It appears that the last of the severe cold weather is behind us. Although we can expect the possibility of another freeze or two, warmer temperatures of spring are upon us.
Now is the time to begin getting your lawn prepared for the growing season. Several tasks are necessary during the spring, which impacts to ensure that the grass will be healthy and attractive throughout the season.
Warm-season lawns that include Bermuda, zoysia, centipede, and St. Augustine grasses will be brown until the end of March, when the warmer weather will cause them to start greening up, which can take two to six weeks, depending on the weather conditions and cultivars of turfgrasses. During this period, pre-emergent herbicides can be applied according to label directions to reduce the level of summer weeds.
Many of the brands come in granular form and are applied with a broadcast spreader, and most need to have an application of water to activate the herbicide. Do not use weed-and-feed type fertilizers. The time to apply the pre-emergent is not the time to put out fertilizer. The nitrogen content can cause the grass to come pre-maturely come out of dormancy and be more susceptible to late-season freeze damage.
Fertilize at the end of April or May after the grass has become green. Consider having your soil tested, and then apply fertilizer in the amounts recommended by the test results.
As the warm season lawns start to turn green, lower the blades on your lawnmower and n mow the lawn to remove dead grass leaves. The process is often referred to as scalping, which will allow the sunlight to warm the soil faster and increase the rate of green-up.
Some people have asked if a fire could be used to burn off the dormant grass. Never, under any circumstances, engage in setting fire to the lawn. It could spread to neighboring houses and lawns in addition to being illegal in many areas. Scalping with a mower is the most effective and safest means of accomplishing this task.
Once the lawns have greened up, they can be aerated to relieve compaction if needed. Use a hollow tine aerator. The machine pulls out one-inch-long plugs of soil and deposits them on the surface of the ground.
Aeration improves the ability of water and air to infiltrate the soil and enhance the grass’s health. If you decide to topdress the lawn after aeration, use an organic soil mixture. Avoid sand because it can disrupt the water infiltration into the soil and potentially make the soil harder.
For those with tall fescue lawns, a cool-season grass, pre-emergent herbicides also need to be applied unless you are planning to overseed. Using seed to fescue lawns is best accomplished in the early fall but can also be done in March. Avoid any fertilizer applications later in the spring since it can promote brown patch fungal disease. Unlike warm-season grasses, tall fescue can be fertilized early in March. Mow the lawn at the height of three inches.
The spring months are critical to the season-long health of the lawn. Proper fertilization and herbicide applications at the right time, aeration, and mowing will ensure an attractive lawn that can be the envy of your neighbors.
If you would like to learn more about the subject, UGA Extension Gwinnett will have a virtual program on caring for your lawn in the spring March 23 at 6 p.m. If you would like to attend, please contact the Extension office to register.