Warm-season grass may be adapted to the hot summers and mild winters of the southern half of the US, but that doesn’t mean it will thrive year-round without work. How can you set your warm-season lawn up for success in all four seasons? A lawn care calendar could be the answer you’re looking for.
This lawn care calendar caters to your climate and warm-season grass types. Follow this step-by-step lawn maintenance schedule to meet your healthy lawn goals.
What is warm-season grass?
If you live in the southern states, you probably have warm-season grass. As the name implies, these turfgrass types originated and thrive in warm climates with hot summers and mild winters.
Warm-season grasses also grow in the transition zone in the middle of the country but can be challenging to manage there because of the colder winters.
Here are the most common warm-season grass types:
Warm-season grasses grow actively in summer. They’re more drought tolerant than their northern cool-season grass counterparts but susceptible to cold, turning dormant and brown when average air or soil temperatures drop below 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In states with especially mild winters, warm-season grass may stay green all year round.
Why is this important? Understanding your lawn’s growth patterns allows you to apply lawn treatments at the ideal time. Most treatments work best while your grass is actively growing, but others can wait until the slower winter months. There’s usually a little wiggle room, but keep a close eye on your calendar so you don’t miss any crucial time windows. You could waste your time and money if you apply treatments at the wrong time of year.
Pro Tip: Always read product labels carefully. Some products won’t work with warm-season grasses, and others won’t be effective at certain temperatures.
Do you live in the North or the transition zone? A cool-season lawn maintenance calendar could be helpful.
Monthly lawn care calendar
This maintenance calendar shows which months you can or should complete each lawn care step. The white check marks show the ideal time. The black check marks show possible times. 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 monthly calendar for your specific grass type? The University of Georgia has calendars for Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and Zoysiagrass designed for homeowners.
Early spring lawn chores
Your turf is waking up from its winter slumber. Now’s a great time for a lawn care makeover, so here’s how to get a head start on the year.
Once soil temperatures are above 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, keep an eye on your lawn’s growth. Here are the ideal mowing heights for common warm-season grasses:
|Grass Type||Suggested Height (inches)||Mow at This Height (inches)|
Never cut off more than one-third of the grass’ height. Doing so could damage the grass. If you have a mulching lawn mower, leave those clippings on your lawn so they’ll decompose and reintegrate into the soil.
Your turf needs about one inch of water each week. Spring showers may help you along the way, but water it yourself if your grass is wilting or changing color. Keep watering your grass throughout summer and fall until the grass reaches winter dormancy.
Note: Wait until the last frost has passed before you water. A cold snap could freeze the irrigation water and your grass, causing damage. Don’t let a false spring trick you into watering too early.
Get a soil test
Before fertilizing your lawn, you should know what’s in your soil. Get a soil test from your local cooperative extension to see what nutrients your lawn needs. The test will also tell you if you need to make any other adjustments to your soil.
Apply soil amendments
Your soil test results may recommend soil amendments to adjust pH. Soil pH measures acidity and alkalinity. If your soil is too high or too low on that scale (generally above 7 or below 6), your lawn could suffer the following consequences:
- Inability to access nutrients
- Toxic levels of nutrients
- Poor beneficial microorganism health
You can change your soil pH with organic or inorganic soil amendments like lime (raises pH) or sulfur (lowers pH). Lime can be applied any time of year as long as the ground isn’t frozen, but fall is the ideal time to apply. Sulfur needs heat to react with your soil, so it will work best in spring.
Soil amendments take a while to break down, so don’t expect instant results. Test your soil every six months when making adjustments. Patience will pay off and create a healthier lawn in the end.
It may seem a little early to treat summer weeds now, but pre-emergent herbicides can prevent summer annuals like crabgrass before they happen. You might even be able to get ahead of the late spring weeds if you apply pre-emergent herbicides in March.
Even though annual weeds only live for one year or season, they can still ruin the appearance of your lawn, steal valuable resources from your grass, and spread seeds for the next year.
Perennial weeds like nutsedge live for at least two years. They appear to die off in fall or winter but are secretly surviving underground, biding their time until spring. While this gives you more chances to eradicate them, it also gives them more time to damage your yard. You’ll need to combine several mechanical, chemical, and cultural techniques to keep them at bay.
- Mechanical: Pull and dig up weeds using your hands or tools. Pulling up parts of the weeds will weaken them, but digging up the whole root system will get rid of them for good.
- Chemical: Apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent new perennial weeds. What if the weeds have already sprouted? Apply post-emergent spot treatments to any weeds that pop up in your yard.
- Cultural: Reduce weeds by improving your lawn care techniques. Overwatering, poor drainage, contaminated soil, and unhealthy grass all create an environment that welcomes weeds.
Pro Tip: Don’t apply herbicides when you expect rain or other irrigation within 24 hours. The water could reduce the effectiveness of the products.
Rake the grass
Rakes aren’t just useful for fall leaves; they can also benefit your turf. Rake your lawn to wake up your grass and repair damage from pink snow mold.
