As a Northern New Jersey homeowner, you want a lush, green lawn that adds curb appeal to your home. If you take care of your own lawn and landscape needs, you also know how much time and effort is necessary to keep it looking great all year. Like most busy homeowners, your time is probably devoted to work and family, so it may be time to consider professional lawn care.
Regular lawn care and maintenance is essential for a healthy, green lawn, but requirements change with the seasons and climate conditions. To make sure your lawn looks great year-round, it’s important to pay attention to seasonal lawn care needs.
Winter: (December – February)
As each new year begins in January, Northern NJ weather is quite cold with freezing temperatures and snow and ice. During the winter season, plant growth goes dormant. Your lawn, as well as your shrubs and trees stop growing. Although your grass may look less than green and your shrubs and trees may be bare, your landscape still needs care and attention. They need proper care and regular maintenance to survive the winter and produce new, green growth in the spring. Although the winter months require less seasonal lawn care than other seasons, it’s still important to take care of your lawn.
Winter Yard Cleanup
During harsh Bergen County winters, your landscape can collect trash and debris during rainstorms and heavy winds. You’re likely to find fallen tree branches, sticks and twigs, and debris that’s blown onto your lawn. When debris is left on your lawn, it can cause dead grass and bare spots, especially when it snows and your grass needs more oxygen. You probably won’t see the dead spots in your lawn until spring arrives again. Start by removing any debris on your lawn, then get rid of excess leaves that can smother your grass. Remove wet leaves quickly, as they invite insects and lawn diseases. Sweep, clean and edge hardscaped surfaces like sidewalks, driveways and walkways.
Although your lawn, plants, shrubs and trees grow much slower during the winter, regular weekly maintenance is essential to avoid overgrowth and keep your property well-maintained. Tall grass and overgrown trees and shrubs leave your lawn susceptible to a variety of harmful insects and outdoor pests that can damage your lawn and landscape. Overgrowth makes a nice, warm home during the winter for field mice, rats, gophers, moles, possums, raccoons, rats and snakes. These types of outdoor pests can quickly destroy your lawn and create possible dangers for small children and pets. Plan pest control treatments during the winter to keep insects and outdoor pests away from your home and property.
Minimize Foot Traffic
Although grass is naturally resilient, freezing temperatures put extra stress on plant roots. Cool-season grasses, common in Northern NJ lawns, typically turn brown, then go dormant during the winter. However, excessive foot traffic on your lawn during the winter will weaken the grass and make it difficult for your lawn to bounce back when spring rolls around.
Proper seasonal lawn care for winter will help your lawn survive freezing ground temperatures. Your grass and plants store important nutrients in their root systems during winter when food is scarce. This gives them nourishment for strong roots during cold weather and jump-starts new growth for spring. Just because it’s cold outside, don’t ignore lawn care and maintenance.
Spring: (March – May)
The spring season brings warm weather, sunshine, and spring showers. Spring is a major growth season for your lawn and everything in your landscape. Your grass grows at a faster pace, flowers in your garden produce colorful new blooms, and plants, shrubs and trees in your landscape sprout abundant new growth. After a cold winter season, your lawn needs important nutrients to produce new, green growth. Spring is a busy time for important seasonal lawn care.
Spring Yard Cleanup
When the last signs of winter frost are gone, it’s important to focus on cleaning up your yard to get rid of any left over winter debris. Get rid of dead, dry and wet leaves and remove any fallen tree limbs, branches, twigs and trash that’s blown onto your lawn and landscape. When your lawn is neat and tidy, give it a good mowing to create a well-manicured lawn, then continue with regular weekly lawn care and maintenance.
March is a prime time for important seasonal lawn care. After a cold winter, grass and plants need essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and iron found in fertilizer for strong roots and healthy new growth. It’s best to choose a light, slow-release or organic type fertilizer that won’t burn your grass. A lawn care professional can choose the best type of fertilizer for your grass type and create a fertilization schedule for proper lawn care.
Spring brings abundant new growth, but it also brings awful weeds that love to invade your lawn when warm weather hits. Aggressive weeds like dandelions, crabgrass, thatch and foxtails typically show up in your lawn early in the spring. Crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature is just 58 degrees, and it can take spread over your entire lawn quickly if you don’t get rid of it. In March, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn to prevent weed growth before it takes hold. In May, apply a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide to prevent summer weed growth.
Warm weather brings a variety of insects and outdoor pests to your lawn and landscape. They love to prey on fresh, new growth in the spring. In March, talk to a Bergen County landscape professional about proper pest control and an Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) that focuses on organic seasonal lawn care.
