Come springtime, Columbus residents are eager to get outside and enjoy everything in bloom at the city’s Metro Parks and Franklin Park Conservatory. Afterward, you may come home inspired to transform your own yard.
Just apply these 11 spring lawn care tips and you will help your Columbus yard to thrive all year long:
- Nip lawn disease in the bud
- Apply pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides
- Don’t wait to aerate
- Dethatch at least annually
- Overseed for a thick lawn
- Test your soil
- Fertilize growing grass
- Water wisely
- Know when and how often to mow
- Take care of pests now
- Get your lawn care equipment ready
1. Nip lawn disease in the bud
After the harsh winter, your lawn is vulnerable to disease. The warmer spring weather invites diseases such as snow mold, which can damage an otherwise beautiful lawn. Nip lawn diseases in the bud at the beginning of spring so that new growth starts with a clean slate.
Here are a few diseases that can plague Columbus lawns:
What to look for:
- If you had a wet and mild winter, keep an eye out for patches of slimy leaf tissue throughout your yard.
- White or pink patches (pink snow mold) or gray patches (grey snow mold)
How to treat snow mold:
- Gently rake the affected area to loosen the grass and help it aerate.
- Remove thick thatch.
- Ideally, you want to use a fungicide before you notice snow mold (before the end of winter).
- Overseed bare spots, if needed.
What to look for:
- Irregular-shaped pinkish-red patches of grass 2 inches to 3 feet wide dotted throughout your property
- Blades of grass that look ragged and dying
- Pinkish-colored gel spread across the grass blades
How to treat red thread:
- Apply a nitrogen fertilizer to your grass
- Check phosphorus levels
- Do not overwater; if needed, water between 2-8 a.m.
What to look for:
- Brown, bulls-eye specks of damage and decay on individual blades of grass (you’re going to need a magnifying glass to catch it early).
- Random brown blotches
How to treat leaf spots:
- Raise your mowing height to avoid exposing sensitive parts of the grass
- Mow more frequently to avoid wear and tear
- Avoid overwatering
2. Apply pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides
When the weather warms, weeds love to sprout. So, here are a couple of simple ways you can control the weeds in your Columbus yard:
In March and early April, invest in post-emergent herbicide after you start to see cool-season weeds on your lawn. Keep in mind that this solution targets only weeds that have already germinated; in other words, this is not a preventative solution.
If you want to prevent weeds before they become a problem, apply a pre-emergent herbicide in late spring and early summer. Those warm-season weeds won’t stand a chance against a solid pre-emergent herbicide.
It is also important to keep in mind the difference between annual and perennial weeds.
Annual cool-season weeds won’t stick around for the warmer months of spring and summer. On the other hand, perennial weeds are here for the long haul. You will need to invest in pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicides to tackle these tough weeds.
Common springtime weeds in Columbus include:
- White clover
- Wild violets
3. Don’t wait to aerate
You don’t want to aerate too late in spring. Aeration, or aerification, is the process of poking holes in the soil to allow roots easier access to necessary nutrients.
In springtime, this process creates the perfect breeding ground for eager weeds. Because springtime aeration is so important for this early growth, you need to find a compromise.
We recommend aerating in early to mid-March so your grass can grow but weeds can’t germinate.
4. Dethatch annually
What is dethatching? Dethatching is the removal of thatch (grass clippings, leaves, and other plant matter) from above the surface of the soil.
Although a moderate amount of thatch can cushion the grass and retain important nutrients, too much thatch can suffocate your lawn and host a number of pests.
Whenever you have more than an inch of thatch, consider using a rake or a dethatcher to remove the excess plant matter. You may not need to dethatch more than once a year.
In Columbus, you’ll want to dethatch your cool-season grass in April or September, when the grass is actively growing in the cooler air.
5. Overseed for a thick lawn
Are there bare spots in your turf? Have you had a lot of foot traffic in your yard? To make your lawn healthy and lush, consider overseeding.
What is overseeding? Overseeding is spreading more grass seed to fill in bare spots and ensure maximum turf growth.
Before you overseed you will want to mow your grass to an average height of 1 to 1.5 inches. Then, you’ll aerate your lawn to remove soil compaction and give your grass’s roots plenty of room to grow.
Next, use a slice-seeder — a special tool with sharp “teeth” to push the seed deep into the soil — to rapidly distribute the grass seed. After applying fresh compost to the newly-seeded lawn, you can perform regular lawn maintenance, being sure to limit foot traffic for a little while.
6. Test your soil
Columbus green thumbs are familiar with the high quality of the local soil, but having the exact specifications of your soil is important. A soil test can let you know whether your soil is too acidic, alkaline, or otherwise lacking in those key nutrients responsible for beautiful, healthy growth.
Right before fertilizing your lawn in spring is an ideal time for a soil test.
What influences soil acidity?
