Turfgrass Care & Maintenance in Spring
Temperatures are on the rise, and spring showers are rolling in. Gone are the days of a dry, dormant lawn, and now is the time for growth and green grass. Turfgrass is great for a hardy, vibrant lawn. With just a bit of maintenance starting now, you can have a beautiful yard year-round!
Seeding & Sodding
Spring is a good time for overseeding to improve your lawn, but not to establish a new lawn. In spring it’s less likely for new seedlings to be successful because there’s greater weed competition. Also, soils can be too wet for good seedbed preparation. Overseeding, on the other hand, can be done in spring, early fall, or late winter, and is great for improving thin turf or small patches of bare soil after the winter frost.
Overseedings should be done following aeration, dethatching, or by using a disk-type seeder that drops seed into cuts in the soil. When overseeding, it’s very important that the seed doesn’t sit on top of the grass and actually comes into contact with the soil with space to germinate and grow.
If you do have large bare spots, sod can be put down nearly any time of the year so long as you have available water to irrigate the new grass. However, if you sod during the hot, dry months of summer, more frequent watering is required. This means that it’ll take longer for the sod to establish itself properly, so spring is a far better time as rains are much more frequent.
After filling in the gaps in your lawn, a bit of basic maintenance will keep your grass looking great. Mowing and aerating will keep your yard neat and healthy.
Most lawns should be mowed on a regular basis, typically around two inches or above, as the grass is growing. Your mowing schedule will depend on how fast your grass actually grows, but during peak growth periods in the spring, you may find yourself mowing at least once a week. On the other hand, during periods of drought, your lawn may not need any mowing until growth picks back up after it rains again. You can leave your clippings behind and not worry about picking up every cut blade, too, so long as you mow relatively often.
Aeration, the process of removing plugs of soil from the turf area using a core aerator, helps to carry moisture and nutrients into the soil by removing plugs in the soil. This system of large pores, usually 3 to 4 inches long and ¼ to ¾ inch wide, alleviate soil compaction and thatch. This process should be done during in cool weather, like early to mid-spring or late summer to early fall, to help the grass recover more quickly. Spring aeration might also allow weeds to grow alongside grass as it brings weed seeds to the surface and the pores allow them to germinate and grow. However, a little chemical prevention will keep weeds away and your grass growing.
While the first and most important step in is a dense, healthy turf, there’s plenty of herbicides on the market to help control most turfgrass weeds. Pre-emergence herbicides are ideal for annual weeds like crabgrass These herbicides should be applied now in early spring to prevent the weeds from ever germinating. Other weeds, such as broadleaf weeds like dandelion, can be controlled with broadleaf herbicides and should be applied when the weeds are actually growing in spring and fall. Be sure to properly identify which weeds you’re fighting so that you can pick the best herbicide.
While you’re trying to stop weed growth with herbicides, be sure to encourage lawn growth with fertilizers. Fertilization is the most important lawn management technique around and does more for your turfgrass than any other practice. Grass plants often need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in greater amounts than can be supplied naturally from soil. A soil test can determine how much phosphate and potassium your turf requires. Nitrogen needs, on the other hand, can’t be determined by a soil test, but most turfgrasses benefit from annual applications of nitrogen fertilizer. Applying a fertilizer that contains some slow-release nitrogen during mid- to late spring and/ or late summer/early fall will keep your lawn healthy throughout the season.
Chemical maintenance is also great for preventing insect issues. These problems typically occur from late spring to early fall, but preventative care can keep them from ever being a problem at all. For example, Japanese beetle grubs feed on turfgrass roots from late summer to early fall, killing off big chunks of your carefully tended turf. In turn, birds, skunks, raccoons, and moles will often dig up grub-infested turf, sometimes creating extensive damage. Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market to prevent these issues. The best products for controlling these grubs contain chlorantraniliprole or imidacloprid. Though they may not be an issue until late summer and early fall, a chlorantraniliprole-containing product can be used in spring and watered into the soil. Products containing imidacloprid should be applied and watered into the soil from mid-June to mid-July.
Armed with plenty of knowledge, spring is the perfect time to fight back against weeds, malnutritions and pests. Preventing problems from ever actually becoming problems is the best way to keep your lawn vibrant, hardy, and looking great year round!
Harper II, John C. Revised by Peter Landschoot. “Lawn Management Through the Seasons”. Center for Turfgrass Science. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. N.d. Web. 1 March 2018. http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/turf/extension/factsheets/seasons/extension_publication_file
Landschoot, Peter. “Turfgrass Fertilization: A Basic Guide for Professional Turfgrass Managers”. Penn State Extension. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. N.d. Web. 2 March 2018. https://extension.psu.edu/turfgrass-fertilization-a-basic-guide-for-professional-turfgrass-managers