any temperature.

Do you live in the South or the transition zone? Check out this warm-season maintenance calendar for relevant lawn care tips.

Monthly lawn care calendar

This monthly calendar shows when each treatment or lawn care task can be completed. The white check marks show the ideal time to complete the task. The black check marks represent a possible time to complete the task. Not all treatments have an ideal time.

The following calendar reflects meteorological seasons, which means seasons begin on the first day of the month rather than on solstices and equinoxes.

Want a calendar that’s more specific to your area? Contact your local cooperative extension for advice specific to your state or county. Here are some examples:


Early spring lawn chores

frozen grass lawn
Photo Credit: Andrea Stöckel | PublicDomainPictures | CC0 1.0

The snow is melting (if you have it) and the natural world is waking up, including your grass. Once air temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit and soil temperatures are above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the roots and shoots will start growing again. Here’s how to get off on the right foot with your lawn.


The turbulent winter weather may have left behind leaves, branches, and other debris in your yard. Remove them and rake your lawn to give yourself a clean slate to work on. Raking will also wake up your lawn and repair damage from snow molds.


If your grass is growing, it’s time to start mowing. Here are the ideal heights for cool-season grasses and when they need to be cut.

Grass typeIdeal lawn height (inches)Mow when the grass reaches this height (inches)
Tall fescue2 – 42.5 – 5.25
Perennial ryegrass2 – 32.5 – 4
Kentucky bluegrass2 – 32.5 – 4
Fine fescue1.5 – 32 – 4

Never cut off more than one-third of the grass at once. Doing so could damage the grass. If you want to mow lower, you’ll need to mow more often, lowering the blades gradually until you reach your ideal height. Never go below the recommended height for your grass type.

Though grass clippings can provide a nutrition boost to your lawn, you may want to bag them in early spring. The wet, snowy conditions of winter might have bred disease. If you see discolored grass or mold, bag the grass clippings to avoid spreading the disease further. Here are the most common culprits to keep an eye out for this time of year:


Your lawn needs about 1-1.5 inches of water a week if there’s no rain. Check your water gauge to see if you’re getting it naturally. If not, supplement it with your own irrigation. Water your lawn deeply once a week to encourage a strong root system. If you have sandy soils that don’t retain water well, water twice a week. Look for these signs that your lawn needs water:

  • Wilting
  • Color change
  • Footprints that stay on your lawn

Get a soil test

Get to know what’s in your soil before you apply fertilizer or soil amendments. A soil test is like a blood test for your yard; it tells you what the nutrient levels are and what you can do to improve your soil health.

Send a soil sample to your local cooperative extension or soil testing laboratory every couple of years. If you’re actively making changes, you can test every six months to check on your progress.

Fertilize– but be patient

It can be tempting to pull out the fertilizer as soon as spring begins, but you shouldn’t apply it too soon. Your grass is still picking up speed in early spring, and fertilizer could cause an excessive growth spurt with the following consequences:

  • Susceptibility to fungi that could cause damage.
  • Excessive leaf growth at the expense of root growth which will make it harder for your grass to absorb water in summer.

Wait until your lawn naturally greens up before you apply fertilizer. If you only want to fertilize once a year, wait until September since fall is the ideal time to fertilize cool-season grasses. Follow the recommendations laid out in your soil test and any temperature guidelines on the fertilizer packaging.

Apply soil amendments

Your soil test may have suggested soil amendments to correct pH. Soil pH is the acidity or alkalinity of soil measured on a scale of 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). Grass grows best when soil pH is between 6 and 7. If the pH is outside of those bounds, your turf could face the following problems:

  • Poor beneficial microorganism health
  • Inability to access nutrients
  • Toxic levels of nutrients

Sulfur amendments lower pH and lime amendments raise pH. You can apply amendments to correct soil pH as long as there’s no ice, drought, rain, or stress from insects or diseases. However, sulfur amendments work best in spring and lime amendments work best in spring or fall. 

Note: Soil amendments can take months to break down, so don’t expect instant results. Patience is key when adjusting your soil.

