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Seasonal Guide to Lawn Care Treatment February 6, 2017

A Guide for Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer

Warm Weather Grass (Alabama)

Home Lawn Maintenance can be a tricky task to undertake and accuracy is imperative to your lawn’s overall health. In Alabama, there are five predominant types of grass: Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, Centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and Tall Fescue

For this seasonal guide, we will focus on grass adapted to the entire state.

Winter

If you are thinking about a green lawn then November is time to overseed with ryegrass. However, if you are new to the lawn care world, consult a lawn care professional first to determine if overseeding is suitable for your warm weather grass type. Use the proper post-emergent herbicide to kill germinating winter weeds like wild garlic. chickweed, dandelion. Read the label on each package of weed killer used to make sure native grasses go unharmed. If you have a lawn care service, professionals will continue your weed prevention schedule.

Winter is the perfect time to test the soil to determine the chemical modifications that are necessary to make corrections to nutrient deficient soil. Ideal pH balances vary based on grass type and determining the appropriate level.

Mowing

Scalping your lawn in January or February allows sunlight to begin warming the soil. Warming soil acts as an alarm clock for the grass’s roots telling it to wake up from dormancy. Lower mower blades to below an inch to remove dead grass. Keep ryegrass cut low especially if overseeded on bermuda lawns. Allowing ryegrass to grow too tall may prevent new bermudagrass shoots from sprouting.

Test and Repair Watering System

If you have an automated sprinkler system, you already know the cold, dry winter months often cause cracks in the plastic tubing or loose nozzles. Now is the time to test your system for any damaged nozzles or lines. If you find any issues, contact a professional now before the dry, summer months can wreak havoc on a yard without sufficient water. If, like most of us, your sprinkler system consists of a water spicket, a hose, and a sprinkler, then your job is easier. Set it up as you would during the summer to make sure all components are operational. This shouldn’t take more than an hour.

As winter comes to an end, you’ll want to apply a product called “pre-emergent weed control” to your lawn. Pre-emergent works by stopping the germination of weed seeds. Often, lawn care specialists apply pre-emergents in two rounds to extend usefulness. The first round should be applied in January or February.

Spring

Lawn care in the spring is part waiting game and part prep work. While there are a few things to do in the spring, for the most part, you can rely on the sun, soil, and rainwater to initiate grass growth. Trying to work on your yard before it turns completely green can have negative effects. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to limit the amount of foot traffic in yard in the early spring months. Excessive traffic can destroy new shoots of grass before they’ve had a chance to mature.

Fixing Bare Patches

By mid-Spring you’ll be able to identify any patches of grass that haven't recovered from the winter or weren't adequately prepped during the fall. Sodding in the spring when the soil temperature is over 65 degrees improves the chances of success for warm weather grasses. Laying sod is ideal in May. Bermudagrass needs direct sunlight to flourish and is very sensitive to shade. If you notice slowed growth, trim back trees and bushes to allow more light to filter down to your lawn. Thinning bermudagrass can become prone to weed infestation.

Fertilize

Establish a fertilization schedule for the spring and summer months. The first application of fertilizer should occur when bremudagrass is 50% green or the soil temperatures are above 65 degrees. Zoysiagrass can be fertilized after grass has reached 75% green or the soil reaches 65 degrees. Fertilize bermudagrass every 6 weeks and zoysiagrass every 7 weeks until mid-September. If you use a lawn care service, they will create a fertilization schedule that is customized to your lawn and its needs.

Weed Control

If your lawn care service divides pre-emergent application into two rounds, the second round of pre-emergent will be applied in March or April. To eliminate crabgrass effectively, apply pre-emergent before March 1st to prevent seeds from germinating. Do not use herbicide during the spring green-up of your lawn! Many weeds spread by seeds and will grow taller than the surrounding grass for optimal seed dispersion. Mowing regulars ensure you chop off these seed heads before they have time to mature. Pre-emergent needs to be “watered in” whether through irrigation or rain to be absorbed by the soil.

Water

New lawns may need supplementary watering between periods of rain. If there is little or no rainfall, give your grass a 1/2 inch of water twice a week to prevent runoff.

During later spring, when your grass starts to flourish, make sure your lawn receives at least an inch of water per week!

Mowing

Established lawns need to be watered and mowed regularly to promote greening/active growing. Certain blade types cut certain grasses better but the key is to use a sharp blade. Dull blades tear or rip the grass rather than cutting it. The tips of your grass can then turn brown and this is detrimental to the overall health of your lawn. Mow frequently so you don’t cut off more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time.

Aerate

Fertilizer, water, and oxygen need to reach the root of the grass so aerating your yard may be necessary. The best time to aerate is just before rapid grass growth. Luckily, you have a few options. You can purchase an aerator, rent an aerator, or hire a professional lawn care company with the experience and equipment to properly aerate your yard. Aerate towards the end of May or at the beginning of the summer.

