As the weather warms up, lawns across the country are slowly coming out of winter dormancy. That means that now is the time to prepare your lawn for spring, before your grass—and your weeds—begin to grow. With the right preparation, you can enjoy a full, green lawn earlier in the season and well into summer and even fall. As your turfgrass professionals, The Turfgrass Group has plenty of tips to share to get your lawn ready for spring.
Clearing Your Lawn of Winter Debris
If you haven’t paid much attention to your lawn over the winter months, now is the time to get out there and start your lawn care. Begin by removing any debris that may have collected on your lawn over winter. Debris could include fallen leaves and branches, toys that were left out too long, or any other items that were left out, such as pool equipment or building supplies.
To green up in the spring, your lawn needs access to plenty of fresh air and sunlight. If the turf is covered in some areas, those areas won’t get what they need, and you may end up with a patchy lawn. It is best to clear your whole lawn now while your grass is still dormant so that once it starts to grow, nothing stands in its way.
Controlling Weeds Before They Sprout
Weeds are the bane of every lawn owner, from the casual homeowner right on up to the most expert turf professionals. Weeds can ruin the look and feel of your perfect turf, turning a green lawn into a stubbly mess. They can also compete with your turf for valuable light, water, and nutrients. While your grass is dormant, there is less competition to keep weeds out, so getting to them early is crucial to prepare your lawn for spring.
The best way to handle weeds is to kill them before they even sprout. Once weeds start growing, they are harder to kill and may even need to be pulled by hand. That’s a lot of work that you can avoid if you get a headstart.
To control weeds, apply a pre-emergent herbicide. As the name suggests, a pre-emergent herbicide takes effect even before the weeds emerge. It works to prevent germination, so your weeds never have a chance to grow. It is crucial to apply a pre-emergent herbicide before you see any weeds. Don’t get caught by surprise. Apply the pre-emergent herbicide even if you don’t see any weeds. It will save you a lot of trouble in the near future.
Applying Preventative Fungicide
It’s hard to know what is lurking in your turf while it is dormant. Until it starts to grow, you can’t tell if there are patches of fungus that might inhibit its full growth. Preventative fungicide can prepare your lawn for spring and ensure that your grass grows full and thick without any damage from fungi that spread over winter. However, not every lawn needs preventative fungicide. Fungicide is most useful in lawns that have experienced fungus problems in the past.
You may also want to apply a fungicide if your lawn has been covered in snow, but temperatures have been a bit warm. When water melts underneath a blanket of snow, it can create the perfect environment for winter fungal growth. To learn more about fungus damage over winter, look at this article about why grass dies over winter.
The First Mow
The first mow of the season is a critical one. Deciding when it’s right to mow depends on the type of grass you have. In general, you should never cut off more than one third of the height of your grass in a single mow. For TifTuf Bermudagrass, that can mean waiting until the grass is three inches tall to cut it back to two inches. If you like your grass shorter, TifTuf Bermudagrass can be maintained as short as one half inch. Whatever height you plan to mow, make sure you mow early enough that you won’t take off more than one-third of the grass’s height.
Zeon Zoysiagrass is usually kept shorter, about one-half inch to one and a half inches, so plan your first mow accordingly.
Aerating Your Lawn
If you want a detailed explanation and how-to for aerating your lawn, check out this article on aerating your lawn. Aerating your lawn in the spring will help it get the water, air, and nutrients it needs. The holes in the ground created by a plug or core aerator are quick access points that send these vital ingredients right to the turf roots. They are also a great way to get your fertilizer directly to the roots.
Make sure that you don’t aerate too early in the spring. Aerating can put stress on your lawn, so it is best to have some healthy growth before you aerate. A healthy, growing lawn will be able to fill in the holes left by aerating. Aerating too early is also less helpful. The roots of dormant turf can’t absorb as much valuable air, water, and nutrients as a thriving, growing lawn.
We always recommend a core or plug aerator over a spike aerator. A spike aerator creates a hole by pushing aside the soil as it enters the ground. A core aerator actually removes dirt from the holes it makes. That leads to less compacting and more access to the roots.
Spring Fertilizer Treatment
As your grass begins to grow, it is time for your twice-annual fertilizer application. For both TifTuf Bermudagrass and Zeon Zoysiagrass, we recommend a half-pound to a pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,00 square feet in the spring and in the fall. Make sure to wait until the grass begins to green up before applying your fertilizer. Fertilizing a dormant lawn is like trying to feed a sleeping person. The lawn won’t absorb the fertilizer effectively, and it doesn’t need it while it isn’t growing. The perfect time to fertilize is immediately after aerating your lawn so that your turf roots have the best access to the fertilizer.
The weeds in your lawn love fertilizer just as much as the grass does. It is crucial to take steps to control weeds before you fertilize. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide is the best way to prevent blooming weeds after a fertilizer treatment.
Watering in the Spring
For the most part, your lawn doesn’t need water over the winter. The roots are still growing a bit, but as long as it rains or snows a little, your lawn should be fine. If it really is bone dry during winter, you can give your lawn a half-inch of water every other week. But once spring rolls around and your grass is ready to grow, you will need water to prepare your lawn for spring. As during the summer, your turf only needs about an inch of water a week, so if it rains an inch, you can skip watering that week. If it doesn’t rain, now is the time to make sure your turf gets all the water it needs to stay healthy. TifTuf Bermudagrass is drought-resistant, but consistent watering will keep your lawn looking its greenest.
TifTuf Bermudagrass Greens Up Best
The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program conducted a study in 2014 that compared various types of bermudagrass across ten states throughout the US. In its test, TifTuf’s NTEP spring greenup rating was higher than all the other bermudagrass cultivars commonly grown in the Southeast. For the greenest, thickest, healthiest grass, nothing beats TifTuf Bermudagrass. Click here to find a grower in your area.