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 discover the best treatments you can do for your lawn (and what a healthy lawn can do for you). 

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What are the best grass treatments for your yard?

Proper lawn care goes beyond cutting your grass and watering occasionally. It involves practices you may not even know are needed. To help you on your journey, we’ve rounded up the best treatments you can apply to your lawn so you can watch it thrive.

Remove leaves

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

Do leaves and twigs have you dreading weekend 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 leaves can also kill your grass by blocking out sunlight. 

Mow regularly

Mowing lawn
Magic K | Pexels

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

  • Don’t mow too low; otherwise, you’ll scalp your lawn. Scalping stresses your lawn and makes it difficult for your grass to photosynthesize. 
  • Follow the rule of thirds: Never cut 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. Mowing taller encourages a deep root system and helps shade out weeds.
  • Keep your lawn mower blades sharp. Dull mower blades will rip your grass rather than cut it cleanly. 
  • Match the cutting height to your grass type, even if it looks different from your neighbor’s. To promote optimal lawn health, always cut your grass according to the recommended height for your grass cultivar. 
Grass TypeRecommended Mowing Height
Bahiagrass2-3 inches
Bermudagrass0.5-1.5 inches
Buffalograss1.5-3 inches
Centipedegrass1-2 inches
Fine Fescue1.5-2.5 inches
Kentucky Bluegrass1.5-2.5 inches
Perennial Ryegrass1.5-2.5 inches
St. Augustinegrass2.5-4 inches
Tall Fescue2-3.5 inches
Zoysiagrass0.5-2 inches

Leave grass clippings on your lawn

Bagging grass clippings indeed improves your lawn’s aesthetic, but leaving them on your lawn enhances your turf’s health. 

Grass clippings act as an organic mulch. They minimize evaporation, smother weeds, break down quickly, and return nutrients to the soil. Bagging grass clippings remove nutrients and take up space in the landfill, which is bad news for the environment.

Water the right way

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

Are you weakening your turf with improper watering techniques? 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 before 10 a.m. to prevent the sun from evaporating all your hard work. Don’t be tempted to water your lawn at night. Watering 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 longer periods. This method encourages the grassroots to search for moisture, resulting in a robust and deep root system. In contrast, watering too often for short periods promotes a shallow and weak root system.

You may also want to consider upgrading your watering regime to a sprinkler system to reduce water waste, save time, water uniformly, and cater to your lawn’s specific moisture needs. As a bonus, some sprinklers will automatically start watering at a set time, so you won’t have to lift a finger. 

Pro tip: Most grass cultivars need 1 inch of water per week. Aim for three 20-minute watering sessions weekly based on the weather.  

Grow the right grass type for your area

Whether you’re growing a lawn from scratch or correcting a bare spot, planting the right type of grass is the key to success.

If you live up North, where summers are mild and winters are long, you’ll achieve the lawn of your dreams with a cool-season grass that thrives in temperatures between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Down South, where summers are scorching and winters are merciful, you’ll get a greener lawn if you grow a warm-season cultivar that prefers temperatures between 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • Cool-season grasses: Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue, bentgrass, perennial ryegrass
  • Warm-season grasses: Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, bahiagrass, buffalograss
  • Transition Zone: Fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, buffalograss, Zoysia, bermudagrass

Pro tip: The Transition Zone covers most of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. and lies between the cool- and warm-season grass regions. To address the ever-changing climate, most homeowners opt for grass seed blends, combining both cool-season and warm-season varieties. 

Test your soil

soil test showing a color chart for soil pH
CSIRO | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

You might be doing everything for your turf, from cutting tall to installing a sprinkler system. But if you’re neglecting your soil, your efforts will be in vain and your grass will pay the price for your soil’s lack of nutrients.

The best way to check your soil’s nutrient levels is to conduct a soil test. An at-home soil test will reveal your soil’s pH and levels of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), the three macronutrients your grass needs to thrive. 

You can perform a soil test with an at-home testing kit, or you can send a soil sample to your local Agricultural Cooperative Extension. A lab soil test is typically more accurate than a testing kit. 

