When you start to feel spring in the air, it’s time for evening walks down the waterfront and trips to the aquarium. It also means getting your landscape in tip-top shape for hosting summer cookouts and candlelit dinners.
After a harsh New Jersey winter, it can feel like you’ll never see green again, but our 8 tips for spring lawn care in Camden will help you shake off the snow. By following these tips, you’re making sure your grass has everything it needs to thrive in the coming year.
1. Prepare lawn equipment
Seeing your first bit of green on the ground after a season of snow gives anyone a burst of energy — hopefully enough energy to start getting your lawn equipment ready for the months ahead. The first hint of color means your grass is starting to grow, and your equipment will need a checkup after weeks of sitting in the garage.
Follow this checklist to get your weed trimmers, mowers, and leaf blowers in shape:
- Inspect tools for damage or rust
- Make sure your mower’s spark plug is in good condition
- Change the oil filter if necessary in your mower
- Refill the line in your weed eater
- Sharpen the blades on shears and mowers
- Test the charge on your batteries for electric tools
- Pick up gas for gas-powered tools
Why are sharp mower blades important?
If you’ve ever nicked yourself with a dull razor, you have an idea of how it feels for your grass to be mowed with a neglected blade. Dull blades can shred grass instead of slice it, and those injuries can make your lawn susceptible to disease.
Mower blades should be sharpened every 20-25 hours of use. If you mow your yard for about an hour a week, schedule your next sharpening session for the fall.
2. Perform seasonal cleanup
After the inevitable winter snowstorms, your yard is bound to have some leftover debris. It’s important to start with a clean slate before you take any other steps, so do a thorough sweep of your yard in early spring to rake up leaf litter and look for fallen sticks, branches, and dead plants.
Picking up debris isn’t just for aesthetics; pests often use it as a safe hideaway and it can injure your grass and trap moisture, leading to disease.
Now that your equipment is ready to go and you’ve cleared all the obstacles, it’s time to mow. Or is it? There’s no set date for when to mow your lawn for the first time in spring. Let your grass get to about 3 inches tall before you give it its first haircut of the year.
Once you start, mow weekly to keep your grass at its recommended height so you don’t have to chop off a bunch after weeks of growth (removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in one go will harm your grass).
We’ve listed the recommended mowing heights for some of the most common grasses in the Camden area.
|Grass type||Recommended mowing height|
|Tall fescue||3-4 inches|
|Fine fescue||2.5-3 inches|
|Perennial ryegrass||1.5-2.5 inches|
|Kentucky bluegrass||2.5-3.5 inches|
Speaking of debris, fallen branches aren’t your only concern: When grass grows too quickly for the dead leaves to decompose, a layer of dead and living material is woven together, creating thatch. Some thatch is good and can help your lawn maintain its resiliency, but too much causes problems.
What happens when you have too much thatch?
- It can block nutrients from reaching the soil.
- It can house insects.
- It traps moisture in your lawn, which can lead to fungal disease.
It’s a good idea to dethatch once a year, though some grasses (like bermudagrass) produce more thatch than others. If you want to know for sure if it’s time to dethatch, cut a small triangle of turf 6 inches deep. Squeeze the spongy layer above the soil and measure it; if it’s more than ½ inch thick, it’s time to dethatch.
How to dethatch:
- Wait to dethatch until right after you mow the grass.
- Mow the grass at half its recommended height.
- Use a dethatcher or a rake to pull up the thatch.
Pro Tip: Homeowners often think of dethatching and aeration together, but the best time to aerate cool-season grasses is in the fall.
5. Get rid of weeds
Everything starts to wake up in spring — including weeds. Springtime is when summer annual weeds germinate, making it the perfect time to apply pre-emergent herbicides.
Common spring weeds in Camden include:
If you’re curious about how pre-emergent herbicides work, they:
- Block weed root growth
- Prevent nutrients from reaching the weeds
- Stop cell division
Be sure to do this in early spring to stop weeds from sprouting. Crabgrass and other common annual weeds start germinating when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days in a row, so you’ll want to apply pre-emergent when soil temps are around 50 degrees.
How do you know what the soil temperature is? You can place a trusty meat thermometer 1-2 inches into the soil, or utilize an online resource like this one from GreenCast. Just type in your city and the dates you’re interested in.
6. Treat lawn diseases
With lawn disease, the best offense is a good defense. Following good cultural practices is the easiest way to fight disease, but there are steps you can take if fungal growth takes hold.
