Skip to main content

Rhonda's Top FIVE Turf Tips

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Warm temperatures this winter have caused some lawns to green up early. This could impact the timing of various spring lawncare activities, such as seeding, fertilizing, mowing, and weed control. Here are a five turf tips to consider this season.

1. FERTILIZE at the proper time. Most homeowners only need one application a year, which should be done in early September. This helps the grass prepare for winter dormancy and spring growth. If your lawn needs two applications a year, add the second treatment at the beginning of May. Fertilizing too soon in the spring could cause tender new growth that is sensitive to a late freeze.

2. When SEEDing a new lawn or renovating an older lawn, timing is crucial. The best time to seed lawns is in the fall between mid-August and mid-September. The second best time is spring between mid-March and mid-April. Be sure to wait until after the last frost to be sure new seedlings are not damaged. Consider overseeding your lawn every 3-5 years in the fall with a mix of resistant turfgrass varieties.

3. WEEDS are best managed by maintaining a healthy, dense lawn. If weeds become a problem, time control measures carefully. For example, if using an herbicide to control crabgrass, it must be applied before the crabgrass seeds germinate. They germinate when soil temperatures are 55 degrees for 5-7 consecutive days, which is usually about the time the forsythia blooms. However, this year these weed seeds might germinate earlier than usual, which means applying weed control earlier.

4. MOW using the 1/3 rule, which means to never remove more than one-third of the grass height in a single mowing. Many homeowners mow their lawn too short. For best results, mow grass 2 to 3 inches tall and let the grass clippings remain on the lawn to return nutrients back to the soil.

5. INSECTS and DISEASES should only be treated if the problem actually exists. If confirmed, proper timing of control measures is critical. For example, most grub treatments are not applied until late summer when the grubs are small and most vulnerable to insecticides.

You can also find more information on lawn care at our University of Illinois Extension LawnTalk website at



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.