Pro tip: Nitrogen supports leafy growth and vibrant green color. Phosphorus aids in root development and flowering. Potassium contributes to disease resistance and overall stress tolerance. 

Fertilize your grass

Lawn fertilization
groveb | Canva Pro | License

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

Try to feed your lawn one or two times per year, depending on your soil test results. Always refer to your soil test results to determine your lawn’s nutrient needs. Apply a slow-release fertilizer in the early spring to summer. Avoid fertilizing during extreme heat or drought, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label. 

Remember, too little fertilizer will lead to poor root development, while excess fertilizer can kill your lawn by overloading it with nutrients.

Fertilize your turfgrass during its active growing season. Both warm- and cool-season grasses benefit from a fertilizer application in early spring. Warm-season grasses also benefit from a second application in the early summer, while cool-season grasses benefit from one in the early fall. 

Pro tip: Water your lawn lightly after fertilizing to help the nutrients penetrate the soil and reach the root zone. 

Give aeration a go

illustration showing how aeration works and the benefits of aerating soil
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Harsh weather, foot traffic, and outdoor activities put pressure on your lawn, reducing pore space between the soil particles resulting in compaction. The soil becomes dense, and your lawn’s root system struggles to receive water and air. To fix this problem, consider giving lawn aeration a try. 

There are three primary types of aeration:

  1. Core aeration: The most popular of the three types, this method involves removing small plugs of soil from the ground. The plugs are then spread across your lawn’s surface where they break down and redistribute. The cores or plugs promote root growth, allowing nutrients, water, and air to penetrate the soil.
  1. Spike aeration: This method uses a spike to create holes in your lawn, but unlike core aeration, no soil is removed. Instead, the dirt is pushed further into the ground. Spike aeration is recommended when you want to create better access to the root system before fertilization or overseeding. This method works best on loams or sandy soils. 
  1. Liquid aeration: Just as it sounds, liquid aeration involves using a special liquid solution. When mixed with water, this product stimulates soil microbes and breaks down dense and compacted soil.

Pro tip: Fall is the best time to aerate cool-season turf, while springtime is ideal for aerating warm-season cultivars. 

Remove thatch

illustration explaining thatch on grass
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Just like your scalp needs a cleanse, your lawn needs a thatch cleanse. Thatch is the layer of dead and living organic matter that accumulates between the soil’s surface and your grass blades. 

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

Dethatch your lawn using a power rake, verticutter, or dethatcher during your lawn’s active growing season to improve its recovery rate. The optimal time to dethatch a cool-season yard is in the fall, while late spring through early summer works best for warm-season varieties. 

Overseed as needed

illustration showing the best time for overseeding on the US map,
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

The secret to maintaining a dense, carpeted lawn is to prevent thinning before it occurs instead of trying to remedy it afterward.

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

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

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

Control 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 turfgrass. 

There are two ways to control weeds in your lawn: chemical treatments and hand pulling. Pulling weeds by hand is the safest removal method, and experts agree that hand weeding is just as important as chemical removal methods. 

Aim to weed your yard and garden weekly or bi-weekly, and always remove weeds while they’re young and haven’t bloomed or developed complex root systems. Be sure to remove the entire weed, including roots, rhizomes, tubers, or bulbs, and use a screwdriver or dandelion fork to help remove broadleaf weeds with a taproot, like dandelions or spotted spurge. 

If hand pulling isn’t cutting it, consider one of the following chemical lawn care products: 

  • Pre-emergent herbicide: Kills seeds before germination, preventing weeds from popping up in your yard
  • Post-emergent herbicide: Targets weeds you can see, disrupting growth and killing them
  • Iron-based herbicide: Specifically targets broadleaf weeds

Practice regular pest control

Japanese beetle lifecycle illustration
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

You may have watering, aeration, and fertilization down pat, but if there’s one thing you may find harder to control, it’s pests. If your grass looks sparse and has brown patches, it might be pests feeding on your turf’s roots.

