Each year in the spring, we tend to get very excited to be able to get back outside and work in our lawns and gardens. However, this is still fairly early in the year to do much work in our yards. This article was written to prepare you for when the best time is to begin lawncare activities in the spring.
Overseeding our lawns can take place between April 1 and April 30 for the cool season turfgrasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. If you are planting a new warm season lawn or are adding plugs to thicken it up, you should wait until late May through June to do that. The warm season grasses would be either Buffalograss or Zoysiagrass. These would be the four best turfgrasses to use in our lawns in Southeast Nebraska.
When purchasing grass seed, watch for the following important statements on the seed bag:
- Purchase weed free seed, 0.3% or less weed seed in the package
- No noxious weeds found in the seed mixture
- Avoid purchasing lawn seed that is advertised in the Sunday newspaper, as those are not usually good seed choices and are not suited well for our area
- Avoid purchasing lawn seed that contains annual ryegrass as that is more of a weed species
The best seed choices are either:
- 100% of turf-type tall fescue
- Kentucky bluegrass
- A mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass
Mowing your lawn should begin as your lawn begins to grow again. We should mow our lawns to a height of at least 2” for Kentucky bluegrass and 2.5-3” for tall fescue. So, you can wait until the lawn gets to at least 3 inches before beginning the mowing routine in the spring. Remember, only mow off 1/3 of the grass each time that you mow. The lawn clippings may be left on the lawn or bagged and removed from the lawn, at your own discretion. If you return the clippings back to the turf, it will add up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of the growing season. This can account to one fertilizer application for your lawn over the growing season. Below is a picture of the 3 types of lawn mowers you can purchase.
As for the fertilization, this should also wait until later in the spring. It is recommended to add 1.0 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet between April 20th and May 10th. This fertilization should be done with a slow release fertilizer of your choosing. Fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass can be applied 4 more times throughout the growing season. To make this easier to remember, fertilizer treatments should be done on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. As for tall fescue lawns, these only need to be fertilized two times a year, in the early spring and late fall. We should avoid fertilization during the hot summer months to avoid possibly burning the grass blades. The spring fertilization can be done in combination with a pre-emergent herbicide that will combat crabgrass, foxtail, sandburs and goosegrass. Do not use crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides if you have overseeded in the spring until you have mowed your new seedlings at least 3 times. Dandelion and other winter annual weeds can be treated in combination with the Labor Day fertilizer treatment for best control.