The Best Treatments You Can Do for Your Lawn

small child laughing and laying in green grass

Just like you enjoy a little pampering, so does your lawn. Relieving compacted soil with an aerator feels as good to your yard as a massage feels to your stiff muscles. Show your grass some TLC and find out the best treatments you can do for your lawn (and what a healthy lawn can do for you). 

Why is it important to have a healthy lawn?

Improves air quality 

Ever notice how the air feels easier to breathe when you’re out in nature? That’s because plants play a significant role in air quality. The healthier your lawn, the better you and your family can breathe in your backyard. 

So how does your lawn improve the air? A healthy lawn traps dust and other airborne particles, produces oxygen, and reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Controls erosion

A healthy lawn’s strong root system helps minimize erosion on minor slopes. 

Pro Tip: Due to wind and rain, it’s difficult for grass seed to stay in place on steeper slopes. Consider applying hydroseed instead, which clings to the soil better than regular grass seed. Hydroseed is a slurry mixture of seeds, mulch, binding agents, fertilizer, water, and soil amendments. 

Buffers heat

Grass is your backyard’s built-in air conditioner. On a hot summer’s day, walking on asphalt or artificial grass will melt your shoes off. In contrast, a healthy green lawn has a low surface temperature thanks to evapotranspiration. 

What is evapotranspiration? 

Evapotranspiration is the combined loss of water from evaporation through the soil and transpiration from plants. Transpiration is the release of water vapor through a plant’s stomata. 

Absorbs noise

A thick, dense lawn can be a handy sound absorber. Show your yard some love and care, and in return, it will help buffer noise from the street (though that garage band might still keep you awake). 

Creates space for an outdoor living area

The greener and more beautiful your yard, the more time you and the family will want to spend outdoors. Why not compliment your stunning lawn with an outdoor living area? Create memories around an outdoor fire pit, underneath a pergola, or around a dining area. 

Provides a cushioned surface

Who wants to fall on brittle grass and cracked soil? A soft, cushioned lawn increases the safety of those backyard sports games. 

Boosts curb appeal

Want to sell your home or invite the new neighbors over? Then you’ll want to make an excellent first impression. A burnt, dying lawn will drive buyers away, and neighbors might get the wrong impression about how you maintain your home. 

Outcompetes weeds

The healthier your lawn, the better it can overtake weeds like crabgrass and dandelions. Weeds compete with the grass for nutrients, space, and moisture, but they’ll have a difficult chance for success against healthy turf. 

Wards off pests and disease

When you don’t maintain your lawn, it becomes a hospitable environment for pests and diseases. Pest control and herbicides can help handle the problem, but diseases and pests are often signs of an underlying maintenance issue. 

15 treatments you can do for your lawn

If you want your lawn to be happy and healthy and do everything we mentioned above, then here are some things you should do.

1. Remove leaves 

Close up of a green rake with leaves trapped in the rake
congerdesign | Pixabay

Do leaves and twigs have you dreading this weekend’s yard work? Removing debris from your lawn might be hard work, but it’s an essential task if you want to maintain your lawn’s vigor. 

Leaves are a perfect winter home for pests and diseases. If you don’t collect your leaves, you’ll likely have turf troubles come springtime. A thick layer of layers can also kill your grass by blocking out sunlight. 

2. Mow regularly

Not only does mowing the lawn keep your turf tidy, but it also makes it less inviting to pests and diseases. Give your lawn the grand treatment with these tips: 

  • Don’t mow too low; otherwise, you’ll scalp your lawn. Scalping stresses your lawn and makes it difficult for the grass to photosynthesize. 
  • Follow the rule of thirds: Never cut off more than one-third of the blade’s length. For example, if the grass is 3-inches tall, don’t cut more than 1 inch. 
  • Keep your lawn mower blades sharp: Dull mower blades will rip your grass rather than cleanly cut it. 
  • Match the cutting height to your grass type: To achieve optimal lawn health, you’ll want to cut your grass according to its recommended mowing height. If your neighbor has a different grass type than you, their lawn’s mowing height might look different from your lawn’s. 
  • Keep the mowing height high. Mowing at the higher end of your grass’s recommended cutting height promotes a deeper root system. It also helps shade out weeds. 

3. Leave behind grass clippings

You might have thought bagging grass clippings improves your lawn’s aesthetic, but leaving your grass clippings on the lawn enhances your turf’s health. 

Grass clippings act as an organic mulch for your lawn. They minimize evaporation, smother weeds, break down quickly, and return nutrients to the soil. 