Weed control

Cool-season weeds wake up from their winter slumber when temperatures are at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll deal with many types of weeds year-round, so here are some definitions:

  • Summer annuals germinate in spring, grow in summer, and die in winter.
  • Winter annuals sprout in fall or winter, grow in spring, and die in summer.
  • Biennials live for two years.
  • Perennials live for three or more years.

Apply post-emergent herbicides now to deal with the winter annuals like chickweed that actively grow in spring. Want to get ahead of the summer annual weeds? Apply pre-emergent herbicides to nip them in the bud (metaphorically, of course–if you apply herbicides early, there will be no bud to nip).

What other weed control options do you have? Chemicals aren’t the only answer. 

  • Cultural weed control: If your lawn is well-taken care of, you’ll have fewer weeds to deal with in the first place. Contaminated soil, overwatering, soil compaction, and unhealthy grass can all encourage weed growth. 
  • Mechanical weed control: You can also dig weeds with your hands or specialized tools. Removing any part of the weed will weaken it. However, you’ll need to unearth the whole root system to stop them for good.

Using chemical, cultural, and mechanical methods in conjunction can keep your weed population at bay.

Pest control

Is your grass brown? Can you easily pull it out in chunks? Something may be snacking on your grass. The quicker you identify the problem, the quicker you can address it and prevent further damage. Common cool-season grass pests include:

Late spring lawn chores

Late spring
Photo Credit: PROPOLI87 | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Late spring is the peak of lawn growth for cool-season grasses. Keep watering as needed following the previous instructions. Soon the hot summer will drive your cool-season lawn into dormancy, so here’s how to prepare before that happens.


If the snow (and risk of disease) has long since melted away, you can start leaving your grass clippings on your lawn. They will decompose and naturally fertilize your lawn, saving you time and money. If the clippings are piling up and you don’t like how they look, here are some other uses for them:


While you might still be able to squeeze in fertilization, we wouldn’t recommend it. Late fertilization could encourage foliar diseases, and you wouldn’t want to weaken your lawn before the stress of summer. Contact your local extension office to learn the latest fertilization date in your area.

Weed control

If weeds are popping up left and right, keep applying post-emergent weed control. Look for selective herbicides designed to target the specific weeds you’re dealing with and apply spot treatments only where they’re needed. Here are some weeds to keep an eye out for:

Pest control

Have you seen moths hanging around the lawn lately? They could be the adult form of sod webworms laying their eggs. Wait for one to two weeks to apply treatments so you can catch the new brood when they hatch. 

Armyworms also hatch around this time. Apply treatment in the late afternoon before they come out to feed.

Early summer lawn chores

Green lawn
Photo Credit: werayuth tessrimuang | Vecteezy | License

When the summer heat hits, cool-season lawn growth declines. They often go dormant because of the heat and lack of water. Here’s how to adapt to this sensitive time for your grass. 


Increase your mowing height by ½ to 1 inch. This will keep your soil cooler and prevent it from drying up. You can keep leaving your grass clippings as long as they aren’t excessive. Try to avoid mowing on particularly hot days to avoid stressing out your lawn.


Depending on your local climate, nature may not be providing much to drink. Your turf might turn brown, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead. Cool-season grass naturally goes dormant in response to a lack of water. To help it survive the heat, continue watering with one inch of water a week. Tall fescue can stay green the longest since it has a deep and extensive root system.

Note: If your area is prone to drought, look up your local water restrictions. Some cities may limit watering to certain times of the day or specific days of the week.

Weed control

While your grass is dormant, drought-resistant weeds are an even bigger threat than before. Stay vigilant and keep applying post-emergent control to the weeds you see. 

Pro tip: Read labels carefully. Some herbicides could damage your lawn if it’s too hot outside.

Pest control

Keep monitoring for and treating damage from grubs, sod webworms, and other pests.

Late summer lawn chores

Late spring Lawn
Photo Credit: Terry | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

It’s getting hot out there! Cool-season lawn growth reaches its lowest point besides winter in these summer months, but soon the fall growing season will arrive. Start making a list of the fertilizer, seeds, and other supplies you’ll need for fall so you won’t be caught off guard. Keep caring for your lawn to set it up for success, mowing and watering as necessary.

Lawn renovation

Are you planning on renovating your lawn in the fall? Start preparing your yard now. Amend your soil and remove weeds, dead vegetation, and debris. There are several methods to remove old grass, though some will take longer than others. Herbicides and digging it up are the quickest.

