Lawn Care Basics: 7 Tips for Healthier Turf This Spring
on Thursday, January 3, 2019
Residential Property Tips
In the South, we don’t experience the same seasonal changes as up north. There’s no melting snow, so we have to look for other signs of spring.
Come March, temperatures start climbing back into the 60s, signaling the beginning of growing season. This is a critical time for your lawn. While there isn’t much mowing, there are plenty of other lawn care tasks that will help keep your yard lush and green until winter returns.
Prep Work in the Early Spring
Before you set foot on the grass, you need to focus on your lawn care equipment. Your mower has been collecting dust in the shed or garage all winter. It’s probably still sporting the clippings, dirt, and wear from the previous mowing season. Get your lawnmower back in mid-summer form with a pre-season tune-up.
1. Perform annual mower maintenance.
A finely-tuned machine will start up with ease and run smoothly all year. A basic tune-up is just four steps — changing the oil, spark plugs, fuel filter, and air filter.
Home maintenance kits are a handy way to tune-up your lawn mower. They provide all the parts you need to the job done. Order a kit for your model from your local TriGreen Equipment dealership and do the job yourself. Or bring it in for a tune-up and any other service needs outlined in your operator’s manual.
2. Sharpen your blades.
Years of shaving taught you that dull razors don’t cut near as well as sharp ones. The same applies to your mower blades. A dull blade pulls at your grass and leaves it looking ragged. And it’s not just the looks — it can actually injure your grass and open it up to insects and disease.
For a healthier lawn, sharpen the blade. Lift up the mower deck and check your blades for wear. Remove your blade and go over it with a hand grinder to give it a nice, shiny finish. If your blade is too worn or damaged, replace it.
3. Set the right deck height.
Cutting your grass at the wrong height can damage it during the critical spring growth phase. Too long, and you’re mowing more often. Too short, you’ll see a lot more weeds, stress the grass, and leave your lawn more susceptible to the summer sun and heat.
The right deck height depends on the species of your grass. But a good rule of thumb is to never cut more than a third of the plant off. Set your deck height for the ideal length of your lawn and keep it consistent throughout the year.
Lawn Care Steps for Later Spring
Once you’ve taken care of your lawn mower, it’s time to take care of your lawn. You may want to get started as soon as temperatures pass 60 degrees. But the temperature you should actually be concerned with is in your soil. Use a soil thermometer to measure the temperature at four inches deep. Once it hits 65 degrees, grass is actively growing and you can start your lawn care program.
1. Control weeds.
In the springtime, the best time to apply herbicide is before the weeds start growing. Herbicides that kill weeds after they’re active and growing can hurt your lawn as the grass transitions from winter. Instead, use a pre-emergence herbicide to control weeds like crabgrass.
Apply your weed control by mid-March, before grass and weeds are growing. And instead of reaching for the herbicide again when the first weed pops up, use your mower as weed management.
Some lawn experts argue that you should aerate your lawn in the fall. Others say the best time to do it is in the growing season. The benefit of aerating in the spring is that your lawn is growing and can easily heal and repair holes in the soil.
John Deere riding lawn mowers are equipped with a back hitch so you can use tow-behind attachments like an aerator. Pull a spike aerator or plug aerator behind your mower to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deep into your soil and reduce compaction.
Most southern states have warm-season grasses. In warmer climates, you can fertilize these grass species year-round. But in Tennessee and the northern parts of Alabama and Mississippi, you should until the soil temp is right and the grass is actively growing, which can happen in early April or into May.
When the soil temp is right, and you’ve aerated the lawn to prep it to absorb nutrients, apply a light coat of fertilizer. Too much fertilizer too early can actually lead to disease and weeds. If you followed a lawn maintenance schedule last year, your grass could still be digesting last fall’s application. Use a tow-behind spin spreader or broadcast spread on your riding lawn mower for best coverage.
After applying fertilizer, many homeowners douse their lawns with water, expecting rapid growth. However, one watering a week is plenty in the early spring. Grass is still coming out of winter dormancy and temperatures aren’t yet high enough to dry out the lawn.
As temps rise in late spring, start watering more frequently to help establish your lawn. Warmer daytime temps that swing back into the 30s at night can dry out the grass. If you’re not getting a half-inch of rain every two weeks, it can stress your lawn. Aim to give your lawn about an inch of water a week — either through rain or watering.
Lush, green grass in late summer takes months of prep and maintenance. So get started early with the proper prep techniques this spring. If you put in the time to prep your equipment and your lawn, you’ll be rewarded all year long with a lawn that’s the envy of the neighborhood.
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