In April or early May, when the ground has warmed up, do a soil test to determine soil pH balance. The type of soil you have, acid or alkaline, has a big impact on your grass and plant growth and maintenance requirements. Sandy soils drain quickly and don’t hold moisture or nutrients well. Clay soils hold a lot of nutrients, but don’t let air or water penetrate well. If you want to do the test yourself, you can purchase a soil test kit at a local garden or home improvement store. For more accurate test results, have your lawn care professional do the test for you.
Summer: (June – August)
The summer season means hot sun, dry heat and less rainfall, so summer seasonal lawn care is very important for a healthy lawn. Flanked by the Atlantic Ocean, Bergen County has warm, humid summers with average temperatures between 75 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. During summer months, new growth is still abundant, but sun, heat and lack of rainfall can deprive your lawn and plants of essential moisture and nutrients they need to thrive.
Regular Lawn Mowing
Your grass will grow faster during summer months, so weekly mowing is advised for a well-maintained lawn. During the summer, leaving your grass slightly longer will protect the soil from drying out and protect grass roots from hot sun. It’s a good idea to increase the mowing height on your lawn mower during the summer season and follow an important mowing rule – only cut off the top one-third of grass blades with each mowing. Don’t cut your grass too short in the summer, and leave grass clippings on the lawn for extra nutrients.
Regular watering in hot weather is essential to keep soil and grass roots from drying out. It’s best to water infrequently, to a depth of about six inches, rather than watering every day. Shallow, quick watering isn’t adequate for summer sun and heat. Deep watering promotes stronger, deeper root systems that can reach farther underground for necessary water and nutrients when temperatures climb. Avoid over-watering! It contributes to fungal growth and lawn diseases. During summer months, water early in the morning, between 6 am and 10 am, or late in the afternoon between 4 pm and 7 pm for best seasonal lawn care. As a general rule, your lawn needs about one inch of water every week from sprinklers or rainfall.
In June, keep a lookout for sod webworms, the larvae of lawn moths. They live in the root level of your lawn and munch on grass blades. They can kill an entire lawn in a matter of days. Look for brown patches in the grass or little moths flying above your grass at dusk.
In July, watch out for grub worms, the larvae of June and Japanese Beetles, that like to feed on healthy grass roots. Grub worms give your grass a scorched appearance and creates loose sod that lifts up. If you suspect grub worms, pull back the sod and look for white, C-shaped worms. If you see more than 10 grubs per square foot, your lawn should be treated with a pesticide right away. Grub worms, as well as caterpillars, aphids, chinch bugs, red ants and carpenter ants, fleas and ticks are all common in Northern NJ lawns. During the summer season, they can flourish in your lawn and cause extensive damage.
Fall: (September – November)
During the fall season, it’s important to prepare your lawn for winter seasonal lawn care. As cooler temperatures begin to arrive, grass and plant growth will begin to to decline more and more until they go dormant in the winter. However, they are still growing, just at a slower rate, so they still need regular care and maintenance. Continue with weekly lawn mowing and regular watering two or three times each week.
Fall Yard Cleanup
To prepare for winter, clean up your lawn before cold weather sets in. As cooler fall temperatures arrive, dead or weak tree limbs and branches may fall off. Autumn leaves begin to fall and cover your lawn. It’s important to rake up dead leaves, get rid of debris and deadhead plants before cold weather. Get rid of wet leaves that have piled up, as they can kill your grass and attract insects and outdoor pests. You can rake up leaves and discard them, mow over dry leaves or compost wet leaves. Whatever you choose, just make sure you get them off your lawn.
Seeding and Sodding
If you want to plant a new lawn, early fall is the best time. In September, Northern NJ temperatures are starting to cool down a little, and it’s important to seed or sod before cold weather arrives. Cool-season grasses like fine and tall fescue, bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and wheat grass germinate best when soil temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. These soil temperatures usually occur when daytime temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees. When planted properly, fescue grasses germinate within 10 to 14 days. For best results, seed or sod cool-season grasses when the temperature is below 70 degrees.
Although March is the prime month to fertilize your lawn, September or October fertilization will help protect your lawn and plants during cold New Jersey winter weather. Fertilizing in the fall will help grass and plants to store essential nutrients in their root systems, so they have enough food for winter when nutrients get depleted. Cool-season grasses, most common in the Northeast, need a complete fertilizer as opposed to one that’s only high in nitrogen.
Seasonal lawn care in the fall should include lawn aeration to prevent soil compaction in the winter when the ground freezes. Early fall lawn aeration, punching small holes in the soil, will allow soil and grass roots to get and store needed oxygen, water and fertilizer through the winter months. Lawn aeration is a simple process with big seasonal lawn care benefits for your lawn. For best results, lawn aeration should be done on a day when the soil is slightly damp, not wet. It’s best to hire a landscape professional with an aeration machine that provide faster and more efficient results.