Situated in the transition zone between climates ideal for warm season grasses in the south and cool season grasses in the north, the Ohio Valley covers several states, including a wide variety of local climates and plant hardiness zones. Basic lawn care is essentially the same; however, homeowners in the southern part of the area will perform regularly scheduled yearly lawn care and maintenance earlier or later in the year than their more northern counterparts.
Apply pre-emergent crabgrass preventative in early spring. This will prevent the seeds of this annual grass weed from germinating. In late spring, apply a broad-leaf herbicide to control dandelions and other perennial broad-leaf weeds.
In late summer, put down a second application of pre-emergent herbicide to stop germination of any annual or perennial weeds that have gone to seed during the current growing season. This is also the best time of year to control mature perennial grass weeds like dandelions. They send energy down to their roots and are more susceptible to elimination from a nonselective herbicide like Roundup.
Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer in spring, around early to mid-April in the southern Ohio Valley, and late April to early May in the northern Ohio Valley. Fertilize again in mid- to late September. For a moderate to high quality lawn, add a third feeding in early to late November.
In spring, mow the grass to a height of about 2 1/2 inches. As the heat of summer approaches, raise the mower height and cut grass at a height of 3 inches, to help protect the roots from sunscald and shade the ground, reducing evaporation. In early autumn, lower the mower height to about 2 1/2 inches until late fall. At that time, mow the lawn shorter so it is about 2 inches high by the time it stops growing for the winter months.
Lawns require the equivalent of at least 1 inch of rainfall per week, and high quality, lush looking lawns require even more. Water infrequently but thoroughly, and soak the soil to the depth of the roots, about 4 to 6 inches. Do not water lightly and often, as this will promote a shallow root system and an unhealthy lawn. If fall rains are not abundant, give your lawn a good, thorough watering before freezing winter temperatures arrive so it has adequate moisture through the winter months.
Periodic Special Maintenance
Overseeding an existing lawn can be done in either spring or fall, although fall is the best time to plant grass from seed. It is also the best time to plant a new lawn or refurbish an existing one.
Dethatching is the process of removing the layer of dried roots and plant waste that builds up on the surface of the soil. It is removed with a mechanical dethathcher, which has metal tines that break it up. The thatch is then raked up by hand and composted or discarded. Small lawns or a very thin layer of thatch can be broken up with an iron garden rake. Autumn is the best time of year for dethatching.
Aerating your lawn is best done in spring. Aeration is the process of removing "plugs" of soil and depositing them on the surface of the grass. The remaining holes allow air, water and nutrients down into the root zone, and the plugs on the surface eventually break up and enrich the surface soil.