This document contains step-by-step lawn care tips for Bellingham, MA, 02019 residents. Bellingham, located in Norfolk County, is in Zone 6a and consider “cool season”. The grass types that thrive in cool season are Kentucky Blue Grass (KBG), Fescues such as Tall Fescue and Fine Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass and Annual Ryegrass.
This month-to-month lawn care tips guide is written by a Do It Yourselfer (DIY five-year resident on Bellingham, Massachusetts.
lawn care tips for zone 6a residents
The first day of spring is March 20, 2019. If the ground is still frozen, limit foot traffic as much as possible. Once completely dry and thawed, give the lawn a good rake. It will help remove any dead grass that didn’t survive the winter; help stand the grass stand upwards; allow more air circulation. Start mowing if the temperature and ground conditions allow. Make sure your blade is super sharp, and have a backup ready to go in case you nick it on a rock by accident. I recommend the Gator G3 mulching blade.
Throw down a good starter fertilizer, such as Lesco 18-24-12. This will wake the lawn up out of dormancy, help force some growth, and the full shot of (synthetic) nitrogen will green things up quickly.Never fertilize a frozen lawn.
About 4-5 weeks after your starter fertilizer application, it’s time for an organic to enrich the soil. A full application of Milorganite is a good option. Organics are non-burning and its nitrogen is a slow release. You’ll also want to get ahead of the weeds – particularly crabgrass – so get a pre-emergent that contains Dithiopyr. Crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature (not outside temps) reaches around 55 degrees fahrenheit. A good rule of thumb is when you start to see forsythia bloom, so aren’t the crabgrass – so stay ahead here.
Continue to mow tall and mulch the clippings. However, there’s a fine line between mulching (virtually invisible grass clippings) and leaving dead grass behind. Mow often and never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. If you think the clippings are too long, bag ’em.
Spot-spray signs of weeds – both grassy and broadleaf weeds. READ THE LABEL! Make sure you’re using a selective herbicide that’s specific to the weeds you’re treating. A non-selective herbicide will kill virtually everything in its path – including your lawn. So be careful. In may, we won’t necessarily have to worry about high temps (over 80 degrees) so a good option is Bayer Advanced All-In-One.
The first day of summer is June 21, 2019. As temperatures begin to rise, beware of when you apply more fertilizer. Milorganite or Ringer are two good organic options. Begin your irrigation now as well. Aim for 1″-1.5″ of water per week – including natural rain water. If watering is needed, shop for an impact sprinkler. Water deeply but infrequently: 2-3 times per week at the most, preferably between 4-9 a.m.
With warmer days and warmer soil will come insects and critters. In Bellingham, we see a lot of black caterpillars which ultimately turn to moths. if you’re cutting your lawn and start to see moths fly up from the grass, there’s a god chance that you’ll have sod webworms. Another popular insect that can wreak havoc on your lawn are grubworms. It’s best to stay ahead here and put down an application of insecticide that contains Dylox. These insects live in the soil and eat the roots of dead and decaying grass.
Allan Hayne, aka the Lawn Care Nut (LCN) always throws down Milorganite on the 4th of July. If you’re looking to impress your guests, try adding some Iron supplement (like Ironite) a week before. This will be enough time for the Fe++ to kick in and enhance the dark green color.
Continue to mow tall. On my 22″ Toro Recycler (with G3 blades, of course) I got to the second-highest setting, which leaves the grass around 4″. The tall blades are going to help shade the soil, thus keeping it cool and helping to prevent stress and dormancy. Keep spot-spraying weeds as you see them, but remember: Read. The. Label. Many herbicides should not be used during extreme heat (90+).
Keep an eye out for lawn fungus this time of year, too. In 2018 we saw not only a ton of rain, but a ton of humidity as well. This creates the perfect environment for lawn fungus like dollar spot and brown patch. If needed, consider a fungicide such as Heritage G.
Irrigation: keep aiming for 1″-1.5″ of water per week. Feel free to water quickly during the day, only to cool off the ground. You can do this by hand or quickly by sprinkler (10 minutes max). The quick shower will drop the soil temperate and help prevent any burning or dormancy. But as always, follow Bellingham’s water restrictions and regulations. They’re posted on the town’s website, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts. There tends to be a restriction/ban in the following order:
- No sprinkler use between 9-5
- Sprinklers on trash days only, before 9am or after 5pm
- hand-help watering only
- Complete ban/restriction on all lawn watering
The temperatures continue to rise and the lawn may be getting stressed at this point. Your grass may also be dormant, depending on how much sun you receive throughout the day and how much water you were able to put down into the ground. The growth has 9or soon will) slowed down considerably. At this point, there’s no need to add any fertilizer – even organic – since the excessive heat (90+) and stressful conditions would only get worse.