Summer

Continue following your mowing and fertilization schedule. Lawns should be mowed weekly to remove a 1/3-1/2 inch of grass at a time. As your grass becomes denser, regularly check the sharpness of your mower blade.

Water

Summer months mean hotter temperatures and less rain especially in Alabama. To prevent these conditions from creating unnecessary stress on your lawn, regularly water your yard. For those with automated sprinkler systems, set your timer to water your yard at dawn and dusk to prevent water from evaporating before absorption. If you manually water your yard, try to create a regiment where you water your yard before leaving for work and right when you get home.

When it’s incredibly hot, your lawn gets thirstier. Be sure to water your yard more during times of extreme heat. During summer months, periods of drought are common. You’ll need to water for longer periods of time if your region of the country is facing drought conditions. In times of extreme drought, the local government may implement regulations as to when and how often you can water your yard. Be sure to stay informed by watching the local weather forecasts.

Weed Control

Continue regular applications of weed spray/herbicide if necessary. Keep an eye out for common diseases and insects that prey on lawns in the summer months. If you are using a lawn care service, they will alert you to any changes in your lawn that effect the maintenance schedule.

Fall

Mowing

Continue to mow lawns until no new growth is noticeable.

Fertilize

Mid-September is the last chance to apply fertilizer. At this time and no later you can apply a “winterized” fertilizer. If you have a lawn care service, they will continue to come monitor your lawn throughout the fall.

Weed Control

Apply a fall pre-emergent to control winter weeds within the first two weeks of September or when the soil is at or below 70 degrees 2 inches below the soil.

Leaf Control

No one wants to rake leaves 2 to 3 times a week, but it’s vital to keeping your lawn in good health. Left alone, fallen leaves develop a barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching the grass. Unraked leaves also create the ideal environment for grass-killing fungal diseases. You can mow the leaves, but it’s important to use a mower equipped with a collection bag so leaves are removed from your lawn and not just redistributed. Weed Prevention

There are countless resources to help DIYers create a year-round lawn care plan for the grasses specific to their lawns. It is a daunting process so don’t get discouraged. As with most things, practice makes perfect but keep in mind that weather heavily affects your lawn’s overall health. If you use a lawn care service, they will be able to alter your lawn care management plan as needed and will keep you regularly updated on your lawn care responsibilities.

Cool Weather Grass (Tennessee and North Carolina)

Winter

Make sure your lawnmower is set to a height no lower than three inches. Taller grass is thicker grass which indicates deeper, healthier roots. Thicker grass also makes it more difficult for weeds to grow. The depth and health of grass roots is crucial for your lawn withstanding less than ideal conditions. For example, during a drought – like Alabama suffered this year – grass with deeper roots can help your grass live almost a month longer before dying. tsheet)italicized text

Spring

Lawn care in the spring is part waiting game and part prep work. While there are a few things to do in the spring, for the most part, you can rely on the sun, soil, and rainwater to initiate grass growth. Trying to work on your yard before it turns completely green can have negative effects. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to limit the amount of foot traffic in yard in the early spring months. Excessive traffic can destroy new shoots of grass before they’ve had a chance to mature.

Fix Any Bare Patches

By mid-Spring you’ll be able to identify any patches of grass that haven't recovered from the winter or weren't adequately prepped during the fall. These barren areas can be repaired by applying a lawn repair mixture product containing grass seed, organic mulch, and a specialty form of fertilizer that jumpstarts the growth of new grass. If you’re a DIYer, you can easily purchase lawn repair products at any hardware or gardening store. If you use a lawn maintenance company, experts are trained to spot areas requiring special attention but you can point out any areas of concern for peace of mind.

If fertilizer doesn’t do the trick, planting sod is the second option. Sod is expensive so if there are areas of your yard where grass won’t grow try trimming trees, branches, or shrubs to allow for more sunlight.

Test and Repair Watering System

If you have an automated sprinkler system, you already know the cold, dry winter months often cause cracks in the plastic tubing or loose nozzles. Now is the time to test your system for any damaged nozzles or lines. If you find any issues, contact a professional now before the dry, summer months can wreak havoc on a yard without sufficient water.

If, like most of us, your sprinkler system consists of a water spicket, a hose, and a sprinkler, then your job is easier. Set it up as you would during the summer to make sure all components are operational. This shouldn’t take more than an hour.

During later spring, when your grass starts to flourish, make sure your lawn receives at least an inch of water per week!

Fertilize

The spring and fall are the two most important times to apply fertilizer. Fertilizing in the spring tells your grass it’s time to wake up from its dormancy of the winter and provides much needed nutrients to aid in regeneration.

Weed Control

Spring is an important time for continuing the weed prevention measures you implemented in the fall. During the spring you’ll want to use a product called “pre-emergent weed control” which works by stopping the germination of weed seeds.

