3 Tips to get your Gainesville lawn ready for Spring
Late February into early March is not the best your Gainesville yard will look this year. Lawns are semi-dormant now and certainly aren't at their best, yet. However, it is the best opportunity to pro-actively prepare for spring. 3 things you should look at doing for your lawn in March are:
- Starting a pre-emergent weed control program to keep weeds from re-seeding
- Lawn Aeration to help water and fertilizers reach the turf's roots faster
- Irrigation check-up to keep dry spots from happening in the upcoming dry season
The fact that lawns don't look their best is especially true this year, since the severe cold in January forced St. Augustine and Zoysia yards into total dormancy. (It often stays partially green through the cold season in North Florida.) Still, it's well-worth looking over the lawn now and considering a plan that will help it to bounce back and be healthy this summer.
If your lawn has been declining in vigor recently, it's time to determine the cause and consider how to put things right this spring. There are several common causes of lawn problems - including weeds, drought stress, insects, fungus, traffic wear, poor soil conditions, poor drainage, and too much shade. The lawn damage you see now is generally old damage that happened during the prior growing season rather than an active problem occurring now.
1. Pre-Emergent Weed Control
A lot of people are currently concerned about the growth of cool-season weeds, which may appear to be taking over your yard now. The winter weeds that most people have been calling about this year are very aggressive broadleaf weeds, and regularly have little yellow or white flowers. The bad news is that means they're re-seeding. The good news is they're easily controlled with a long-term lawn health application program that includes pre-emergent weed control application. We offer this service, so feel free to contact us if we can be of service.
2. Lawn Aeration
Over time, your lawn becomes stressed by compacted soil from foot/mower traffic, poor drainage, and increased thatch build-up. Aeration mechanically removes small plugs of soil and thatch from your entire lawn, helping your lawn breathe and creating ideal conditions to increase nutrient flow to it's roots for healthier, thicker, and greener grass growth. You can rent an aerator from a local tool company, or you can hire it to be professionally done. Just watch out for your sprinkler heads!
3. Irrigation Start-up
Almost every spring season in North Florida means two things for certain - abundant Azalea blooms and an upcoming dry spell. Historically, Gainesville's driest season is late March to early June. If your sprinkler system isn't properly adjusted and set to run with the right timing, your lawn will struggle with drought stress, which create many other problems such as susceptibility to chinch bugs and weed pressure.
By doing these 3 things, you will be setting your lawn up for a great spring. If we can help you with a weed control lawn application, aeration service, or a spring irrigation check-up, contact our office by call/text at 352-378-5296 or fill out the contact form at the top of the page. Below are some other early spring topics we usually get questions about.
It's too early to fertilize your lawn with heavy nitrogen now. Research has shown that turf grass does better if you wait until it greens up before you start the fertilization program. So, wait at least until mid-March to make the first application of nitrogen. This includes weed and feed products that contain herbicides to kill weeds along with the fertilizer. Do not apply weed and feed products, yet.
If you have a weed problem that you need to deal with now, use a lawn weed control without fertilizer. Atrazine and Celsius have been shown to be the best post-emergent herbicide treatments for most current weeds.
Other products that contain several active ingredients (2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba and carfentrazone) target a wide variety of weeds and may be used on various types of lawn grasses. Research indicates that these products are more effective when more than one application is made. So, plan on making two applications following label directions carefully. Be very specific to make sure these products are made for your type of turfgrass though, as we get about 25 calls per year from people who have burned their lawn using the incorrect product or mix-rate.
Brown Patch Fungus
Insects and diseases can do massive damage to a lawn quickly. One of the more common diseases is brown patch, which strikes during mild weather and occurs primarily on St. Augustine in late March or April. If you see rapidly enlarging areas of brown grass in areas that green up normally, it's likely brown patch. (Do not confuse this with old damage from last year.) Brown patch disease is caused by a fungus that thrives in cool, moist weather.
This disease can kill the grass, but it is more common for it to just attack the leaf blades and leave the runners alive. So, the grass generally recovers. Active brown patch can be treated when it occurs with a fungicide, but is most often related to cultural practices such as over-watering with an irrigation system, too much shade, or lack of aeration (to break up the compaction of the soil).
Chinch bugs are not extremely active now, but could have damaged your lawn last summer, and if they weren't treated, will come back as soon as it warms up for good. They're primarily a problem April through October in areas close to your driveway, curb, or sidewalk (concrete/asphalt). If areas of your lawn died during that time, chinch bugs are a possible cause. Evaluate your lawn in mid March to see if areas that died last summer green up. Unfortunately, these insects often kill the grass completely and sod plugs or new sod installation may be neccessary.
Wear and tear
Lawns that have been damaged by wear and tear from dogs, children, or walking traffic can be helped with extra care. In early spring, aerate your lawn to loosen the compacted soil in the bare areas; fertilize the lawn, including the damaged areas; and water the lawn in that area during dry weather to encourage growth.
Keep traffic to a minimum until the turf has recovered. If the area is large, you may want to lay new sod for faster coverage after loosening the soil. Remember, if the wear and tear continues as before, the grass will disappear again.