A Year-Round Lawn Care Guide for Philadelphia
A Beautiful Lawn Doesn’t Happen by Itself
Every wonder how the neighbor next door keeps such a beautiful lawn all year? It doesn’t happen overnight and having a lawn care professional in your corner can help you win the fight for the best lawn on the block!
Zig Ziglar once said “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Preparing your lawn for success can only go so far because mother-nature can wreak havoc even when taking the proper precautionary measures. We have years when lawns flourish because temperatures and rainfall are optimal. But other years the heat and humidity, lack of rain and other factors can cause the lawn to suffer – even with proper preparations and treatments. In this guide, we will give you the proper plan to follow so your Philadelphia-area lawn has the best chance for success!
Early Spring Lawn Care in Philadelphia – Keep calm, maintain your mower, and take a soil test!
Proper mower maintenance is the first thing to complete prior to the start of a new season. Empty that old gas that you forgot to empty in the late fall. If you don’t want to discard the gas from last year, simply add a gas stabilizer. Get your mower serviced and make sure to change the sparkplug, oil, and filter and sharpen those mower blades to perfection! Remember, dull blades tear the grass and leave uneven cuts which can ultimately allow pathogens to enter the plant and grass blades to be discolored. If possible, have an extra set of mower blades on hand and change them out once a month with newly sharpened blades.
Clean Up Your Yard
Remove debris such as twigs, sticks, trash and old leaves from the lawn. Doing this will allow the lawn to properly take in the fertilizers and other materials that will be applied to the lawn in the spring. Make sure to remove all of the matted leaves on your lawn as well as rake up any matted grass to allow oxygen into the grass plant.
Annual Soil Test
Annual soil tests are a great way to determine what deficiencies your lawn is experiencing. Soil makeup can change very quickly so a yearly test is a great start. The tests are a $10-$20 investment and should be done a minimum of every 3 years. A lawn care company can help you with this task.
A quality spring fertilizer treatment is a good start to a lawn program in the spring. For the southeastern PA area, you want to use a treatment of potassium and phosphorus along with crabgrass pre-emergent. Back in the day, the common wisdom was to apply crabgrass pre-emergent after the forsythia blooms have dropped; but that does not always work here. Crabgrass plants begin to germinate once the soil temperatures reach between 53 and 60 degrees. Remember, just because the air temperature may be higher does not mean the soil temperature is necessarily the same. Professional lawn care companies are aware of these items and can help to complete the applications during the correct timeframe.
Spring Lawn Care in Philly – Crabgrass, weeds & grubs - Oh My!
Many lawn care companies have certain yearly programs which included a second crabgrass pre-emergent, with a different active ingredient, to give your lawn longer control of crabgrass into the summer. But remember, just because crabgrass pre-emergent is put down do not expect to never see crabgrass plants in the summer or fall. High temperatures and rainfall affect the breakdown of the material which in turn can allow for some crabgrass breakthrough. Your lawn care professional can treat any outbreaks that occur.
A weed control spray to the lawn in the spring is helpful, especially in the April timeframe as treating before weeds are present, will not do any good. Many companies will do a blanket spray this time of year as the lawn is not stressed and can handle the treatment with very small chance of any damage to the grass plants. Remember, many winter annual weeds will be out in the early spring but will die back as the soil temperatures rise. Therefore, treating for them is not always necessary. Talk with your lawn care professional with questions about managing specific weeds on your property.
Grub & Pest Control
Grubs are the most well-known culprits to wreak havoc on lawns in the summer and fall. Grubs are the larval stage of several different beetles that damage the root system of your lawn. They will feed in the late spring and continue into the summer and fall and in turn ruin your plants root system and ultimately kill parts or all of your lawn. But there is a solution to help prevent this pesky larvae from ruining your lawn.
