Aerate and top dress your lawn. Use an aerator that cuts and removes a plug of soil which it places on the soil surface. The machines can be rented or the service purchased. Apply one-inch of compost after the aeration. The compost penetrates the aeration holes to bring organic material into the root zone. It is too early to fertilize. Wait until real grass has been mowed twice.
It is still time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to reduce summer weeds from germinating. This is especially important if you were bothered by sandburs and/or crabgrass. Halt, Dimension, Crabgrass Preventer, Amaze and XL are good herbicides for the job. Note that a second application should be applied in mid-June. To be ready for the hot weather when it arrives, call in your irrigation contractor to check out and repair your system. Make sure the rain sensor is working and all leaks are repaired. Have him/her instruct you how to change the watering amounts if necessary. Have your mower sharpened and the engine tuned up. Mow in March to keep the lawn weeds in check.
Mowing starts in earnest this month. Mow Fescue at 3 inches tall, Bermuda at 1.5 inches and zoysia at 2 inches tall. Mow frequently enough that only one-third of the grass blade is removed at every mowing. Once per week is usually sufficient. After you have mowed the lawn two times, it is time to fertilize the lawn. Use slow release lawn fertilizer. The first number is the percentage of nitrogen. Apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. If the fertilizer has a 19-5-9 formula, that means about 5 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. The bag will tell you what rate to set the spreader to achieve the pounds of nitrogen.
Rely on the weekly watering recommendation based on the type of grass you have. Fescue grass needs 1.5″ to 2″ of water per week. Zoysia grass will require less watering about 1″ to 1.5″ per week. Bermuda grass needs about 1″ per week. Some helpful hints: water in early morning hours and for best results, spread your watering to two to three waterings per week to the amount mentioned above for your type of grass. The winter weeds are trying to go to seed before the heat kills them. Keep the lawn mowed every week to reduce production of the weed seeds for next winter.
Make your second application of herbicide to prevent sandburs, if you have a problem with sandburs. It is time to apply a soil insecticide if your lawn was attacked by grubs last year. The same insecticide will also control chinch bugs.
Watering is the key. Apply the published recommendation each week. For especially hot areas such as along the sidewalk that seem to dry out, give them a little extra water by handheld hose.
Chinch bugs will make your lawn look moth eaten. The damage usually appears on the hottest part of the lawn. The lawn drying out will cause a similar symptom. Hand water the spots every day for 2 or 3 days. If the area does not green-up it is probably caused by chinch bugs. Apply a soil insecticide.
Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent winter weeds. Check the label to make sure the weeds you had last year in your yard are on the label. Rescue grass, bedstraw, dandelions, thistle, henbit and annual bluegrass are common. Discontinue watering in the mornings and let the lawn go a little dry in order to prevent brown patch fungus. If it appears anyway apply a treatment of a labeled soil fungicide.
The lawn has switched to its autumn growth mode so it is time to apply a winterizer fertilizer. Again, apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. The fertilizer will be utilized by the lawn for winter hardiness and a fast green-up in the spring.
November, December, January
Switch to a winter irrigation regime. Water every 2 weeks if it does not rain from now until May. You should only have to mow every few weeks to control winter weeds.