Our St. Louis Landscaping Company’s Top 10 Tips to Make Your Lawn Lush and Green This Spring
One of the joys of spring is watching a lawn that looked utterly lifeless all winter suddenly turn a tender green that grows lusher and more inviting as the weather warms. What sort of lawn maintenance is required to keep your lawn healthy throughout the growing season? Here are some spring lawn care tips from our St. Louis landscaping company.
1. Check the Soil
Spring lawn care and lawn maintenance actually begin well before spring. One task you might perform is to check the condition of the topsoil. You might want to do this especially if your lawn is new, but checking topsoil for older lawns every few years is also a good idea. Good topsoil gets depleted of its nutrients over time, and refreshing it makes for good lawn maintenance.
Don’t just buy new topsoil and dump it in over the old, because the roots of your grass will seek the old topsoil and stop growing. Use a tiller or a gardening fork to mix them together then amend the soil with peat, compost, and humus. Adding earthworms to the soil is even better because their castings add extra nutrients. The one thing to be mindful of if you add earthworms is to till the soil carefully. If you till too aggressively, you can kill the earthworms and disturb other beneficial organisms that live in the lawn.
Another aspect of lawn maintenance and spring lawn care is to test your soil’s pH. Most plants, including grass, prefer soil that’s just a touch acidic, and a pH test can tell you whether the soil is too acidic or too alkaline. The pH of acidic soil is lower than the neutral 7.0, while alkaline soil is higher. Let our St. Louis landscaping company help when it comes to testing the soil. You can buy bags of topsoil or loose topsoil by the cubic yard.
2. Buy the Right Grass
After making sure the soil can support your lawn, the next thing to do is buy the right type of grass. There are basically two types of grass. Cool-season grasses grow best during the cooler times of the year, and warm-season grasses grow best during the summer. Missouri is one of those states where cool-season and warm-season grasses can do well with the right lawn maintenance. Besides choosing the right type of grass, you’ll also need to figure out how much watering and fertilizing your lawn is going to get and how much traffic it will be expected to bear. You should also learn if the type of grass can stand really cold or hot weather or periods of drought.
Some warm-season grasses include Bermudagrass, which is medium or dark green with a fine blade that produces dense sod. St. Augustinegrass is blue-green or medium green and has a coarser blade. If you’re worried about drought and traffic, Bermudagrass has a bit of an edge.
Kentucky Bluegrass is a type of cool-season grass. It is a medium green grass, has a fine to medium-fine blade, and can stand some drought and cold. It can even tolerate some shade. Fine leaf fescue has a very fine blade and a medium to deep green color. It too can tolerate a bit of shade and is cold tolerant.
Seed or Sod?
Growing your lawn from seed is less expensive than laying down sod, but it’s a lot of work if you have a large area. New lawn maintenance also involves pampering and regular watering before the seeds sprout. Not all the seeds will germinate, so you’ll probably have to overseed. This simply means sowing more seed than what is recommended on the bag. Indeed, overseeding bare patches on the lawn is considered part of spring lawn care.
To overseed, just gently rake away dead leaves or debris that’s on the area, sow the seeds and cover them with mulch. Water them regularly to make sure they stay hydrated until they germinate.
You can also buy sod. This is grass that comes in mats that are rolled out on the lawn like so much carpeting. Sod is pricier than seed, but it makes for an instant lawn. Ask the professionals at our St. Louis landscaping company for more information about sod.
3. Weed Control
Since Nature loves weeds as much as turf grass, they both respond to the warmer and longer days by growing. But since most lawn owners love their grass more than weeds, weed control has become an important part of lawn maintenance.
Like checking the soil, weed control ideally begins before the spring growth spurt. This means that weeds are killed before they have a chance to sprout in the first place through a pre-emergent herbicide. This is applied in the earliest spring or the last days of winter. There are herbicides for both broad-leafed weeds such as plantain and fine leafed, grass-like weeds such as crabgrass.
Another way to control the weeds is to simply pull them up as they sprout, though this, like overseeding an entire lawn, can be fiddly and labor-intensive. However, if you wait for the weeds to mature, getting rid of them can be difficult. Weeds are successful because they’re tough, and many have long taproots or spread through rhizomes that are hard to pull up. Not only this, but lots of weeds also seem to like to be chopped up. Chopping them up does not kill them but allows them to develop into new weeds.
Another interesting way to control weeds is to simply eat them, but you should only do this if your lawn has never been treated with herbicides or pesticides. Dandelions, burdock, sheep sorrel, and plantains make for good eating, and they’re good for you. One caveat is if you don’t know what a weed is, don’t ingest it until you do.
4. Pest Control
As the spring goes on, the pests may start to arrive, and part of spring lawn care is to control them. Some of the worst of these pests can’t be seen, for they’re grubs that burrow through the soil and eat the roots of the grass. Other nasty customers are the chinch bug, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, billbugs and the horrible crambus. A healthy lawn, especially one with an ecosystem of beneficial insects, can usually survive the onslaught of these pests. If the lawn seems to be losing the battle, there are several things you can do as part of spring lawn care.