Note: This advice only applies to significant lawn renovation. If you just want to overseed to fill in patches, you can wait until fall for the best results.

Pest control

Grubs hatch in August or September. This is a great time to apply insecticide since they’re at their weakest and will be the easiest to kill. Not only will you stop them from chowing down on your grass roots now, but you’ll also be saving yourself from a headache next year. These very same grubs will camp underground during the winter and wake up in spring, so treat them while you can.

Early fall lawn chores

Early Fall Lawn
Photo Credit: jimsohn1 from Alexandria, Virginia, USA | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

You’re not the only one happy about the cooler weather. Fall is the second growing season for cool-season grass. Your grass mostly spends this time recovering from the summer heat. Now’s the time to check many lawn care chores off your list while your grass is doing well.


Lower your mowing height if you raised it in the summer. Leave those clippings to help fertilize your lawn–your grass will thank you for it.

Are there leaves falling all over your turf? A mulching lawn mower can turn them into a nutritional boost for your lawn. If more than half of your grass is covered in leaves, you can rake them instead. Bag, compost, or use them as mulch in your flower beds.


Make sure your lawn is getting that one inch of water a week, whether it’s from irrigation or precipitation.


Now’s the best time to fertilize your lawn. It can use those nutrients to grow, recover from summer, and prepare for winter. Check the results of your soil test from earlier in the year to see what nutrients your turf needs. Here are the main nutrients found in fertilizer:

  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Phosphorus (P)
  • Potassium (K)

Note: Some states ban phosphorus fertilizers because of harmful runoff and algae bloom. Check your local fertilizer ordinances to see any restrictions.

Soil amendments

If your lawn needs lime to amend acidic soil, you can apply it in the fall.

Pro tip: Aerate and dethatch your lawn before applying soil amendments for the best results.


Try sticking a screwdriver into your soil. Was it difficult? If so, your soil’s likely compacted. Aeration provides the following benefits:

  • Reduces compaction
  • Removes thatch, the layer of plant debris on your lawn’s soil
  • Allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots
  • Improves root growth
  • Improves drainage
  • Boosts the effectiveness of overseeding, fertilizing, and soil amendments

Even though aeration is beneficial, it is an invasive procedure. Fall aeration is best for cool-season grasses because they’re actively growing and can easily recover. You can aerate in spring if your soil compaction is particularly bad, but you generally only need to aerate your lawn once a year.


Remember how we said aeration helps remove thatch? If this layer of roots, leaves, and organic plant matter is more than half an inch thick, it can suffocate your turf and harbor pests and diseases. Dethatch your lawn using a power rake, manual dethatcher, electric dethatcher, or vertical mower.


If your lawn is looking patchy or thin, it’s time for new grass seeds. Overseeding is the process of spreading grass seeds over an existing lawn. If you do this after aerating, the seeds will go directly into the soil, making them more likely to germinate.

Lawn renovation

Sometimes overseeding just won’t cut it. Sod, seed, or hydroseed your lawn from scratch to provide a complete turf makeover. If you already prepped your yard for lawn renovation in late summer, you’ll be good to go! Just make sure you’re keeping it moist so your new grass can plant its roots. Fall is the best season for this because the grass will have time to get settled and grow before winter.

Need to apply sod earlier in the year? You might be able to lay sod in spring or summer, but the grass could struggle in the heat and will need lots of water. The new grass will struggle to grow roots when it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Weed control

Winter annuals are coming, so start applying pre-emergent weed control now. Here are some to keep an eye out for:

If perennial broadleaf weeds are a problem, keep applying post-emergent weed control. 

Pro tip: Weed killers could damage young grass. If you intend to plant seeds or sod, read herbicide labels carefully before application.

Late fall lawn chores

Photo Credit: Karen Blaha | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Your lawn’s growing season is drawing to a close for the year. Check off any fall lawn chores you didn’t do in the early fall, such as:

  • Fertilization
  • Soil amendments
  • Aeration
  • Dethatching
  • Seeding
  • Laying sod

As the days get chillier, here’s how to prepare your lawn before winter arrives.


