Green Spot

Better Lawn Care Practices

How to Grow a Healthy, Low-Input Lawn

Healthy lawns have deeper root systems, better drought and disease tolerance, and are better for water quality because they can absorb more rainfall. Check out the Get Grassy program website to learn more about proper lawn care and how to grow a healthy lawn.


Tips for a Healthy Lawn

Follow these tips for a healthy, low-input lawn.
  • Mow High, Let It Lie. Use your mower's highest setting (3"-4") to grow taller gras with deeper roots. Taller grass shades out weeds and is more drought-resistant, staying green longer! Chopping too much grass at once can stress out the grass. You might have to mow more than once per week in the spring to avoid removing too much at a time. Leave the lawn clippings on the lawn to break down and feed nutrients back into your lawn. Keep the lawn clippings off of pavement and out of storm drains to prevent them from causing a public safety hazard and polluting stormwater. Sweep them up after mowing if they do end up on the pavement and dispose with your yard waste. 
  • Fall is for Fertilization. If you want to fertilize your lawn, fertilize in the fall. Academic research shows that fall is the best time to fertilize. Remember to follow the label, check the weather, and more is NOT better. Using too much fertilizer can hurt your grass or cause it to wash away during a rainstorm and become water pollution. Keep fertilizer off of pavement. Do not fertilize if there is rain coming in the next couple days. You want your fertilizer to stay ON your lawn. 
  • Leave the Leaves. Leaves are full of rich nutrients that go back into the soil as they break down - free fertilizer. Leave the leaves on the lawn to put nutrients back into the soil, and provide winter habitat for important insects and wildlife. It will NOT kill the lawn. Keep the leaves out of the street and storm drains though. 
  • Water or Don't. You have two choices when it comes to watering - water or don't. A lawn needs about 1" of water per week to keep growing. Use a rain gauge to see how much rain your lawn has gotten each week, and water as needed. Or, simply don't water! You can let your lawn go dormant in the summer and save water (and money). A healthy lawn will bounce back after a drought period. 
  • Topsoil is King. Good topsoil is the foundation for a healthy lawn, literally. However, many lawns had their topsoil compacted and removed during building construction, leaving behind debris and clay, where the lawn is growing right on top of subsoil with little to no topsoil layer. Lawns without topsoil soak up less water and may require more fertilizer than lawns on topsoil. Slowly build and improve your topsoil by adding organic materials like lawn clippings and leaves. 
For more lawn care tips and resources, visit