The insects that attack lawns are varied and leave damage that may easily be miscategorized. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up some of the most common lawn pests homeowners have to deal with.

  • Billbugs are particularly troublesome, as both the larvae and adults can damage grass. Adult billbugs chew holes in the grass blades and deposit eggs inside. When they hatch, the larvae start damaging the root system and kill the grass from the inside out. 
  • Sod webworms are lawn-damaging caterpillars. They are small and white or tan with snout-like projections on their heads. Find them clinging to grass blades. You’ll know you have an infestation when you start seeing moths, especially flying away as you mow. Your grass will also appear brown and short in certain areas.
  • Chinch bugs are difficult to spot due to their size. They’re red when they’re young but turn black as they mature. They also have a white spot on their back in the shape of an ‘X.’ They love St. Augustinegrass and usually live in the thatch layer.
  • Grubs literally grub your grass and attack it at the root level, killing it. When the root system is compromised, grass can’t absorb nutrients and water, leading to severe damage. Grubs are visible and have a white or brown body that curls into a C shape if bothered. If you notice beetles flying around, it’s a good sign that you have a grub infestation. 
  • Cutworms damage a wide range of plants. They’re smooth, with some hairs, and about two inches long when fully grown. Different species have different colors, from brown or tan to pink, green, gray, or black. Some larvae are shiny, while others are dull. They curl their bodies around turfgrass blades or plant stems and feed on them. They’re most active in the evening or at night and hide in debris during the day.

Lay down compost

okugawa | Canva Pro | License

Have you been replenishing your garden beds with compost? Your lawn will benefit from the nutrient boost, too. Composting is a biological process through which organic matter breaks down and enters the soil, providing various necessary nutrients for healthy plant and grass growth. 

You can compost anything from vegetables, food scraps, and coffee grounds to paper, cardboard, and grass clippings. It’s best to avoid composting meat, bones, fish leftovers, dairy products, and pet waste.

Pro tip: 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. 

What benefits does a healthy lawn provide?

A healthy lawn is beneficial to your health and the environment. Not convinced? Keep reading to find out how your lawn can improve your quality of life.

  • Boosts air quality: Plants play a significant role in air quality. The healthier your lawn, the better you and your family can breathe in your backyard
  • Controls erosion: A healthy lawn’s strong root system helps minimize erosion on minor slopes.
  • Buffers heat: Grass is your backyard’s built-in air conditioner. A healthy green lawn has a low surface temperature thanks to evapotranspiration.
  • Absorbs noise: A thick, dense lawn can be a handy sound absorber. Show your yard some love and care; in return, it will help buffer noise from the street (though that garage band might still keep you awake). 
  • 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. 

FAQ about the best lawn treatments

How often should I aerate my lawn?

The frequency of lawn aeration depends on your soil type. Dense, clay soil benefits from annual aeration in the fall. On the other hand, sandy soil and loam soil are less compact. These soils benefit from aeration every one to three years

Pro tip: For lawns with heavy foot traffic, aerate every six to 12 months

Which grass types are the most durable?

Bermuda and Zoysia are the most durable warm-season cultivars, while tall fescue is the most durable option for cooler regions. 

What if I want soft grass for my lawn?

In that case, fine fescue, as the name suggests, is your best bet for achieving a velvety green carpet. Thanks to its fine, soft blades, fine fescue can create a lush lawn you’ll want to glide your toes through again and again.

Hire a pro for the ultimate treatment

Your lawn deserves a five-star treatment just as much as you do. But lawn care is no picnic; achieving and maintaining a pristine lawn takes time, effort, and patience.

One option is to DIY your way to a green lawn. Another is to hand the landscaping, weed control, and soil amendments over to a local lawn care company so you can unwind and do what matters most. From mowing the lawn to removing crabgrass, a lawn care pro has got you covered. 

Main Photo Credit: Francesca Runza | Unsplash

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is an artist, writer, and nature lover. She enjoys teaching readers about the importance of eco-friendly lawn care, integrated pest management, biodiversity, and sustainable landscaping.