It’s time to dump those generic 4 step programs fertilizer companies push. Check out this simple, 3 product lawn care program and get real results.
Before I got my lawn care ‘education’, I stuck mostly to the 4 step programs you see at the big box stores. To be honest, my lawn always looked half way decent using these products. The main benefit though was the convenience and availability of these products.
After becoming very familiar with the 4 step programs, I realized that some of the products worked OK, while others barely worked at all.
For starters, the crabgrass pre-emergents didn’t seem to be that effective. My lawn always had a lot of crabgrass each season.
I also noticed plenty of broadleaf weeds, even after applying products like Weed & Feed.
Eventually I became convinced that the Weed & Feed wasn’t working, even though I was applying it correctly. It greened up my lawn, but didn’t do much to combat weeds.
After a lot of experimentation, I realized that a next level lawn really came down to 3 products. The best part is these 3 products are usually supplied by the big box stores. If not, you should be able to get them shipped to your store.
Before we get started it’s important to point out this program works best for Cool Season Lawns. If you have a Warm Season Lawn then check out this lawn program here: Lawn Care Schedule for Warm Season Grass
Lesco 19-0-7 Fertilizer with Dimension Pre Emergent
Dimension is one of the best pre-emergent herbicides out there. It’s a common choice among professionals. It was hard to find in big box stores until Lesco came out with this awesome fertilizer and Dimension combo.
I recommend using this product for your first 2 applications, and then a 3rd time a little later in the season.
The first 2 applications are for preventing crabgrass as well as other broadleaf weeds. The 3rd application is mostly for preventing Poa Annua.
Once soil temps hit a 24 hr average of 50 degrees it’s time to throw this product down. About 5 weeks later as soil temps approach head towards 65-70 degrees it’s time to throw it down again. Once soil temps hit 80 degrees, crabgrass and broadleaf weed germination slows.
The 3rd application is going to be after the hot summer months when soil temps start decreasing back down to 70 degrees. This is the time of year when Poa Annua seeds germinate. Poa Annua drops its seeds in spring and summer and germination begins in early fall.
Applying the Lesco fertilizer with Dimension when soil temps are heading back down to 70 degrees will help prevent Poa Annua seeds from germinating, as well as other broadleaf weeds.
* It’s important to point out that if you plan on doing any fall seeding then don’t apply this product. Doing so will prevent grass seed from from growing. Instead, use a starter fertilizer when applying the new seed.
Check out Greencast to find out when your soil usually hits the 3 important benchmarks of approaching 55, approaching 70, and coming down below 70 heading into fall.
Notice how I’ve been referring to soil temperatures, and not calendar dates when talking about when to apply this product. It’s so important to understand soil temperatures and have that be the driver behind when you do anything to your lawn. Check out this post here for more about soil temperature in your lawn: The Importance of Soil Temperature in Your Lawn.
In terms of a fertilizer, this product provides 19% nitrogen, 0% phosphours, and 7% potassium. The 7% potassium plays a big role in balancing this program since our other go to fertilizer is Milorganite which doesn’t have potassium. Instead it has phosphorus which the Lesco product is lacking.
If you’re struggling to find this product I have recommended substitutions below, towards the end of this post.
For times when you’re not applying Lesco’s fertilizer and pre-emergent combo, shift to a good organic fertilizer such as Milorganite. I was never a big organic fertilizer guy until I realized all of its benefits:
- Builds soil health instead of temporarily feeding roots
- Slow release for longer lasting results
- Doesn’t burn if over applied or applied in poor conditions
- Eco friendly
Milorganite has 6% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 0% potassium. This works great in this program with the Lesco product since it provides a balance of the Macronutirents N, P, K. It also contains iron which helps give your lawn that dark green color.
Ortho Weed B Gone Plus Crabgrass Control, Post Emergent Herbicide
No pre-emergent plan is perfect. No matter how hard you try, there will be some weeds that emerge. The trick is to knock these weeds out right away using a lawn safe liquid herbicide.
All that’s required is walking your lawn and spot treating any visible lawn weeds. This product is a liquid herbicide that comes with a spray wand.
Spot treat weeds a couple days before mowing. This is when the weeds will be easy to spot and it will also be enough time for the herbicide to be absorbed by the weed.
Benefits of This Lawn Care Strategy
1. It’s a more aggressive and effective approach to combating weeds with pre-emergents. This schedule calls for applying pre-emergent herbicides at 3 specific times during the year.
Most of the 4 step programs only cover pre-emergents in the first step. It also uses spot treating for killing developed weeds which is more effective then Weed & Feed products.
2. Focus’s on soil temps instead of calendar dates. Weed seeds don’t care what the date is.
3. All these products are easy to use, and easy to access.
4. It uses organic fertilizer for most of the applications which has many long lasting benefits.
The 3 Product Lawn Care Schedule
Once familiar with this schedule I highly recommend you check out : How to Fertilize Your Lawn
* If you plan on core aerating and overseeding, or top dressing your lawn, or doing any type of seeding in general then don’t apply Lesco with Dimension for round 5. Instead, apply a starter fertilizer at the same time you apply seed. Lesco and Scotts both make starter fertilizers so either one is a fine choice.
If for some reason you can’t get your hands on the Lesco 19-0-7 product with Dimension then check out this alternative here: The Andersons 19-0-6 with Barricade. It’s a very similar product but the pre emergent has a different active ingredient (Prodiamine).
You could also check out this product: Proscape 16-0-8 with Barricade. With this product you can type in your location and see if there is a local dealer.
Lastly, if you’re completely striking out, you can use Scotts Halts with Lawn Food. Your almost guaranteed to find this locally so you don’t have to worry about getting it shipped.
Soil Test for Best Results
While this program is great for putting your lawn care maintenance on auto pilot, it’s recommended you do some simple soil tests every once in awhile to see where you’re at.
My favorite soil test is this the one by Yard Mastery: Yard Mastery Soil Test This is a simple kit that gets delivered to you with easy to follow instructions. You’ll simply mail back a sample of your soil and they will quickly get back to you with a soil analysis.
Feel free to check out some other soil test options here: How to Do a Soil Test (and Read It)
This plan makes no mention of treating for grubs, fungus, or insects. The truth is, you may never need to do those things so don’t feel you have to. There’s no need to apply fungicides or insecticides unless you suspect you are having problems.
Also, this plan is best used if your starting out and your lawn ‘needs work’. Eventually you should phase out at least one of the Milorganite applications with a product such as: Stress Blend 7-0-20. This will help you remain in balance. If you were to just continue year after year with Milorganite your Phosphorus levels would get very high and your lawn would be lacking potassium. I highly recommend switching to my Lawn Care Program For Extra Green Grass as you get more advanced. It’s the custom program I use on my lawn!
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