Late spring lawn chores
It’s getting warmer, and your warm-season grass is slowly building up speed. Here’s how to set it up for success before the summer growing season.
You may need to mow more frequently than before as your grass picks up speed.
Now’s your last chance to prevent those summer weeds with pre-emergent herbicides! Keep applying post-emergent herbicides to any weeds you see popping up.
Planting new grass
Want to plant new sod to repair a patchy, damaged, or non-existent lawn? Technically you can do this any time of year as long as the soil isn’t frozen, soaking wet, or covered in snow. But you may as well do it when the grass grows well (late spring through summer).
Pro Tip: If soil temperatures are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, wait for things to cool off so your grass will have the best chance.
Unfortunately, cute baby birds aren’t the only creatures hatching this time of year. Insects like grubs and chinch bugs will start snacking on your lawn, so keep an eye out for damage and respond promptly. If you can pull up grass easily or see brown spots, you may be dealing with a lawn pest infestation.
Early summer lawn chores
It’s heating up outside, and your turf is growing strong. Now’s a great time to take advantage of that accelerated growth with treatments you couldn’t do earlier. Your grass will be able to recover from invasive treatments like aeration and dethatching since it’s growing quickly and at its strongest.
Now that your grass is thriving, you may need to mow more frequently. Increase your mowing height by up to half an inch to keep the soil under your lawn shady and cool. If you cut your turf too low, your soil and grass could dry up.
You’re not the only one feeling dehydrated in the hot summer sun. Keep a close eye on your turf and give it a drink if it wilts, curls up, or doesn’t bounce back from footprints. Drought strikes many southern states, and your lawn often suffers the consequences.
You may be limited in how often you can water your grass by local restrictions, but here’s how to prepare for drought and make the best of the situation.
- Check local ordinances: Some cities restrict what times you can water. Don’t miss these crucial windows.
- Water in the morning: You should be doing this all year, but it’s especially important in summer when the water is even more likely to evaporate in the hot sun. Water the lawn before 10 A.M. Watering the lawn in the evening creates a cool, moist environment that attracts pests and diseases.
- Conduct a water audit: A water audit is an assessment of water waste performed by you or a professional. Check sprinklers for leaks to ensure water isn’t going where it’s not supposed to.
Your grass needs nutrients when it’s actively growing to green up. Fertilizer is how your lawn gets those essential nutrients, including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Use your soil test results as a guide when choosing a fertilizer, and read the labels carefully for watering instructions and ideal temperature ranges.
If it’s too hot or dry, your lawn could suffer from fertilizer burn. Fertilizer burn is more likely with quick-release fertilizers, so use slow-release fertilizer instead.
Pro Tip: Check local fertilizer ordinances. Some states restrict or ban phosphorus fertilizers to prevent harmful runoff and algae bloom.
Aeration and overseeding
Try sticking a screwdriver into the soil. Was it difficult? If so, your lawn is probably compacted and needs aeration. Core aeration creates small holes in your turf to allow the grass roots to access air, water, and nutrients. It also improves root system growth.
Aeration is often paired with overseeding since it allows the seeds to enter the soil. Overseeding is the process of spreading new grass seed over an existing lawn to fill patches or thicken the turf. June is a great time to aerate and overseed your lawn.
Thatch is the plant debris that builds up on your lawn’s soil. While a little thatch is healthy, too much (usually more than half an inch) can suffocate your turf and create the perfect environment for pests and diseases.
Aeration removes some thatch, but it may not be sufficient if you have a large amount. Dethatch using a manual dethatcher, electric dethatcher, power rake, or vertical mower.
Lawn pests can ruin your summer fun, whether they’re biting you or damaging your lawn. These are the most common summer lawn pests to keep an eye out for:
- Sod webworms
- Chinch bugs
- Mole crickets
Late summer lawn chores
Since warm-season grasses slow down in fall, late summer is your last chance to take advantage of its growth for the following treatments:
- Sod installation
While you can squeeze these treatments into early fall, they won’t prove as effective.
Winter annual weeds germinate in late summer to fall, so you can apply pre-emergent herbicides for them now.
Do you know what this is the perfect time for? Grub control. August and September are when grub eggs hatch, and they’ll be more susceptible to pesticides now than ever. If you treat these newly hatched grubs now, they won’t be able to overwinter in your lawn’s soil and wreak havoc next spring.
Early fall lawn chores
Is that an autumn leaf you see? Cooler weather slows warm-season grasses down. Here’s how that will affect your lawn care schedule.
Your lawn isn’t completely done growing yet, but it will likely slow down. Keep measuring and mowing, but go ahead and lower your mowing height half an inch if you raised it in the hot summer months.
Rake and mulch the leaves
If you have trees around your lawn, those beautiful fall leaves can affect your turf in negative and positive ways. Wet leaf piles can smother the grass, grow fungus, and harbor pests. Raking and disposing of leaves is an essential part of both fall and winter lawn care.