Bagging grass clippings also isn’t good for the environment because it removes nutrients from the ecosystem and takes up space in the landfill. 

4. Water the right way

automatic lawn sprinkler on and surrounded by leaves in the yard
Victor Furtuna | Unsplash

Are you weakening your turf with an improper watering schedule? The key to a healthy lawn is watering at the right time of day for the right amount of time. 

The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning before 10 am. Why? Because you don’t want the rising sun to evaporate all your hard work. 

Don’t be tempted to water the lawn at night when you know the sun will be away for hours. Watering the yard at night creates a moist environment that’s attractive to pests and diseases. 

The second rule of thumb is to water less often but for long periods. This watering method develops a robust root system because you’re encouraging the roots to search the soil for moisture before the next watering. On the other hand, watering too often for short periods promotes a shallow and weak root system. 

5. Invest in a sprinkler system

Consider upgrading your watering regime to a sprinkler system. A sprinkler system reduces water waste, saves you time, waters uniformly, and caters to your lawn’s specific moisture needs. 

Bonus Points: Some sprinklers will automatically start watering at a set time while you needn’t lift a finger. 

6. Grow the right grass type

Whether you’re growing a lawn from scratch or you’re correcting a bare patch, the best thing you can do for your turf is plant the right type of grass. 

If you live up North, where summers are mild and winters are long, then you’ll achieve your lawn dreams with cool-season grass. If you live down South, where summers are scorching and winters are merciful, you’ll get a greener lawn if you grow warm-season grass

But what if I live between the North and South? This area is the Transition Zone, and it has boiling summers and frigid winters. If you live in the Transition Zone, you can grow either grass type. 

Warm-season grasses:

  • Zoysiagrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • St. Augustinegrass
  • Centipedegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • Bahiagrass

Cool-season grasses:

  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Tall fescue
  • Fine fescue

7. Test your soil

You might be doing everything for your turf, from cutting tall to installing a sprinkler system. But if your soil isn’t getting deluxe treatment either, then it’s going to show in your lawn. 

Your grass will pay the price when your soil is low in nutrients. The best way to check your soil’s nutrient levels is to conduct a soil test. You can perform a soil test with an at-home testing kit, or you can send a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension. 

An at-home soil test will reveal whether your soil has “deficient,” “adequate,” or “surplus” levels of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). It also can reveal your soil’s pH level. Many soil tests will help you determine what amendments to add to the soil to improve its health. 

For more detailed results, send a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension. You can learn more about the various nutrients levels beyond N, P, and K and receive numerical values instead of word-based values. A lab soil test is typically more accurate than a testing kit, and it provides you with an exact N-P-K ratio that’s best for your lawn. 

8. Fertilize your grass

Once you’ve performed a soil test, green up the lawn with the test’s recommended fertilizer regime. 

Your neighbor might fertilize their lawn four times a year, but if your lawn is healthy and well-established, it will be happy with a fertilizer application once or twice a year. No need to overdo it if your lawn is already in tip-top shape. 

What time of year should I fertilize my grass? 

It depends on whether you’re growing cool- or warm-season grass. You want to apply fertilizer during the turf’s most active growing season. That means fertilizing your warm-season turf in summer and your cool-season turf in early fall

9. Aerate

illustration showing how aeration works and the benefits of aerating soil

Harsh weather, foot traffic, and outdoor activities put pressure on the lawn, which reduces pore space between the soil particles. The compacted soil becomes so dense that the lawn’s root system struggles to receive water and air. 

Lawn aeration alleviates soil compaction by removing small cylindrical plugs of soil from the ground. The small holes are about 2 to 3 inches deep and allow water, nutrients, and oxygen to reach the roots. Don’t worry –– you won’t be pulling those soil plugs up by hand. You’ll have an aerator tool to help you. 

Aeration is an invasive treatment. Your grass will heal itself best during its active growing season. Fall is the best time to aerate cool-season turf, and summer is the best season to aerate warm-season turf. 

10. Remove thatch 

Just like your scalp needs a dandruff-cleanse, your lawn needs a thatch-cleanse. 

What is thatch? 

illustration explaining thatch on grass

Thatch is the layer of dead and living organic matter that accumulates between the soil’s surface and the grass blades. 

Thatch becomes a headache in the yard when its accumulation exceeds its decomposition rate. You’ll want to remove thatch once the layer becomes ½ inch thick or more. Too much thatch can: 

  • Encourage poor drainage
  • Become a breeding ground for pests and disease
  • Prevent herbicides, fertilizers, and insecticides from working effectively
  • Block nutrients, water, and oxygen from reaching the root system

A bit of thatch can be a good thing

A thin layer of thatch under ½ inch thick can be helpful to your yard by acting as a mulch layer for your grass. 