Preventative grub control materials can be applied from June through July to help prevent grubs from attacking your lawn. Consider grub control as an insurance policy for your lawn. For the cost of a preventative grub control treatment, you are paying at least 1/4 of the cost of what it might cost to reseed your lawn, if it was damaged by grubs. Lastly, many lawns in our area benefit from a surface insect treatment which help to prevent chinch bugs, sod webworms, bill bugs and other surface feeding insects. Unlike grubs, these insects feed above ground level and can create quite a mess.
Summer Lawn Care – In the heat of it!
As many of us who live in or around Southeastern Pennsylvania know, our summers can be quite tragic on lawns. Remember to keep your mower as high as possible when mowing (3.5 inches or higher) to protect your grass plants from the high temperatures on the crown of the plants. Secondly, make sure to mow regularly while cutting no more than 1/3 of the grass plant at one time. Cutting more than 1/3 can stress out your turf plants. Thirdly, if you water your lawn, make sure to do so in the morning as evening watering can allow for disease outbreaks on your lawn (fungus). If you believe there is a disease outbreak, contact your lawn care professional immediately in case a fungicide application is needed.
Deep and infrequent watering in the summer is best for your grass plants. Remember, it is ok for your lawn to go dormant but try and keep at least 1 inch of water on your lawn per month to keep it from dying. Lastly, spot treating your lawn for summer weeds and a slow release granular fertilizer application might be warranted.
Fall Lawn Care – Keep your lawn clean and fertilize!
In the green industry, we know that fall is often the best time to fertilize your lawn. It will be reserving energy to store for the winter. Many companies will complete a fall weed control and fertilizer at the same time in the early fall. Doing so will help knock out certain weeds in the lawn and start feeding the lawn to prepare for the winter. Remember to keep the leaves picked up and mulched so as to not allow grass to become stressed. Grass plants need as much light as possible for root growth and photosynthesis. If you are able to mow and mulch up the leaves, leaving them lay can be beneficial to the lawn, but make sure it is not a heavy cover of leaves as this can be damaging.
Another important part of your lawns health is core aeration. Core aeration is a major contributor to turf health. The technique pulls plugs out of the ground allowing oxygen and water to get down into the soil and roots and, most importantly, helping to remove soil compaction. Another helpful practice is over seeding after aeration. It is important to continually apply new grass seed to help thicken up the lawn and fill in areas where older grass plants may be dying. Although over-seeding after aeration will not fill in all bare areas (germination is about 30% with property watering), it will help move your lawn in the right direction. More intense bare areas may need slice seeding and/or topdressing to get better results. And remember, fall is the best time for seeding!
Winter Lawn Care – Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!
When winter comes, there are still a few things that should be done to give your lawn a chance for success into the following spring. Remember that even though a lawn goes dormant in the winter, it needs to eat therefore a winter fertilizer with potash is of key importance especially on cool-season grasses which we have in our region. This material helps with root stability, cold-weather hardiness and disease resistance, all things your lawn will need throughout the long winter months.
Lastly, remember to cut your lawn short when you are on your last mowing of the season. Doing so will help to minimize your lawn from lawn fungus/disease when transitioning from winter to spring. Although you may not be able to eliminate the chance of snow mold or other fungus, mowing shorter in the winter can only help your lawn get off to a good start in the spring.
Good Luck Caring for Your Philadelphia PA Lawn
While all of these practices are important in order to help you towards a successful lawn, we are dealing with a living thing so results may vary from lawn to lawn and from year to year. But with the appropriate practices, a little help from Mother Nature, and the support of your lawn care professional, you can achieve a beautiful lawn all year long!
About the Author
Greg Tomlinson is the Marketing Coordinator of Tomlinson Bomberger, an award-winning landscaping and lawn care company in Lancaster, PA. Greg is an ISA Certified Arborist, Landscape Industry Certified Landscape Technician, Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Technician, NPMA QualityPro Certified, and a Certified Commercial Pesticide Applicator. Greg and his wife Juliana reside in beautiful Lancaster Country.