A lawn that’s in trouble has dead and brown spots, grass that looks like it’s been chewed and of course, the sight of the bugs themselves. You can use insecticides scattered as granules or sprayed as liquids. If you want a more natural type of lawn maintenance, beneficial nematodes and pest killing substances such as milky spore can be applied.
5. When to Mow the Lawn
Resist the urge to break out the lawnmower when your grass seems a little too tall for you. Grass that’s allowed to grow tall sends its roots deeper into the soil. This makes the roots stronger and more able to withstand dry spells. Tall grass also shades out weeds and keeps its own roots cool during hot days.
The grass should not be cut more than a third of its height, even if it’s taller than you like. If it’s still too tall after mowing, wait a few days, then take off the top third again. Though a lawn that looks like a golf course is appealing to some, grass really shouldn’t be mown that short. Another tip is to let the grass clippings lay where they fall. It may not look aesthetically pleasing, but it recycles nutrients into the grass.
Fertilizing is another part of lawn maintenance but when and how much to fertilize depends on the type of grass. Some types of grass are heavy feeders, while others are not. You might not even want to fertilize your lawn as a part of spring lawn care but wait till the summer. However, a heavy feeder such as Kentucky Bluegrass should be fertilized beginning in the spring. Fertilize after a good rain or after the grass is watered. After the fertilizer is spread, turn on your sprinkler system again, or spray the grass with a hose if your lawn isn’t that big. This makes sure that all the fertilizer that landed on the blades is washed down into the soil.
Fertilizers can be slow-release or fast-release. Slow-release fertilizers are made out of materials such as compost and nourish the grass gently over time. Chemical fertilizers need to be applied with care because they can burn or shock the grass. Talk to the professionals at our St. Louis landscaping company for more information.
After that first spring feeding, the grass should be fertilized every month or so until it goes dormant. If there’s a drought, stop feeding. Wait until there’s a good, soaking rain to fertilize the lawn again.
St. Louis isn’t all that rainy during the spring. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure that your lawn gets the water that it needs as part of spring lawn care. How can you tell if your lawn needs watering? Sometimes all you need to do is look at it. It looks wilted, dull and thirsty. Then, when you walk on it the blades don’t spring back up, and they sound a bit crunchy.
Ideally, you should water your lawn in the morning. It’s cool, and the water can sink all the way down into the roots before the heat of the sun evaporates it. Professionals claim the best time is just before 10 in the morning. If you can help it, never water your lawn after sunset, because the water simply sits on the grass all night. This can encourage diseases. Some of our customers wonder if raining at night damages the lawn, but nighttime rainfall is Mother Nature’s problem.
Customers also wonder how much they should water their lawns at a time. We recommend saturating the top 4 to 8 inches of soil about once or twice a week. It’s important that the watering be deep because it encourages the roots to go deep. Shallow, frequent watering keeps the roots near the surface of the soil, and this is a disadvantage during a hot spell or a drought.
Aerating the lawn is also a part of spring lawn care. The aeration process allows oxygen to get into the roots of the grass blade along with water and nutrients. It is especially useful for lawns that endure a lot of traffic and grow compacted. Aeration is done with a machine that looks like a lawnmower. It can be manual or gasoline-powered, and it simply pulls plugs of sod out of the lawn and casts them aside. Other types of aerators slice channels into the soil or drive spikes into it.
Aeration should be part of spring lawn care because it’s best done just before the lawn reaches peak growth. The best time to do it is when the ground is wet after a rain, but not soggy. If there was a truly drenching rain, the lawn should be left to dry out a bit. A lawn should never be aerated when it’s dormant.
Dethatching is another type of spring lawn care. It’s similar to aerating but it removes thatch from the lawn to allow the grass to get the light, air, and nutrients it needs. Thatch is a snarl of debris as opposed to compaction, though they can be found together. You can use a rake or machine to dethatch your lawn. Cool-season grass is best dethatched in early spring or fall, and warm-season grass is best taken care of later in the spring. Like aerating, it’s best done when the lawn is damp but not sopping wet.
10. Equipment Check For Lawn Maintenance
All tools that you use to keep our lawn healthy should be in tip-top shape, including the lawnmower. Ideally, lawnmower maintenance should be done during the winter when everything is dormant and there’s time to see to any problems. During maintenance:
- all nuts and bolts need to be tightened or replaced
- rusted parts should be sanded smooth
- frayed wires should be replaced
- the blade should be sharpened and balanced.
A sharp blade is very important because a dull lawnmower blade only crushes the grass, which makes it vulnerable to pests and disease. The air filter should also be cleaned, the oil should be changed if needed, and stale fuel should be replaced.