With spring just around the corner and daffodils, dogwoods, and forsythias about to bloom, homeowners are getting the itch to spend some time in their yards.
Below are some tips and tricks for spring lawn care on cool season grasses (large fescue, Kentucky bluegrass) in Kentucky.
Do the following: Prepare your mower for the season.
• Having your mower ready for use before the season starts will save you downtime during the growing season.
• Sharpen blades. Sharp mower blades are very important to the aesthetics and health of the lawn. Learn how to sharpen your blade in this video: bit.ly/388HH5s.
• If necessary, change the oil and clean the air filter. Video here: bit.ly/3rfsszp
• The vast majority of nitrogen fertilizers should be applied in the fall. Autumn applications improve the health of the lawn and lead to a greener lawn in winter, less spring mowing and fewer weeds, heat stress, water demand and disease problems in summer.
• Nitrogen used in spring and summer promotes the growth of weeds such as crab grass, goose grass and Bermuda grass in the warm season. In addition, high levels of nitrogen in spring and summer can lead to increased damage from white maggots in the soil. Adult beetles are attracted to the lush lawns, and high levels of nitrogen restrict turf rooting, increasing the damage caused by the white maggots that feed on the turf roots. For more information on fertilizing lawns, see this video: bit.ly/3uRQMcF.
Do the following: Apply a herbicide before emergence.
• Annual grassy weeds such as crab grass and goose grass begin to germinate in spring and depend on the thickness of the lawn, the amount of weed seeds in the soil, and environmental conditions. Untreated populations of these weeds can outperform and take over your desired lawn type. By applying a herbicide before the weeds emerge, the number of weeds can be drastically reduced and your lawn can thrive without weeds fighting for space, nutrients, light, and water.
• In western Kentucky, a pre-emergence herbicide should be applied before April 7th. In central and eastern Kentucky, the spray date is usually before April 15th.
• A pretty good indicator plant for knowing when to apply a herbicide before emergence is forsythia. In general, a pre-emergence application should be applied before the forsythia drops its flowers.
• Do not use weed and feed products as we do not want to apply nitrogen to our lawns in the cool season of the year.
• If you miss the pre-emergence window and weeds begin to germinate, it is best to apply small post-emergence seedlings as most pre-emergence products will not work after germination.
Not: seeds in spring.
• The best season for sowing lawns is early autumn. The concern with spring planting is that there is significant competition between seedlings and grass weeds (and weeds almost always grow out of our desired species) and that immature seedlings will struggle more with summer heat and drought than a mature lawn.
• If you need to sow in the spring, plant around the time the forsythia blooms, as the soil temperatures at that time are sufficient for tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass to germinate.
Do: mow at normal height.
• As soon as the grass starts to grow in spring, it really starts to lift. We see most of the growth in the spring of the year, it slows down in the summer, and then increases again in the fall.
• Since the grass grows in volume in the spring, it is best not to let the height get too long before mowing. Ideally, never cut more than 1/3 of the leaf in one mowing.
For example, if you want to keep your lawn at 3 inches, mow when the height reaches about 4.5 inches. Removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade will reduce root growth.
• Mowing at higher altitudes has been shown to reduce crab grass populations without the use of herbicides. Recommended heights for lawn grasses in Kentucky are:
• Large fescue – 3 inches or larger
• Kentucky Bluegrass – 2.5 inches or larger
For more information on how to mow your lawn, see the following publication: bit.ly/3e57wqX.
If you follow these basic pros and cons, you can start your lawn on the right foot this spring and enjoy it more and work less on it all year round.