What about the benefits? Mulch leaves using a mulching lawn mower to add nutrients to the soil and control weeds. If leaves cover more than 50% of your lawn, then you should probably bag or repurpose them just to be safe. You don’t want to overwhelm or suffocate your lawn. Why not use those extra leaves as compost or mulch for your garden beds?
Overseeding with cool-season grass
Wish your lawn could stay green longer? Overseed your lawn with cool-season grass such as ryegrass. The cool-season grass can withstand colder temperatures and will die off in the spring and summer, leaving room for your warm-season grass to grow again. Keep the new grass seed moist while it germinates.
Note: Bermudagrass does the best with winter overseeding. Centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and Zoysiagrass don’t do as well with ryegrass overseeding.
Apply pre-emergent weed control for winter weeds now if you haven’t already. Keep applying post-emergent weed control for anything that’s already on your lawn.
Grubs are on their way out this time of year, but you may still have a chance to treat them in September. Other common fall lawn pests include:
- Chinch bugs
- Sod webworms
- Mole crickets
Apply soil amendments
Fall is a good time to apply soil amendments since they will have plenty of time to break down before your grass starts growing again in spring. Get an updated soil test to see how the soil pH is doing, and apply the amendments it recommends.
Late fall lawn chores
As the weather cools down and the leaves fall, it’s tempting to halt lawn care and spend time inside with a warm beverage. However, you must prepare your lawn for winter. If you don’t, you could leave your future self with a headache come spring.
Depending on your local climate, you may be free of mowing soon. Warm-season grasses go dormant when average air or soil temperatures are below 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep mowing until your grass stops growing or turns brown. You can gradually lower the mowing height to allow better airflow and water drainage but never go below the recommended height for your grass type.
Keep treating those weeds, but here are some things Kansas State University recommends to keep in mind:
- Apply herbicides when it’s above 50 degrees Fahrenheit since that’s when weeds grow.
- Keep an eye out for winter annuals like chickweed.
Early winter lawn chores
Isn’t it grand to relax inside when the weather’s cold? Things have finally slowed down for your lawn, but you still need to keep an eye on it. The warmer your winters, the more work you’ll need to do (though it’s still a nice break compared to the previous seasons).
If average temperatures drop below 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re off the hook for mowing. The colder the weather, the more sensitive your grass will become, so you don’t want to stress it out and thwart its health for next year.
Note: If you live in a warm, subtropical area, your lawn might keep growing in the winter. Keep mowing based on the previous instructions.
Before you put your lawn mower away, it’s time to winterize it. Emptying the fuel tank, checking the oil, and sharpening the mower blades will make your machine last longer and save you from a springtime mower disaster. Keep it in a dry place where it won’t get wet or freeze.
Though your lawn needs less water than usual, it may still need supplemental irrigation in winter. Watering allows the grass to keep essential activities going, such as root growth. Cut your watering by about half, or water when there’s been no rainfall in three to four weeks.
Winter annual weeds have arrived. Though they’ll die out naturally in summer, treat them now so the seeds don’t spread. Here are the weeds to look out for:
- Purple deadnettle
- Annual bluegrass
Lawn pests tend to be dormant during the winter, but they may still be in your yard. Keep your lawn, trees, shrubs, gutters, and trash cans tidy so pests have fewer places to hide and fewer things to eat.
Late winter lawn chores
Happy New Year! New you, new lawn. Soon the cycle will begin again, but you’re in the final stretch of the year. Luckily for you, there’s very little you need to do to prepare for the upcoming spring season.
Those spring weeds will be there before you know it unless you plan ahead. Apply spring pre-emergent weed control to make life easier.
Buffalograss, Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and bahiagrass are the most drought-tolerant warm-season grasses.
No shade? No problem! Bermudagrass requires full sunlight to thrive.
It depends on your specific circumstances. What’s your soil like? How often do you use your lawn? What part of the country do you live in? Here are the three easiest warm-season grasses to maintain:
• Centipedegrass is tolerant of infertile soil, crowds out weeds, resists pests and diseases, and requires less fertilizer and mowing. However, it doesn’t have a high tolerance for wear, cold, or salt, so it may not be a good choice if you have a lot of foot traffic, live near the coast, or have chilly winters.
• Zoysiagrass holds up well to wear, salt, drought, diseases, and pests. It has a low to moderate mowing frequency. It works well in the transition zone where winters are too cold for other grasses. This grass type is prone to thatch, though, so don’t overfertilize it.
• Bahiagrass can grow in sandy, infertile soils without too much irrigation or fertilizer, but it has a low foot traffic tolerance. Its moderate to high growth rate means you’ll need to mow often during the growing season. Bahiagrass has a low disease potential and moderate insect tolerance.
When to hire a professional
Your lawn needs care year-round to look its best. Fall and winter are less busy, but spring and summer are packed with lawn care chores. If you’re forgetful, busy, or hate working in the summer heat, you could miss crucial treatment windows. A lawn care pro can take that burden off your shoulders. Let Lawn Love connect you with local yard maintenance professionals.
Main photo credit: Stickpen | Public domain | via Wikimedia Commons