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Lawn Care Part 2: Feeding, Mowing and Watering

A lawn needs regular care to stay healthy. Make the most of your grass with proper feeding, mowing and watering.

Lawn Maintenance Steps

Fertilizing, mowing and watering are parts of ongoing lawn maintenance. If you need tips on getting rid of weeds, preparing your soil and spreading grass seed, see Lawn Care Part 1: Weeding, Soil and Seeding.

Feeding Your Lawn

Fertilizing a Lawn with a Spreader.

Measure your lawn's square footage to determine how much fertilizer you'll need. Multiply the length of each area of the lawn — front, back and sides — by its width to get the square footage for each area. Add the square footage measurements together for the total square footage of your lawn.

You can use either a broadcast or drop spreader to fertilize your lawn. Check the fertilizer packaging for the correct spreader setting. Too much fertilizer can be just as bad for your grass as too little.

Apply the fertilizer evenly. Overlapping passes with a drop spreader can cause striping. You can get complete coverage with a broadcast spreader by applying the fertilizer in a crisscross pattern. Adjust the spreader setting to cut the recommended application rate in half and make one pass. Then make a second pass that runs across the first pass. See Fertilize Your Lawn for details on application.

There are different types of fertilizers, including formulations for specific grass types, growing seasons and some — known as weed-and-feed products — that include herbicide. Using weed-and-feed is a convenient way to deal with weeds and fertilize your lawn in one pass. However, don't use it if you're sowing grass seed. Depending on the type of herbicide the product contains, it can prevent the seeds from germinating or damage the seedlings. Use a lawn starter fertilizer instead.

How often you should fertilize your lawn depends on several factors. See Basic Lawn Care and Maintenance Tips to learn the best times to fertilize specific grass types.

Caution

When using lawn treatments or lawn-care products, always follow package directions regarding proper clothing, protective equipment, application procedures and safety precautions.

Mowing Your Lawn

Mowing the Lawn with a Cordless Mower.

Mow only when the lawn is dry. Mowing a wet lawn creates unattractive clumps of clippings that can harm the lawn. Cut at the correct height for your type of grass. Typically, you should cut cool-season grasses higher and warm-season grasses shorter. See Choose the Right Grass for Your Lawn for specifics. If you're not sure of the correct height, follow the 1/3 rule — remove only 1/3 of the length of the blades of grass.

Keep your mower blade sharp to get a clean cut that's disease-resistant. Alter your mowing pattern each time you mow so the grass won't lean in one direction. Find more mowing techniques in Lawn Mowing Tips: How to Mow Your Lawn Correctly.

Good to Know

If you have a cool-season grass, don't mow it as frequently during hot, dry weather. Longer grass blades can help provide shade for the roots.

Watering Your Lawn

Watering a Lawn with a Sprinkler.

Most lawns need about an inch of water per week. Monitor rainfall with a rain gauge. If you need to supplement the rain, deeply water early in the morning. Deep irrigation is more effective than light sprinkling because it gets water to the root system before the moisture evaporates, allowing you to water less frequently. The soil has a chance to dry between waterings, encouraging root growth and reducing the opportunity for disease. Watering in the morning when temperatures are cooler reduces moisture loss through evaporation.

Connect your sprinkler to a timer to avoid overwatering and runoff — both damage your lawn and waste water. Get more tips on irrigation by reading Watering Tips. For instructions on installing an underground sprinkler system, see Install an Underground Sprinkler System.

Caution

Observe water-use ordinances or restrictions for your area.

Watch our DIY Basics video: How Do I Use a Lawn Spreader?