Great Lawns in Five Easy Steps

Your lawn doesn't have to border a lake or stream to affect water quality. Intense rain or excessive watering create runoff which can carry fertilizer, pesticides, soil, leaves and grass clippings into streets and stormdrains and into our local lakes, rivers, and streams. Follow the 5 easy steps below to nurture a beautiful, safe, and environmentally friendly lawn.

STEP 1: WINTER

  1. Adjust your mower blades to cut at a height of 3" all summer-your lawn will be less susceptible to drought, weeds, and insects.

  2. Have your mower blades sharpened each year.

STEP 2: MAY 1 through MEMORIAL DAY

  1. Complete a Soil Nutrient Analysis Test every 3-5 years (before you fertilize). A soil tests are conducted by Cornell University. Soil test bags can be obtained from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County for a $10 fee plus shipping.

  2. You can apply a slow release, low phosphorus fertilizer (follow the label).

    lawn mower
  3. Leave your grass clippings on your lawn; they are a valuable source of nitrogen. Follow the 1/3 rule: cut no more than 1/3 of the grass foliage each time you mow. For example: if you set your mower to cut at 3", you should mow again before the grass grows to a height of 4.5". Reduce your fertilizer use by a third: Leave grass clipping on the lawn all season.

STEP 3: SUMMER MONTHS

  1. No fertilization is necessary at this time. During the summer, your lawn may become dormant (a straw color) in dry, hot weather. If you want your lawn to remain green, apply water several times a week (equal to 1").

STEP 4: LABOR DAY

  1. If you choose to fertilize just once a year, now it the best time. Apply a slow release, low phosphorus fertilizer (follow the label).

  2. Conduct a grub test mid-August to mid-September. Peel back a one square foot of turf and search for grubs; if you find fewer than 10 grubs in that square, you to NOT have a grub problem that requires treatment. If you do have a problem, treat affected areas now when grubs are actively feeding (follow the label).

  3. If you have a serious perennial weed problem, now is the best time to treat your lawn (follow the label).

STEP 5: NOVEMBER 1 TO NOVEMBER 30

  1. After top growth has stopped and before the ground freezes, you can apply a quick release, low phosphorus fertilizer (follow the label).

  2. Mow your grass at a height of only 2" - this will help reduce spring snow mold.

  3. Keep fallen leaves off of paved surfaces.

From: Great Lawns/Great Lakes Program. 2000. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County.

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Updated: August 9, 2002