In North Texas, we have four distinct seasons, with temps in the summer reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter dipping into the teens. For Cowtown homeowners, the extreme summers and winters make maintaining a green lawn a challenge. But with these 11 spring lawn care tips for Fort Worth, you can give your cool- or warm-season lawn just what it needs to survive summer and buckle down for winter.
Our 11 spring lawn care tips for Fort Worth:
- Rake the yard
- Dethatch warm-season turf
- Delay aeration
- Test your soil
- Overseed warm-season turf
- Apply pre-emergent herbicide
- Spread mulch
- Clean the gutters
- Run the lawn mower
- Turn on the irrigation system
1. Rake the yard
Yard work isn’t always a priority over winter. After all, who wants to do winter yard work when you can enjoy countless afternoons at Panther Island Ice?
After a long winter dormancy (and possibly a bit of neglect), your turf could use a bit of TLC in spring. So grab the rake and give your lawn a thorough comb. Gather up the broken twigs, dry leaves, fallen acorns, and any other winter debris littered across the yard.
You can collect the big branches with your hands, but a rake is an excellent tool for gathering the hard-to-see debris that had months to nestle deep in the grass.
Raking is also an excellent way to prevent thatch buildup.
What is thatch? Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter (such as rhizomes and dead grass blades) that accumulates between the soil and the grass blades. Microorganisms help break down organic matter. But when the thatch forms faster than it can decompose, that’s when thatch becomes too thick.
A thick layer of thatch is not healthy for your turf. Too much thatch can:
- Encourage pests and disease (like Fort’s Worth pesky white grubs and chinch bugs)
- Create poor drainage
- Block nutrients, water, and oxygen from reaching the root system
- Prevent herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers from working effectively
2. Dethatch warm-season turf
A thatch layer less than ½ inch thick is healthy for your lawn. It helps retain moisture in the soil and acts as mulch for your grass. But a thatch layer that’s ½ inch thick or more should be removed.
Thatch removal is an invasive treatment and can be tough on grass. You’ll want to dethatch your turf during its active growing season when it’s at its healthiest. That means dethatching your warm-season turf late spring through early summer and your cool-season turf in autumn.
3. Delay aeration
As you’re dethatching your warm-season grass this spring, it might become tempting to aerate the lawn, too. Why not get two chores done at once?
But here’s the thing: Spring is not an ideal time to aerate. Instead, aerate your warm-season turf in summer and your cool-season turf in fall. Similar to dethatching, aeration is tough on grass and is best performed during the turf’s peak growing season.
What is aeration? Aeration is the process of relieving soil compaction by removing cylindrical plugs of soil from the ground. Removing the soil creates small holes in the ground, which allow water, nutrients, and oxygen to reach the turf’s roots.
4. Test your soil
Test your soil before making any significant changes to your lawn, such as adding fertilizer or soil amendments. You might think sprinkling some fertilizer will do your grass good, but it could actually harm your grass if you’re not careful.
A soil test can reveal:
- Nutrient deficiencies in the soil
- The soil’s salt levels
- pH imbalances
- Soil factors that might be hindering your turf’s growth
- The right fertilizers and soil amendments you can add to enhance the soil and ensure healthy turf growth
The three most common nutrients your soil needs are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Most fertilizers contain a ratio of these three nutrients, and your soil test will reveal the best ratio for your turf.
Fertilizers often present the ratio in the order N-P-K. For instance, a fertilizer package displaying 24-25-4 means it contains 24% nitrogen, 25% phosphorus, and 4% potassium.
The best grasses for Fort Worth include warm-season and cool-season grasses. And your fertilizer routine is going to look a little different depending on whether you have a warm- or cool-season lawn.
Before you start spreading fertilizer willy-nilly, always refer to your soil test results to determine the best fertilizer for your lawn.
For warm-season grass types, The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommends spreading the first nitrogen fertilizer application after the grass has greened up and has been mowed at least two or three times. For many Texas homeowners, fertilizer applications occur about six weeks after the expected date of the last spring frost.
Fort Worth’s last spring frost date typically occurs in late March. Keep in mind that frost dates are never written in stone. You might have the last frost as early as February 21st or as late as April 1st in Fort Worth.
For cool-season grass types, such as tall fescue, the best time to apply a majority of nitrogen fertilizer is in fall. According to the Purdue Extension, fertilizing cool-season turf in fall:
- Promotes summer recovery
- Enhances shoot density
- Maximizes green color
- Prepares the turf for winter
- Does all of the above without a growth surge
Pro Tip: Fertilizing cool-season turf from March through April might not be necessary if you fertilized the previous fall. But if your turf needs nutrients in spring, avoid fertilizing in early spring.
Here’s why: Cool-season turf has a flush of shoot growth in spring. Applying fertilizer before this growth is over can cause the turf to grow too fast. When rapid growth occurs, the turf is exhausted of its nutrients and becomes more vulnerable to summer stress. Apply fertilizer only when the flush is over (usually in late spring) and use a slow-release fertilizer to minimize excessive growth.
6. Overseed warm-season turf
The secret to achieving a thick, carpeted yard is planting new grass seed before patches and thinning occur, not after. In other words, routine overseeding keeps the bare spots away.
Spring isn’t an ideal time to overseed cool-season turf, like tall fescue. Instead, overseed your cool-season lawns in September, but no later than mid-October.
The best time to overseed warm-season lawns is spring through early summer.