Keep mowing until the grass stops growing. You can gradually lower the mowing height to help prevent snow molds, but don’t go lower than the recommended height range for your grass type.


Your grass still needs water, but pay attention to the weather in your area. You want to keep the soil moist, but watch out for the first frost of the year. Winterize your sprinkler system before the freezing temperatures arrive to avoid damage.


Early fall is best for overseeding, but you can try dormant seeding. Dormant seeding takes advantage of snowy climates to create a thicker lawn for spring. Spread the seed and keep it moist until the first snow. Consistent snow cover will keep the seeds dormant until spring, and ta-da–the seeds will germinate in the spring growing season alongside your existing grass.

Early winter lawn chores

late winter lawn
Photo Credit: Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer | Picryl

Brrrr! It’s getting chilly out there. Your lawn may stay green, but it’s done growing for the year. Depending on your local climate, snow may impact your lawn. But not to fear; we’ll go over the precautions you should take to keep your turf happy.

Avoid foot traffic

Untouched snow looks so beautiful, doesn’t it? Well, your lawn may benefit from leaving it that way. Frozen grass blades can shatter, and they won’t recover until spring. Direct foot traffic onto paths and walkways instead.

Winterize equipment

You’re done with mowing for the year, but don’t just shove your equipment in the shed and forget about it. Winterize your lawn equipment to avoid a springtime disaster. That includes:

  • Emptying the fuel tank
  • Checking the oil
  • Sharpening the mower blade

Oh, and don’t forget to keep it in a dry place away from the cold–you don’t want it to freeze or rust.

Be careful with salt

Icy paths are no fun, but don’t be too liberal with the salt near your lawn. Avoid getting it on your turf so it doesn’t absorb into the soil. Not all grass handles salinity well.

Late winter lawn chores

Early Winter
Photo Credit: Pxhere / CC0 1.0

We’ve reached the end of the year. Your lawn doesn’t need much from you in late winter, so you can spend your time relaxing and getting ready for spring. Here are a few tasks you should keep in mind.

Mower maintenance

Since things are so quiet in the lawn care world, it’s a great time to get some mower maintenance done. If you take good care of your mower, it should be easy to get ready for spring.

Look for heaving

Late winter freezing and thawing can create unsightly lumps on your lawn. Wait for the spring thaw, then use a lawn roller to smooth out the lawn’s surface. 

But be careful: rolling can make soil compaction worse. Wait until the soil is relatively dry, use as light a roller as possible, and roll as little as possible. You don’t want to cause damage trying to fix this problem.

FAQ about cool-season grass

How often should you fertilize cool-season grass?

A healthy, established lawn only needs fertilizer once a year. You can split up fertilizations into two or three applications a year if necessary (one in spring and up to two in the fall). However, you should always follow soil test recommendations and never exceed the recommended total amount per year.

Should dormant cool-season grass be mowed?

No. Dormant grass doesn’t grow. If it’s not growing, you don’t need to mow it. Your local climate may affect when (or if) your grass goes dormant.

Can you put fertilizer on dormant cool-season grass?

Fertilizer won’t do dormant grass any good, nor will it pull grass out of dormancy. Your grass can best use those nutrients when it’s actively growing in spring or fall.

Which cool-season grass is the most drought-tolerant?

Fescue grass is the most drought-tolerant cool-season grass. Fine fescue uses less water while tall fescue has a deep root system equipped to absorb more water.

To improve the drought tolerance of any grass, water deeply once per week. This promotes a deeper root system that can absorb water better and reach moisture deeper in the soil. The soil should be moistened to a depth of six inches.

Remember: it’s OK for your grass to be brown sometimes, especially during drought. It will bounce back with water and cooler weather.

When to hire a professional

Is your calendar looking rather full? Those fall and spring growing seasons may spare you from working in the summer heat, but there’s still a lot on your lawn care plate. Maybe you want to spend your time enjoying the four seasons instead of checking off chores. Lawn Love can connect you with lawn care professionals so you can enjoy what each month has to offer.

Main Image Credit: BEARDED HANDS | Vecteezy | License

Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant is a freelance writer based out of Eugene, Oregon, with a B.A. in English and a minor in comics and cartoon studies. She is excitedly awaiting the day when she can grow her own edible garden.