11 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Knoxville

manual push lawn mower sitting in freshly cut grass

You know spring has arrived in Knoxville when dogwoods begin to bloom in the Heart of the Valley. Before you spend your sunny weekend at Dollywood, make sure to help your lawn spring into shape and recover from winter weather.

But how can you shape up your lawn? Follow these 11 spring lawn care tips.

1. Prep your lawn care equipment

It’s been a while since you last mowed your lawn, so the first thing you should do is make sure all your equipment is in top shape. You wouldn’t want to plan for a weekend of lawn revitalization to find out your mower won’t start. 

Prep your equipment for the spring:

  • Sharpen dull blades
  • Check the battery levels of your battery-powered tools
  • Check the gas levels of your gas-powered tools
  • Replace the spark plug, filter, and change the engine oil on your lawn mower

Why should I sharpen dull mower blades?

Just like you sharpen or replace the blades on your razor, you should sharpen or replace dull mower blades. Dull blades “irritate” grass, causing bruising and discoloration, like how dull razor blades can irritate your skin. 

How to tell if your blades are dull:

Do a test by cutting a patch of your lawn with the mower. Evaluate its condition: Does the grass look uneven? Do the grass blades appear torn? If the patch doesn’t look nice and even, it’s time to sharpen your blade.

DIY mowing prep: How to sharpen your own blade. 

  • Disconnect the spark plug.
  • Grab a wrench and use it to remove the bolt on the blade. 
  • Take off the blade.
  • Get a paint scraper and use it to remove the built-up gunk on the blade.
  • Put the blade in a vice and use a file to sharpen the edge.
  • Hang the blade on a nail to make sure it is relatively level. If one side leans too much, take off more metal to make the blade hang level.
  • Use an air compressor or paint scraper to remove built-up debris from underneath the deck.
  • Put the blade back on the mower.
  • Reconnect the spark plug.

Now, you should be all set to mow. 

Don’t forget to check other equipment like hedge trimmers, weed eaters, and leaf blowers for dull blades, dead batteries, low string, and low gas and oil levels. Most mowers need their oil to be changed after every 20-50 hours of use.

2. Rake up yard debris

Occasional snowstorms can knock down branches and litter your yard with debris. Do a thorough sweep of your backyard to remove any debris. Pick up fallen sticks, remove dead plants, and rake up fallen leaves. 

It’s important to keep your yard clean to prevent pests and diseases from taking over your lawn. It also gives you a blank canvas for mowing, starting a vegetable garden, or adding other elements to your backyard paradise. 

You can help your lawn wake up from the winter by raking the ground deeply. Combing through the lawn will not only remove smaller debris, like leaves and sticks, but will also help remove any thatch accumulated during the fall and winter months. 

3. Get your soil tested

Winter can be stressful for your lawn. Before treating your grass or digging out your garden, get your soil tested to see what the nutrient levels look like. Sometimes heavy precipitation can wash away vital nutrients that help your grass stay green and healthy. 

Soil tests help determine what elements are lacking or missing in your soil, and whether your soil is too acidic or too alkaline. 

What influences soil acidity?

  • Precipitation: Rain and snow carry acids down from the atmosphere into the ground. Carbonic, sulfuric, and nitric acids seep into your soil. Metropolitan areas tend to have higher levels of acidic rain, and Knoxville receives an average of 50 inches of rain per year. 
  • Fertilizer: Fertilizers can help balance acidity levels, but you need to be careful to choose the correct type. Be careful with fertilizers that contain ammonium. They will lower the soil’s pH level at first, but eventually, the levels of acidity will increase when it converts to nitrate after being added to the soil. 
  • Microbes: Microbes are beneficial to the environment as they help decompose organic matter. However, in your yard, this leads to carbon dioxide being stored in the soil and can increase your soil’s acidity. 

A general guideline is to keep your soil’s pH levels between 6.0 and 7.0. Soil that is too acidic can harm your grass’s roots and prevent grass and other plants from growing normally. 

How to test your soil:

Soil tests should be done annually, and can be done at any time of year. Generally, homeowners should get their soil tested before overseeding and fertilizing their lawn, or after the ground has thawed from winter. 

There are two testing options: 

  • Conducting an at-home test kit
  • Sending a sample to a local soil testing laboratory

DIY soil test kits are inexpensive and easy to use. At-home soil test kits inform you of your soil’s pH level and if the soil has any nutritional deficiencies. If you want a full soil analysis, it might be better to consult a soil testing lab. Contact the Knox County Extension office to learn more about inexpensive soil testing options. 

Pro Tip: After testing and amending your soil, be sure to wait at least a month before adding fertilizer. This will prevent any counteractivity between the amendments and the fertilizer. 

4. Fertilize, if needed

illustration showing how to spread fertilizer

After getting the results of your soil test, you’ll have a pretty good idea about which fertilizer or soil amendments will be best for your turf. But whether or not you should fertilize in the spring depends on your grass type.

As a general rule:

  • Fertilize warm-season grasses around mid-April
  • Fertilize cool-season grasses in the fall

Most fertilizers contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Nitrogen is key to grass growth and is the primary component in most fertilizers. Use the results from your soil test to determine whether you should purchase a fertilizer that is also high in potassium or phosphorus. Use slow-release fertilizers to avoid burning your grass.

If your soil test indicates that your soil really needs some help, you can apply a nitrogen fertilizer. If you have cool-season grasses, avoid applying fertilizer too early, which could cause rapid growth and damage your lawn. 

Pro Tip: Use a spreader to distribute fertilizer evenly instead of doing it by hand. 

