Your lawn is starting to wake up! Think about your lawn like a bear emerging from hibernation. It has just spent the last several months sleeping and recovering from the stress of last year’s hot summer, and is now slowly warming up. Now, your lawn is hungry (needs some high-quality food), could probably use a nice long shower (here comes the Spring rain!), and could use a nice thorough grooming to get ready for the season.
Spring lawn care can be daunting (where do I even start?!), but don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be that hard! In fact, there are a few big things to start with that will really get you set up for a great season. Take a look below for some tips on how to get started.
1.First up? LOOK for signs of damage, weeds, and issues that you want to address this year.
Our first recommendation is always to take a nice long walk around your property. Do you see any signs of damage (did the snowplow dig up a part of your grass?) A few things to take note of:
Wet winter weather may mean that you have moss growing in your lawn.
See any circular spots on your lawn that look like moldy bread? If so, this might be snow mold!
Can you see any “tracks” in your lawn where pesky critters (moles/voles/mice) may have enjoyed your beautiful lawn this winter?
Are there any new weeds that are starting to pop up? Some weeds (e.g., bittercress) emerge before the grass does, so you’re likely to see these first thing in the Spring.
If so, take a couple pictures and let us know!
2.Next: GET READY for the season! Time to prepare your tools.
Mower maintenance is a big one—we usually recommend doing a mower (and other equipment) maintenance at the beginning of each summer. This includes:
Changing the oil, air filter, and spark plugs
Giving your mower a good wash (we also recommend washing before you put it away for the winter, but just in case, give it a good wash in the Spring too!)
Fueling the tank with fresh gas!
There are many shops that offer a full maintenance (or even just a quick blade sharpening), but most of these to-dos are easily done by yourself if you’re willing to give it the time! Most importantly, make sure to read your owner’s manual for proper maintenance safety, and never do any of this maintenance while the mower is running!
3.Finally, after you’ve tackled this prep work, it’s GO TIME!
Even though the soil ecosystem has been active over the entire winter, now that your lawn is waking up it’s about to be kicked into turbo mode! This means that your grass—and potential weeds—will be pulling nutrients from your soil at a much higher rate and quickly growing the “shoots” part of the plant. This means you’ll need to start mowing very soon! A couple of big needs at this point in the season:
Clear a path for sun and rain to get to your grass and its roots—make sure you pick up any sticks, trash, leftover leaves and debris that may be covering your lawn. You should also give your lawn a good raking—this will really help to promote air and water flow (my removing dead grass, etc.), boosting your lawn’s health!
Hand pull those weeds! Some individual weed plants can drop tens of thousands of seeds over the course of a single season, so any weeds that you can hand pull at this point in the season will be a big help in reducing weed populations as we go.
Time for your pre-emergent treatment—this early-season treatment is focused on creating a weed “barrier” that will prevent weed seeds from germinating and popping out of the soil.
So, to summarize: take a nice long walk around your yard, get your tools ready to go, and then dive in! Most importantly, have fun with it (if you have kids, now is a great time to have a competition on who can pick up the most sticks!).
As always, feel free to reach out anytime with questions and let us know what you see when you’re out there!
Taking care of your lawn for the first time is a great feeling. It takes time and effort and you can get tangible results. If you are new to the yard game it can probably be a little much on figuring out where to start.
One way to lighten your load is to not try to take it all on at once while you are learning. Lawn Serv, our do-it-yourself lawn care subscription box can help take some of the highly effective and technical science pieces off your plate to start as you learn more.
To learn more about some of the yard basics follow along to these items:
Getting to Know Your Soil
Fix Any Problems
Knowing Your Grass Type
Feed Your Grasses Well
Fight Lawn Weeds
Mowing is More Than a Saturday Chore
Water is Likely Needed
Stick with It
1. GETTING TO KNOW YOUR SOIL
When it comes to lawn care, what happens with the grass reflects what’s going on in the dirt it grows. An easy place to start is by testing your soil. Your local agricultural school or county agriculture office will have information on test kits and reputable soil laboratories. This will help you understand imbalances of pH, organic matter, macronutrients and provide insight into how much nitrogen should be applied at what times of year.
At Lawn Serv we consider this a major data point to both the long term and short term planning of products needed to apply and can dramatically improve results with less waste and environmental impact. That is why we include a free soil test for everyone who signs up.
2. FIX ANY PROBLEMS
You can use the soil test results to make decisions on when and how much product to apply from pH to nitrogen. One of the most common soil problems is a too high or too low pH which can lead to an unhealthy grass growing environment but a lush weed growing ecosystem. Lime, as an example, reestablishes balance to soil pH so grasses can take up available nutrients more easily. If your family includes pets, you’re sure to have some pet damage. But don’t worry; healthy lawns with good soil and happy dogs can coexist.
At Lawn Serv we include products for weed control, pH balancing, bug control, and fertilizer in our subscription boxes. If you run into any lawn diseases or need grass seed we can get you that also and include those products into your lawn box plans!
