Lawn Care Basics: Fertilizer and Maintenance Calendar for Lawns in the Southeast
on Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Residential Property Tips
Lawns in the Southeast are full of Bermudagrass, a heat- and drought-tolerant grass that can survive the region’s climate. But if your yard is full of this grass variety, you’ve been staring at a dormant, brown lawn all winter long. And you’re itching for the first signs of spring to bring your lawn back to life.
Once your turf breaks out of dormancy, months of lawn care and maintenance begin. Dust off your mower and other lawn care equipment and use this month-by-month lawn care calendar to make sure the grass is greener on your side this year.
Bermudagrass is dormant when temps are below 65 degrees. Once the warm season begins and temps are steadily in the mid-60s, the grass will start growing again and it’s time to kickstart your lawn care.
- Weed Control – Apply a pre-emergent herbicide before weeds even appear. Treatments that kill actively-growing weeds can hurt your grass as it comes out of dormancy. Use your lawn mower for weed management if you missed your pre-emergent window.
- Mowing – Start as soon as you see grass growing. The recommended height for Bermudagrass is ideally one to one and a half inches. And you never want to cut off more than a third of the blade. Bag your clippings if you suspect disease.
One benefit of Bermudagrass is that you can overseed to help establish good turf. This is best done in the springtime because Bermuda is one of the fastest growing grasses when it comes out of dormancy. Mid-spring is also when you’re lawn maintenance schedule really ramps up.
- Seeding – Overseed thin or bare spots for a fuller-looking lawn. If you are planting a new lawn, now’s the time to plant warm season grasses.
- Mowing – Leave clippings to decompose and strengthen the soil. Nutrient-rich soil is especially important to establish healthy lawns this time of year.
- Repairing – Your grass is growing quickly and is strong enough that you can fix any lawn damage. Fill in spots in need of repair with new seed at the same time as your thin or bare spots.
- Fertilizing – Apply a starter fertilizer if you’re overseeding, repairing bare spots, or planting a new lawn.
By late spring, your grass is well-established and growing like crazy. Summer is approaching, so you need to help protect it from the hotter temps and drier conditions.
- Aerating – When you aerate in growing season, your lawn is better able to heal and can repair itself before drying out in the summer — especially with the fast-growing Bermudagrass. Aerating improves the drainage of your soil, which helps prevent disease.
- Fertilizing – Use a lawn food to feed your growing lawn to help it thicken and prepare for heat and drought.
- Watering – Bermudagrass is drought-tolerant, but it will go dormant if it doesn’t get enough water. Your lawn needs an inch to an inch and a half of water each week to stay lush and green. If you’re not getting that much rain, turn on the sprinklers to supplement.
- Mowing – Since Bermudagrass shoots up so fast, fertilizer and watering can make your maintenance needs shoot up with it. You may need to mow as much as twice a week to keep your lawn at optimal height.
In early summer, the spring rains have stopped. In the South, the moisture instead stays in the air, leaving hot, sticky humidity. Keep your spring maintenance schedule going until the weather changes.
- Fertilizing – Lawns need to eat as much as once a month when they’re actively growing. Your grass may need one last feeding before summer hits. But different fertilizer products recommend different schedules, so always follow the directions of the fertilizer you use for best results.
- Watering – Continue your weekly watering routine. You’ll probably have to start watering more to make up for the lack of rainfall.
- Mowing – Keep mowing frequently through the active growing period. And don’t wait until the weekends. If your lawn needs a cut mid-week, do it. You risk damaging your grass by waiting a few days and cutting off more than a third of the blade.
The different summer conditions require a change in routine. July is the hottest month in Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, with temperatures consistently in the 90s. Monitor your lawn closely to make sure it doesn’t go dormant due to the stress of heat and drought.
- Watering – Water evaporates more quickly when it’s hot. You may need to increase your watering so your grass absorbs the right amount each week. Avoid watering in the afternoons when the sun and heat are at their peak. Mornings between 4 and 10 a.m. are best. And you shouldn’t water your lawn more than twice a week.
- Mowing – The active growth of spring finally starts to fade. Pay special attention to the height of your grass. If you cut it too short in mid-summer, it’s likely to burn, dry out, and even die. Consider raising the deck height on your mower an inch or so above the normal height. Taller blades can protect against water evaporation and dry soil, while crowding out actively growing weeds.
It’s not the hottest month, but August is only a couple degrees cooler than July. And the chances are your lawn has had to deal with an extended heat wave or drought by this point in the summer. Continue your summer watering and mowing schedule.
It may also be time for another fertilizer treatment. Most fertilizer schedules call for another application after eight weeks. Feed your lawn if your preferred product calls for it. But follow directions closely. If you apply fertilizer in the wrong conditions, you risk burning or damaging your lawn.
There’s a big drop in daily temperatures in the late summer and early fall — an average of nine degrees in Tennessee! This calls for a much different lawn care routine than the previous months.
- Weed Control – Apply another round of pre-emergent herbicide — this time for the ones that germinate in the fall and winter.
- Watering – Your watering needs decrease thanks to the lower temperatures. Turn on the sprinklers just enough to keep your turf green. If your grass succumbs to water-related stress now, it can affect its ability to green up again in the spring.
- Mowing – Return to the recommended deck and grass height from the spring months. As growth decreases, you’ll find yourself mowing less in the fall.
- Seeding – Bermuda grass will start browning soon. For a green lawn throughout the winter months, overseed with a perennial ryegrass. It will green up just as the Bermuda goes dormant.
October sees another big drop in temperature. Mercury hovers right around that 65-degree mark on the thermometer. Bermudagrass will likely begin to go dormant this month, but keep mowing until it stops growing!
By late fall, your Bermudagrass has entered its winter slumber. Apply a winter fertilizer to deliver one last dose of nutrients for the next few months.
The oaks, maples, and dogwoods will start dropping their leaves. Rake them up to remove them. Or better yet, mulch them with your mower — or a lawn tractor with MulchControl™ for extra mowing convenience. By spring, the leaves will have decomposed and disappeared, leaving only nutrition for your growing grass.
December, January, and February
If you planted a winter grass back in September to keep your lawn green in the winter months, mow, fertilize, water, and maintain accordingly throughout the cold season to keep your yard the envy of the neighborhood. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy a few months without the duties of lawn maintenance.
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