Ways to prevent turfgrass disease:
- Don’t scalp your lawn (mowing more than one-third of the blade in a single session)
- Keep your mower blade sharp
- Don’t overload your lawn with nitrogen
- Water your lawn before 10 a.m.
- Pick up grass clippings after mowing
We’ll cover the signs of and treatment for some of the most common lawn diseases in Camden, including dollar spot, red thread, leaf spot, and snow mold.
- Straw-colored spots of dead grass
- White growth on grass in the morning
How to treat dollar spot: There are multiple strings of this fungal disease and some are resistant to fungicide. Alternate between different fungicides to treat affected areas.
Signs of red thread:
- Early signs look like water-soaked patches of grass
- Irregular-sized, pinkish-red patches
- Infected blades die and turn tan
How to treat red thread: Most fungicides will manage a red thread problem, but good cultural practices will prevent it from coming back.
Signs of leaf spot:
- Areas of tan, off-color grass
- Small brown spots on grass blades at first that develop tan centers with brown or purple borders
How to treat leaf spot: Apply fungicides at the first signs of leaf spot. Use a fungicide containing iprodione, chlorothalonil, mancozeb, fludioxonil, azoxystrobin, or penthiopyrad.
Signs of snow mold:
- Circles of bleached patches up to 3 feet wide
- Grass looks matted with a white or gray ring of mold around it
- May have a pinkish tint if pink snow mold or a whitish tint if gray snow mold (diseases caused by different fungi)
How to treat snow mold: Rake the mold to break it up, then apply a fungicide. Fungicides with azoxystrobin, bacillus subtilis, and propiconazole will work best for pink snow mold, whereas cultural practices like raking work best for gray snow mold.
7. Apply pest control
If your grass is looking a little under the weather but you’re sure it’s not a fungal disease, you might have a pest issue. Cutworms, sod webworms, chinch bugs, and grubs are common enemies of New Jersey lawns.
Signs of common New Jersey pests:
- Chinch bugs
- Patches of dead grass that get bigger and bigger
- Small circles of brown spots along with big areas of turf sheared to the ground
- Yellowing or brown grass
- Grass that pulls up easily
- Spongy-feeling soil
- Sod webworms
- Small, irregular-sized patches of brown grass stripped to the ground
To evict insects, pesticide is king. Use a pesticide that’s targeted toward the specific insect you’re dealing with, though, because broad-spectrum sprays aren’t as effective and can damage the environment (and potentially harm pets and children) in the process.
If you want to try a chemical-free method, try beneficial nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that attack certain insects (different varieties attack different insects) and interrupt their life cycle. You can order them online or get them from garden centers and big box stores. The thought of thousands of tiny worms may freak you out, but they’re totally harmless to mammals and will disappear once their food source is gone.
Pests mostly make their home in unhealthy lawns. When they’re shopping for a home, they look for:
- Places to hide, like forgotten debris
- Moist environments and standing water
- Overgrown grass
- Patches of lawn that have died from thirst or lack of fertilization
8. Wait to water
The spring air might have you motivated to get everything done, but hold off on watering until it’s fully woken up from its winter slumber. When you water your lawn too early in the spring, it can result in shallow root growth and standing water. Wait for your grass to ask you for water.
How to know your grass is ready to water:
- Wilting or folding leaves
- Bluish-gray color
- Less rebound — when you walk on your lawn, your footprints stay
Established lawns in Camden generally need 1-2 inches of water per week. Assess your watering schedule regularly with the screwdriver test. Push a screwdriver down into the ground: If it goes in easily, the soil doesn’t need water, but if it requires effort, the soil is dry and it’s time to water.
How do you know how much water your sprinkler system emits? Try the tuna can test.
- Place six empty tuna cans (or cans of the same size) in different areas of your lawn within range of your sprinkler’s spray.
- Run your system for 15 minutes.
- Using a ruler, measure the depth of the water in the cans. Calculate the average of the measurements by adding them together and dividing by six.
- Use the table below to figure out how many minutes you should set your system to run per week.
|Average water depth after 15 minutes||Total minutes needed to water 1 inch per week|
Get help from a pro
Whether you feel like a landscaping pro yourself or just a homeowner trying to maintain your curb appeal, you don’t need to do it all yourself. Maybe you don’t want to book your weekends with lawn care tasks. A Lawn Love landscaping team can take care of all your spring lawn care needs, including cleanup, fertilizing, and maintenance.
Main Photo Credit: NickyPe | Pixabay