Time the application of this weed fighting herbicide with the completion of forsythia blooming - a few weeks after the final winter freeze. To make things easier, you can apply a weed control product while also applying your spring dose of fertilizer.

Summer

With some basic maintenance, your yard will flourish in the summer. Finally, the long hours of work put in during the fall will come to fruition! However, with abundance comes more work – especially regular mowing.

Mowing Do’s and Don’ts

One of the most common misconceptions among homeowners is “the lower the blade settings, the better.” While this might mean fewer times mowing your yard, your grass’s overall health will be at stake.

As a rule of thumb, never mow your lawn with the blade set lower than 3 inches during the summer. Taller, thicker grass has a number of benefits. Longer blades of grass allow for better absorption of the sun’s energy and increased absorption of nutrients resulting in better overall health. Also, taller grass creates a micro-environment in which the soil and lower levels of grass are shaded. These shady conditions prevent excess evaporation allowing more water to be absorbed into the soil .

Another common mistake during summer months is to remove grass clippings after mowing your yard. Grass clippings act as a natural fertilizer by helping redistribute any lost nutrients back into the soil. If your mower requires a bag to run, just make sure to evenly redistribute any clippings on your lawn rather than putting them in bags on the street. Use a thick-bladed, plastic rake and gently spread grass clippings across your yard. Using a thin-bladed, metal rake is too rough on delicate root structures and can rip them apart.

It’s very important that you properly maintain your mower. It’s an investment that enables you to properly care for your yard. If the blades of your mower aren’t sharp, you’ll end up tearing or ripping the grass rather than cutting it. The tips of your grass will turn brown and this can be detrimental to the overall health of your lawn.

Water

Summer months mean hotter temperatures and less rain. To prevent these conditions from creating unnecessary stress on your lawn, regularly water your yard. For those with automated sprinkler systems, set your timer to water your yard at dawn and dusk. This prevents water from evaporating before absorption and keeps your lawn from getting burned! If you manually water your yard, try to create a regiment where you water your yard before leaving for work and right when you get home.

When it’s incredibly hot, your lawn gets thirstier. Be sure to water your yard more during times of extreme heat. During summer months, periods of drought are common. You’ll need to water for longer periods of time if your region of the country is facing drought conditions. In times of extreme drought, the local government may implement regulations as to when and how often you can water your yard. Be sure to stay informed by watching the local weather forecasts.

Weeding

Even if you applied weed-killing herbicides during the fall and spring, some weeds are still bound to grow in your yard. As in your garden, it’s best to remove these weeds by hand, making sure to remove the weed’s entire root. If your yard is full of weeds then a manual process may not be practical. In these scenarios, contact a lawn care specialists for advice, because weed eradication is complex and is contingent on a number of variables – especially the type of grass in your lawn. Keeping your grass mowed prevents any weeds that have grown from spreading seeds.

Fall

Most people think of lawn care as a short-term responsibility. Instead, think of lawn maintenance as a year-round process. No amount of fertilizer or water will make up for ignoring your lawn during any season – even winter. Fall is the most important season of the year in terms of lawn care. It’s the time when your grass prepares for the barren, nutrient-poor winter months. It’s also when you prime your grass for good health the following spring.

Mowing

Even though grass isn't growing as fast, it’s vital to maintain your mowing and watering regiment. The last two times you cut your grass before winter, drop your blade height to its lowest setting. This adjustment allows more sunlight to reach the root of the grass where it’s stored and slowly released during the winter months.

Aerate

Fertilizer, water, and oxygen need to reach the root of the grass so aerating your yard may be necessary. Luckily, you have a few options. You can purchase an aerator for a couple hundred bucks and spend hours “plugging” your yard. Renting an aerator is also possible but it will set you back about $70 per day. The third option is to hire a professional lawn care company with the experience and equipment to properly aerate your yard.

Leaf Control

No one wants to rake leaves 2 to 3 times a week, but it’s vital to keeping your lawn in good health. Left alone, fallen leaves develop a barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching the grass. Unraked leaves also create the ideal environment for grass-killing fungal diseases. You can mow the leaves, but it’s important to use a mower equipped with a collection bag so leaves are removed from your lawn and not just redistributed.

Fertilize

You should fertilize your lawn several times a year, but if you can only do it once then mid to late fall is the best option. During the fall, grass above the soil-line grows much slower; however, an important network of roots continue to grow rapidly. By fertilizing in the fall, your grass will establish deep root, nutrient-rich roots which are key to surviving harsh winter conditions.

Weed Prevention

Instead of trying to kill weeds once they become problematic, the fall season is the opportunity to be proactive. Apply a weed control product in early fall, while daytime temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees. Although you wont see immediate benefits, you’ll thank yourself in the spring when far fewer weeds spring up.

If you take the time to care for your lawn in the fall, then the spring won't require much human intervention.

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