- Rain: Rain carries nitric, carbonic, and sulfuric acid that it has absorbed in the atmosphere coming down to earth. These levels can be intensified in metropolitan areas.
- Fertilizer: If your fertilizer contains ammonium, it will lower your soil’s pH level but it will increase levels of acidity as it converts to nitrate once added to the soil.
- Microbes: Microbes help decompose organic matter; this leads to more carbon dioxide in the soil, causing further acidity.
The best pH range for your soil is between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too acidic, it can create a difficult environment and damage plant roots.
7. Fertilize growing grass
For Columbus lawns, the best time to fertilize cool-season grass is late fall. But if you think your spring lawn needs a boost, you can apply it. Don’t fertilize your grass if it isn’t growing. Fertilizing too early is a waste of time, money, and energy.
There are two types of fertilizer: organic and synthetic.
- Organic fertilizer consists of plant parts and animal residue.
- Synthetic fertilizer is derived from man-made compounds such as byproducts from petroleum.
Organic fertilizer is usually bulkier than synthetic fertilizer; this means you’ll have to use more pounds of organic fertilizer than the synthetic variant to deliver the same amount of nutrients to your lawn.
How to fertilize your lawn? It’s easy: Use a spreader. There’s no reason to get your hands dirty (and boy, do we mean dirty) when a tool can do all the work for you. Another benefit of using a spreader is that you don’t have to worry about missing a spot because it evenly distributes the fertilizer.
8. Water wisely
Watering is similar to fertilization: You shouldn’t water until you notice signs of grass growth. The early spring soil still likely retains moisture from winter.
Of course, if your grass is showing signs of wilting or stress, you’ll want to water. Alternatively, if you are getting a lot of rain in the spring, you won’t need to water.
Once you start watering your yard, you should water no more than 1 inch per week for the remainder of spring.
It may not be obvious, but overwatering can be just as dangerous as under-watering.
Overwatering can cause shallow root growth and invite problems such as pests, fungi, and excessive thatch, all while leaking harmful substances such as fertilizers and pesticides into the groundwater.
Don’t think your lawn is getting enough water? Keep an eye out for:
- Wilting grass
- Persistent footprints
- Graying or tanning grass
How to check your soil’s moisture level: Grab a screwdriver. Just push the pointy end into the soil. No resistance means the soil is moist, but your soil is probably too dry if you had to break a sweat.
9. Know when and how often to mow
When should you start to mow your lawn? We advise waiting until your grass is at least 2 inches tall. A little taller is fine, too, but definitely not any shorter.
How tall should you let your grass grow between mows? That depends on the type of grass. This table shows the recommended cutting heights for the most common Columbus grasses.
|3 – 3 ½ inches
|2 ½ inches
|2 ½ – 3 ½ inches
|2 ½ inches
Once you start cutting the grass, follow these few rules for a healthy lawn:
- Never cut more than one-third the length of the grass blade in a single mowing.
- Don’t mow when the grass is wet, such as early in the morning. Why? Your grass is brittle when it’s wet or damp.
- Don’t let grass clippings pile up on your yard. If the clippings pile up too high, you’ll create a thick layer of thatch. Some clippings are good and act as fertilizer, but you don’t want a canopy to form over your lawn and starve it of sunlight.
Note: Don’t look at weather patterns as a mowing guide (e.g., thinking you should mow more because of the extra rain). Mowing advice based strictly on the weather can be too confusing and is often unreliable. Instead, stick to mowing whenever the grass is at least 2 inches tall.
10. Take care of pests now
Eliminate yard pest problems in the spring to save yourself time and energy throughout the year. This means killing adult pests before they reproduce or getting rid of incubating larvae.
Keep an eye out for these common Columbus springtime pests:
- Chinch bugs
You may see most of these pests in summer, but you need to treat them in spring before they become a real problem.
If you regularly maintain your lawn, you will have an easier time dealing with pests. If you ignore your yard, pests can get out of control.
Note: If you are considering pesticide, be sure to choose a solution for that specific pest. Catch-all pesticides can be dangerous to more than just bugs.
11. Get your lawn care equipment ready
Before the grass begins to grow in spring is the best time to make sure your tools are in working condition. While everyone else is scrambling to get their lawn mower, string trimmers, and edgers ready for summer, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
To get your lawn equipment ready for spring, follow these steps:
- Stock up on gas for tools such as gas-powered lawn mowers.
- Check — and charge — battery-operated tools sitting in your garage.
- Sharpen your lawn mower blades.
- Check your mower’s spark plugs and oil filters.
- Give your weed eater plenty of fresh line.
Spring lawn care pays off year-round. So, if you want a beautiful, lush lawn for summer that all your neighbors will envy, you have to put in the work come spring.
If getting the lawn you always dreamed of sounds impossible, hire a Columbus lawn care pro who can make your lush green grass dreams come true.