3. KNOWING YOUR GRASS TYPE
Grasses suited to their growing region create the best lawns.
Grass types vary in their climate preferences and tolerances for drought, shade and other conditions. Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, peak in growth during cool temperatures in fall and spring. They flourish in northern zones. Warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, excel in summer heat and warmer climates. Region-appropriate lawn grasses require less water and other resources, including maintenance time.
The numbers on fertilizer labels reveal the percentages of actual nitrogen and other nutrients products contain, so you can match the product to your needs. Be careful, though: feeding too much or too often causes more harm than good. Establish a feeding schedule that meets your lawn’s fertilizer needs, or sign up for Lawn Serv and we will take care of the timing and delivery of the appropriate products based on soil testing.
5. FIGHT LAWN WEEDS
Even new lawns usually end up with weeds and weed seeds as they can travel many ways and from near and far. Weeds compete with grasses for nutrients, water and light.
One lawn weed can quickly turn to more and not all weeds are cured the same way. In short manually hand pulling mature weeds, followed by pre-emergent control to stop weed seeds from germinating, with post-emergent weed control for weeds that do germinate but are hard to hand pull is the triple threat. When moving in the right direction a full lush lawn that crowds out weeds is going to be your ongoing defense.
6. MOWING IS MORE THAN A SATURDAY CHORE
Keep a sharp mower blade, know your grass cut height and mow based on grass growth, not day of the week. Mowing heights vary according to grass type and the season. Some grasses, such as Bermudagrass, are best kept short, while other types need more height. Hot spells warrant higher mowing heights all around.
7. WATER IS LIKELY NEEDED
Water-conserving grasses help reduce water use and bills. Watering and other lawn maintenance can vary from month to month through your seasonal lawn care calendar, but you should always accommodate what’s happening in your lawn. If you are applying products to your yard such as fertilizer the plant will need water during times of drought to absorb those nutrients. LEARN MORE ABOUT WATERING HERE. Keep in mind though that grasses can go dormant naturally. This happens during heat in the north and cold in the south as example and does not mean your lawn is dead necessarily.
8. STICK WITH IT
If you are even going to start with caring for your lawn you need to learn to love it at least a little bit and have fun. There are ups and downs, never ending weeds, and gratification that come from the opportunity. You don’t have to win every weekend, you just have to stick with it and over time you will most definitely see the results.
There are many different types of grasses, and most lawns contain a mixture of them. Even turf grasses you might see in the store year after year are always slightly different as environmental conditions change each year for harvesting. Turf grasses have in a lot of cases been evolved through science to stand up to the ever changing climate and diseases to provide more resistance turf.
One of the key starting points of identifying your turf typically just starts with where you live. There are different types of grass meant for the warm and cool seasons of the United States and their climates. We WROTE A BLOG SHOWING THIS HERE.
Warm season grasses that thrive in warm-weather regions, such as the Southern United States.
Cool season grasses that do best with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as those found in the North, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest.
It’s important to know your grass type so you can take the best possible care of your lawn. The transition states between clear cool and warm season grasses can make for some of the hardest identifications. For example, if you pick a Northern weed control for a Southern lawn, you could actually harm it, not good!
Below are some characteristics of grass types…
TALL FESCUE (Cool Season)
Typically a cool-season type, tall fescue can also be found in hotter regions due to its ability to tolerate heat. It is a bunchgrass often used in athletic fields because it can withstand heavy use and foot traffic. In some lawns, patches of tall fescue may stick out and appear as a grassy weed. It grows in bunches, and is therefore not used very often in seed mixes.
Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 3/16” wide
Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, stiff
Popularity: All regions
RYEGRASS (Cool Season)
Ryegrass is easy to spot in a lawn due to its shine. Also, it leaves a “whitish” cast when mowed. It is a bunchgrass, which germinates quickly and is often found in seed mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass. It is primarily found in cool-season areas of the North, but may not survive as far north as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Canada.
Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 1/8” wide
Color/Texture: Dark green, soft
Growth: Quick, bunch type
Popularity: Mid- to North U.S.
FINE FESCUE (Cool Season)
The name “fine fescue” is actually a collective term for the various species of grasses in this group: red, chewings, hard, and sheep. Like the name implies, they are very fine textured with needle-like blades. Fine fescues are popular because of their shade tolerance. However, they do not tolerate heat and dry conditions.
Blade: Hair-like, fine tip, 1/16” or less
Color/Texture: Dull or gray-green, soft
Water: Above average
Popularity: Northeast to North Central U.S. (depending on species)
KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS (Cool Season)
Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most popular types in the North. It has a deep, green color and excellent texture. It grows well from seed, and is a popular choice for sod farms in the North. It grows from a very extensive system of rhizomes, underground stems that produce new plants. However, it does not grow well in deep shade.