Pro Tip: Before you overseed, dethatch or aerate the lawn to expose the grass seed to more soil. The more soil your grass seed is exposed to, the greater its chances are of taking root.
|Grass Type||Best Time to Plant|
|Tall Fescue (Cool-Season)||September through Mid-October|
|Fine Fescue (Cool-Season)||September through Mid-October|
|Kentucky Bluegrass (Cool-Season)||September through Mid-October|
|Perennial Ryegrass (Cool-Season)||September through Mid-October|
|Bermudagrass (Warm-Season)||March through July|
|Zoysiagrass (Warm-Season)||March through July|
|Centipedegrass (Warm-Season)||March through July|
7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide
Do weeds continue to be a problem in your lawn? Consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide, a chemical barrier that stops those pesky weeds from growing. If you can, identify the weeds growing in your Texas lawn so that you can find an herbicide that targets the specific species.
What are post-emergent herbicides? Unlike pre-emergent herbicides, which target weeds before they’ve grown, post-emergent herbicides kill established weeds.
A note about herbicides: It’s not a good idea to apply herbicide and overseed at the same time. That’s because herbicide can prevent grass seeds from growing (similarly to how it halts weed growth). You may need to wait several weeks until you can overseed after an herbicide application, or in some cases, you may have to wait to overseed until a later season.
Before you overseed the lawn or apply herbicide, evaluate which task is more important for your lawn that season.
Always read and follow the instructions displayed on the herbicide product label.
8. Spread mulch
Your front yard is more than a carpet of turfgrass –– it’s got flower beds to show off, too. Give your flower beds an added dose of health and beauty with a fresh layer of mulch this spring.
You can add two main types of mulches to your garden beds: Inorganic and organic mulches. Organic mulches, such as wood chips and shredded bark, are plant-based materials. Inorganic mulches, such as rocks and gravel, are not plant-based materials.
There are many advantages to applying mulch to your soil. Mulch:
- Reduces soil erosion
- Keeps down soil temperature
- Retains moisture in the soil
- Adds beauty and texture to the landscape
- Minimizes weed growth
- Adds nutrients to the soil (if organic)
Does your soil still have an old layer of organic mulch? Before adding any new mulch, fluff up the old mulch with a rake to prevent it from matting. Your soil only needs about 2 inches of mulch, so if your old mulch is still about 2 inches deep, no need to add more.
9. Clean the gutters
While you’re outdoors boosting your lawn’s curb appeal, why not finally clean those gutters? They’re bound to be full of old winter debris. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, consider hiring a pro to get the job done for you.
Is cleaning your gutters that important? Yes! Neglecting clogged gutters can:
- Attract pests and small animals
- Cause water damage to your home
- Damage your roof
- Lower curb appeal
10. Run the lawn mower
Lawn mowing is an essential part of a healthy lawn care routine. Let your grass grow too long, and it becomes a breeding ground for pests and disease. As soon as your spring grass reaches an ideal cutting height, it’s time to bring out the mower.
How much should I mow? It depends on the type of grass you have. Some grasses can withstand shorter heights than others. Never cut off more than ⅓ of the grass’s height at a time; otherwise, you might compromise your lawn’s health. For example, if your grass is 3 inches tall, do not cut off more than 1 inch during a single mow.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture recommends the following mowing heights for different turfs:
|Grass Type||Recommended Mowing Height (Inches)|
|Hybrid Bermudagrass||0.5 to 1.5|
|Zoysiagrass||0.75 to 2.5|
|Common Bermudagrass||1.5 to 2.5|
|Centipedegrass||1.5 to 2.0|
|Kentucky Bluegrass||2.5 to 3.5|
|St. Augustinegrass||2.5 to 4.0|
|Tall Fescue||2.5 to 4.0|
11. Turn on the irrigation system
If you followed our fall lawn care checklist for Fort Worth, we hope you remembered to winterize your sprinklers (otherwise, you probably had a headache dealing with broken pipes). Spring is the time to finally get the irrigation system up and running again so your lawn can quench its thirst.
How much to water: Most lawns need about 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. Your lawn’s water needs will vary depending on its grass type, precipitation levels, and weather conditions.
- Early morning is the best time to water the lawn. Avoid watering after 10 a.m. as the hot sun will evaporate the water and dry up the soil.
- Evenings are not a good time to water, even with the sun going down. Water droplets will cling to the grass blades at night, creating an attractive environment for pests and disease.
- Water infrequently and for long periods to promote a deep, healthy root system.
- Save water and time with an automatic sprinkler system. Instead of relying on your guesswork, an automatic irrigation system can precisely calculate how much water your turf needs. It will even turn on and off automatically to begin its watering chores.
Give your Fort Worth lawn just the right amount of care
Spring lawn care ensures your grass has the strength to survive the summer and then quickly recover in autumn for the winter rodeo. In other words, spring lawn care isn’t a task you want to skip.
But remember, you don’t want to go too overboard with spring tasks. For instance, if you’re growing cool-season grass, like tall fescue, it’s best to delay thatch removal and aeration until fall. And you don’t want to shower your warm-season or cool-season grasses with fertilizer without performing a soil test first.
Don’t have time to mow the lawn? Don’t know how to operate a dethatcher? Hire a local Fort Worth lawn care pro to take care of your spring checklist for you. After all, wouldn’t you rather take the kids to the Fort Worth Zoo than push a lawn mower all afternoon? Leave it to the pros, and go have some well-deserved fun.
Main Photo Credit: Dvortygirl | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0