When to dethatch the lawn 

Like aeration, your lawn will recover better when you remove thatch during the grass’s active growing season. The optimal time to dethatch a cool-season yard is fall. Late spring through early summer is the best time to dethatch a warm-season lawn. 

How to dethatch

You can dethatch the lawn using a power rake, verticutter, or dethatcher. 

11. Overseed

The secret to maintaining a dense, carpeted lawn is to prevent thinning before it occurs instead of trying to remedy thinning after it occurs. That’s why your lawn loves it when you plant new grass seed. 

Overseeding is the spreading of new grass seed over an already existing lawn. You might have thought you only needed to plant grass seed once, but turf begins to fade away over time. Replace the dwindling grass with new growth by sprinkling new grass seed. 

When to overseed

illustration showing the best time for overseeding on the US map,

Early fall is the best time to overseed your cool-season grass, at least 45 days before the first frost. Overseed your warm-season lawns spring through early summer. 

Pro Tip: The more soil you expose your grass seed to, the more likely it will successfully take root. You can increase soil exposure by aerating or removing thatch before overseeding.

12. Remove existing weeds

A weed here or there won’t be the end of your lawn. But if you leave the weeds alone for too long, they might overtake your yard and crowd out your grass. 

Keep those weeds in check by applying a post-emergent herbicide. It’s best to perform spot treatments instead of spraying the whole lawn. By targeting the individual weeds or containing the herbicide in a weedy area, you protect the surrounding plants from harmful herbicide chemicals. 

13. Apply pre-emergent herbicide

Unlike post-emergent herbicide, which kills existing weeds, pre-emergent herbicide prevents weeds from growing in the first place. A pre-emergent herbicide will have little effect on a weed that already calls your lawn home. 

To avoid winter and fall weeds, apply a pre-emergent herbicide between August and November. Apply pre-emergent herbicide around mid-March to combat early spring and summer weeds. 

14. Control grubs

Japanese beetle lifecycle illustration

Is your grass thinning and turning brown? It might be white grubs feeding on your turf’s roots. 

But before you treat your lawn for grubs, you’ll need to confirm grubs are the actual problem. Why? Because signs of white grubs can resemble many other lawn problems, such as disease, drought stress, and compaction. 

What are grubs?

White grubs are the white, soft-bodied larvae of several scarab beetle species, including the Japanese beetle, European chafer, May beetle, and June beetle. Grubs have a brown head and six tiny legs. When you lift the turf and locate the grubs, you’ll likely find them lying on their sides in a C-shaped position. 

How to check your lawn for grubs 

  1. With the help of your shovel, cut 1 square foot section of your lawn where you suspect grub activity. 
  2. Lift the cut section of grass and soil. 
  3. Count how many grubs you see. If you count more than 10 grubs per square foot, you have a severe infestation. 

How to control grubs with chemicals

Your two chemical control options are curative treatments and preventative treatments. 

Apply curative insecticide in late summer when the eggs have already hatched and a grub infestation is present.

Preventative grub insecticides are effective against young, newly hatched grubs. According to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky, the best time to apply preventive grub treatment is mid-June to mid-July

If you need to make an early application in May, it will usually have enough soil residual to control young grubs hatching from eggs in July or early August. 

How to control grubs naturally

Nematodes are microscopic worms that can be effective natural grub control when used correctly. Some species of nematodes only control certain white grub species, which means you’ll need to identify the grub species to determine the best nematodes to use. 

According to the University of New Hampshire Extension, you may need to apply curative nematodes every two weeks until the infestation subsides. If you’re using nematodes to prevent infestations, then apply them two to three times a season. 

15. Lay down compost

Have you been replenishing your garden beds with compost? Your lawn will benefit from the nutrient boost, too! 

Spread a 1/2-inch layer of compost across the lawn with your rake, or spray a compost tea. The compost’s nutrients will enrich the lawn’s soil and act as a fertilizer. 

Hire a pro for the ultimate treatment

Your lawn deserves a five-star treatment, and you deserve self-care, too. Performing these lawn care tips can be as time-consuming as watching grass grow. Hand the yard work over to a local lawn professional so you can unwind and do what matters most. From mowing the lawn to removing thatch, a lawn care pro has got you covered. 

Main Photo Credit: Francesca Runza | Unsplash

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.