Blade: V-shaped, pointed, 1/8” wide
Color/Texture: Darker green, soft
Growth: Aggressive, via rhizomes
Popularity: Northern favorite, sod farms
MIX – BLUEGRASS/RYE/FESCUE (Cool Season)
The majority of Northern lawns are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues. Kentucky bluegrass will form the nicest lawn, but it has a very low shade tolerance. Ryegrass can tolerate heavy foot traffic, but does not tolerate extreme cold or drought conditions. Fescues (both tall and fine) are often found in mixes due to their tolerance of shade, foot traffic, cold, and drought. When combined correctly, these types will form a dense turf that is acceptable for most Northern lawns in the U.S.
Blade: Thin, tall
Color/Texture: Soft with coarse mix, dense
Growth: Average to tall, via rhizomes
Popularity: Most Northern lawns
BENTGRASS (Cool Season)
Bentgrass can be found on most golf courses in the Northern U.S. It can be mowed as low as 1/10″ and makes an ideal surface for putting greens and fairways. Even when mowed very low, it forms a dense turf with a very fine-textured feel. The costs to maintain a home lawn of bentgrass can be very costly due to the fungicides, insecticides, fertilizer, and expensive mowing equipment it requires. It also needs frequent watering – almost daily. Unlike other Northern types, it grows by an extensive production of stolons (above ground).
Blade: Narrow, flat
Color/Texture: Soft, dense
Growth: Low, 1/10″
Popularity: Northern golf courses
ST. AUGUSTINE GRASS/FLORATAM (Warm Season)
St. Augustine grass is best suited to warm-arid regions such as Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Occasionally, it will be found in areas of California. It is not at all tolerant of cold temperatures, and requires plenty of moisture for survival. It is a very coarse-textured type that grows via above-ground stolons that can reach several feet. It has very broad blades compared to other grasses, with a rounded tip. It is often referred to as “Floratam,” which is a variety of St. Augustine grass.
Blade: Broad with rounded tip, 1/4” wide
Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, spongy
Growth: Slow, from sod or plugs
Popularity: Southern favorite
ZOYSIA GRASS (Warm Season)
Zoysia grass forms a lawn that feels like a thick, prickly carpet. Zoysia is found mostly in and from the middle part of the U.S. and east toward the Carolinas. It can also be found in the North, but will turn brown once the weather turns cold. It is very slow-growing—it can take more than a year to establish a lawn of zoysia grass. It has stiff leaf blades and will produce numerous seed heads if it isn’t mowed.
Blade: Narrow, needle-like
Color/Texture: Prickly, stiff, carpet-like
Popularity: Mid U.S., East to the Carolinas
BERMUDA GRASS (Warm Season)
Bermuda grass makes for a nice home lawn because it can tolerate a very low mowing height, which is also a reason it is widely used on golf courses in the South. It spreads by both stolons (above ground) and rhizomes (below ground), which helps it to form a thick, dense turf. It is usually found in the South, but may grow as far north as Kansas City. Its maintenance requirements (fertilizing, watering, mowing) are high.
Blade: Sharp, pointed, 1/8” wide
Color/Texture: Deep green, dense
Growth: Close cut, high quality
Popularity: Central U.S.
CENTIPEDE GRASS (Warm Season)
Centipede grass spreads above the ground through stolons and forms a dense turf. Because it grows horizontally, it requires less mowing and is easy to edge around garden beds and sidewalks. It is found throughout the warm-humid areas of the South. It does not grow well in hot, dry areas and will die if not supplied with adequate moisture. However, it requires less fertilizer than other warm-season types.
Blade: Pointed with notch
Color/Texture: Light green, dense, soft
Growth: Grows low, almost horizontal to the ground
Water: Less than average; will go dormant quickly during a drought
Popularity: Southeast U.S.
DICHONDRA (Warm Season)
Mainly found in California and Arizona, dichondra is often used for home lawns since it can be mowed like grass, and it forms a pleasing, dense turf. The leaves spread opposite of each other along creeping stems. It requires a constant supply of fertilizer, and is often attacked by insects and diseases.
Blade: Round leaves
Color/Texture: Pale to bright green, dense
Growth: Broadleaf species; mow like grass
Popularity: Arizona & California
Keep in mind allowing the grass to grow ½ to 1” taller during extreme heat or drought can be beneficial. You should never cut more than ⅓ of the blade off in a 3 day window.
Typically homes are bought and sold with information such as the square footage of your house and a total lot size. However that doesn’t give us great lawn care information. We as homeowners and yard maintainers really need to know the grassy area eliminating the house, driveway, shed, and other non-grassy areas.
The great part about technology is we can now do that measurement from ANYWHERE! Lawn Serv built a tool leveraging aerial photography built off of the Google Maps database that you can use for free here — http://www.myyardsize.com/ . Below is a video on how it works.
It is very simple:
Put in your address
Plot points around the item you want to measure (cutting out your house, driveway, shed, etc).
Read the number in the top left
Measuring Tape – section off areas, do a length by width calculation, add them all together