Weather the heat and hang in there this month. Continue to water if you can. Continue to cut the grass high.
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The most fun time of the year. As the days and nights get cooler, and morning dew begins to accumulate, it makes for ideal growing conditions. Shoot for the first couple of weeks of September. I wait until the daytime temps are consistently at-or-below 80 degrees, and nighttime is at least 40 or above.
Step 1: If you have a thick thatch layer, you may want to consider a power rake, tine dethatcher, or hand-held thatching rake. This will not only take up some of the dead grass that didn’t survive the harsh summer, but also remove the excess thatch that lives between the grass and the soil. Thatch is a very good thing. But too much of it, along with dead grass, will “block” fertilizer from penetrating the soil. And since we’re overseeding, you may need to do this step. Mow low (under 3″) and pick up all dead grass/thatch with the bagger.
Step 2: Core aeration is a necessary step, particularly for us in the Blackstone Valley with clay soil. Core aeration will help open up and relax compacted soil. Grass roots need oxygen, and too much compaction will not only prevent micro and macro nutrients from penetrating deep into the soil, but also restrict oxygen. Pulling 3-4″ cores is a sure-way to get air deeper into the grass roots. The holes will also allow for water and fertilizer nutrients to more deeply penetrate.
Step 3: Overseeding. Depending on how thick or thin your lawn is at this point, you’re going to want either 3-4 pounds of grass seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn, or 6-7 lbs./1,000. If there’s lots of foot traffic from kids and dogs, choose a Turf Type Tall Fescue (TTTF) which is also very draught tolerant. Jonathan Green makes premium seeds. Heavy Traffic contains a mix of Perennial Rye and Tall Fescue which is a great option for lawns that take some abuse. And their flagship Black Beauty (Ultra) provides some of the greenest grasses around. Black Beauty is a blend of three tall fescues while the Ultra is three tall fescues, perennial rye and kentucky bluegrass.
Step 4: Since you put in all the time and effort up to this point, it’s time to put down some fertilizer. Shoot for another full dose of organics as well as a starter fertilizer. Jonathan Green’s Organic Lawn Food (8-0-1) is a terrific option, as is their Green-Up for Seeding & Sodding. You can go to the Ace Hardware in Milford, MA, for all of your Jonathan Green needs. Lesco 18-24-12 is generally available at the local Home Depot.
Step 4a: optional, but if you have it in your budget, also apply Tenacity. It’s an herbicide that kills and prevents crabgrass, while safe enough for your new seedlings. Continue to spot spray weeds after new seed germination.
If you know your soil’s pH, then it’s also a good time to adjust accordingly. In Bellingham, the clay soil is also often acidic, so adding a good lime – that contains calcium and magnesium – will be a good idea. Jonathan Green (again) makes Magical, which is a terrific food for your soil. As is their Love Your Soil, which contains gypsum, which contains microbes to help loosen your clay and compacted soil. Otherwise, a quick release lime like Pennington is another great option. For slower release, look for a dolomite and pelletized limestone.
Step 4: Water. Water. Water. Your need seeds will not germinate if they’re left out to dry. They must be moist at all times to aid and speed up the germination process. Perennial Ryegrass should start to germinate in 7-10 days; Tall Fescues in 10-14 days; Kentucky Blue Grass (KBG) in 14-21 days. Shoot for 10-15 minutes of watering, 2-3 times per day. With morning dew keeping things wet in the early part of the day, I shoot for 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. These two times work well for me, thanks (but no thanks) to the low sun, shorter days, and tall oaks providing more shade.
Limit foot traffic as much as possible, and hold off on mowing for a few weeks. Wait until seeds have germinated and grown in relatively thickly, at least 4″ high. Make sure your blade is sharp, remember the 1/3 rule, and bag your clippings. Hold off on herbicides until you’ve cut the new grass 3-4 times.
We’re at the end of the road here, and it’s time to pack up. Your final mow will be around Thanksgiving. Mow low (around 2″) to help prevent snow mold and frost damage. Also put down a fertilizer like Jonathan Green’s Winter Survival 10-0-20. While it contains nitrogen, it does not contain any phosphorus which promotes root growth. We don’t want any more root growth at this point – just some extra food for the lawn to store over the impending harsh, cold winter months.
Be sure to clean up ALL the leaves from the grass. Our areas has a plethora of oak trees which pound our lawns with acorns and dead leaves. It’s important that these are not left on the ground before the frost frost and snowfall.
Winterize your mower (cleaned, dried, and run the gas dry) and store it in a garage or shed so she’s ready to go in the spring.