5. Overseed warm-season grass

Keeping a luscious, green lawn in the transition zone isn’t an easy feat. If your turf is a warm-season grass type and looks like it can use a boost, go ahead and overseed your lawn in the spring. 

If your lawn has a few bare or thinning patches, check that a pest isn’t to blame before trying to overseed.

When should I plant grass?

  • Warm-season grass types (bermudagrass, buffalograss, and centipedegrass) should be planted between March and July
  • Cool-season grasses (tall fescue, creeping red fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass) should be seeded between September and mid-October

6. Dethatch, if necessary

illustration explaining thatch on grass

If you notice a lot of thatch buildup, and your rake isn’t putting much of a dent in it, you may want to go ahead and dethatch. 

What is thatch?

Thatch is a layer of dead grass and living shoots woven together. Thatch accumulates as grass grows faster than it can decompose. 

Is thatch bad?

Thatch is not necessarily harmful to your yard, but when there’s too much thatch it can lead to:

  • Pests and diseases
  • Delayed root growth
  • Lack of water and nutrients reaching the soil

When should I dethatch my lawn?

If you notice thatch exceeding ½ inch in thickness, make a plan to dethatch with a power rake, verticutter, or dethatcher. The best time of year for you to dethatch is when your grass is strongest and healthiest. 

  • For warm-season grasses, turf is healthiest between late spring and early summer.
  • For cool-season grass types, the best time to dethatch is in the late summer or early fall. 

7. Cure lawn diseases

When the ground is still wet from melting snow, and the air is getting warmer each day, the conditions are perfect for fungus and disease to wreak havoc on your lawn. Get a head start on these problems so you can have a healthy lawn throughout the spring and summer. 

Prevent lawn diseases by:

  • Planting disease-resistant, cool-season grass types
  • Watering your grass in the morning
  • Preventing soil from having excessive levels of nitrogen

In Knoxville, watch out for brown patch, snow mold, and dollar spot. 

Brown patch

What to look for:

You can identify brown patch if you see circular or irregular-shaped patches of brown or gray grass in your yard. They can range from just a few inches in size to large circles that are several feet wide. Symptoms will usually appear by late spring.

How to treat brown patch:

Buy a fungicide that includes triadimefon, myclobutanil, PCNB, maneb, thiophanate-methyl, or propiconazole.

Snow mold

What to look for:

There are two kinds of snow mold: pink snow mold and gray snow mold. Gray snow mold causes circular, bleached patches in your yard, reaching up to 2 feet wide. The grass will appear matted and may have a ring of white or gray mold around it. Pink snow mold is very similar but has a pinkish tint. 

How to treat snow mold:

Try to rake the mold away, then apply a fungicide. Fungicides with azoxystrobin, bacillus subtilis, and propiconazole will work for both gray and pink snow mold. Pink snow mold can also be treated by fungicides with thiophanate-methyl.

Dollar spot

What to look for:

Dollar spot gets its name from the silver-dollar-sized spots of dead grass it creates in your yard. This fungal disease creates lesions on blades of grass, weakening and killing them. Dollar spot can be identified by these straw-colored spots of dead grass and a white growth that appears on your grass in the morning. 

How to treat dollar spot:

Dollar spot can be resistant to some fungicides. Try a variety of fungicides to best treat the damaged areas. 

8. Apply pre-emergent herbicide

If weeds typically take over your lawn in the spring, you might want to apply a pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicides prevent clover, dandelions, crabgrass, and other weeds from emerging in the first place.

Why apply a pre-emergent herbicide?

They help:

  • Prevent weed root growth
  • Keep nutrients from going to the weeds
  • Block cell division and weed growth 

If you overseeded your lawn, you’ll want to wait at least three to four months before applying an herbicide. Herbicides will kill the new grass seed, as well as the weeds.

9. Banish pests

Springtime also brings the return of pesky pests like ants, wasps, termites, fleas, and moles. Thankfully, you can prevent them from taking over your yard by eliminating them with pesticides before they have a chance to reproduce. 

It’s best to use a pesticide that specifically targets whatever nuisance is targeting your backyard. Catch-all pesticides are less effective and are harmful to the environment. They can also be dangerous for other plants, pets, and children in your yard.

The best way to prevent pests from destroying your lawn is by keeping your lawn tidy and well-maintained. 

Pro Tip: Dump out any containers with standing water in your yard to prevent mosquitoes from gathering. 

10. Wait to aerate

Aeration can be stressful for your lawn, especially in the spring. Homeowners in Knoxville should wait until the summer or fall to aerate, depending on their grass type. 

What is aeration?

Aeration is a process where you create small holes in the ground to allow air, water, and nutrients to pass through compacted soil more easily. 

When should I aerate?

Typically, homeowners should aerate once a year. It’s best to aerate cool-season grass types in fall. Warm-season grasses should be aerated in summer. 

11. Landscape away

Now that your grass is squared away, the fun begins. Give your home a bit of personality with a stunning and creative landscape. Fill your yard with native plants, build a vegetable garden, or make it a destination for butterflies. Why not help reduce pollution in Knoxville by striving to make your landscape more sustainable

When’s the right time to start planting?

Most plants have slightly different planting timelines, but East Tennessee gardeners can typically start getting their hands dirty in late March or early April. 

You can tell if your soil is ready by squeezing a handful of soil and gauging the moisture levels. This is known as the “squeeze test.” If you squeeze a handful of soil and it’s dripping and clumpy, wait for it to dry. You want it to have a more crumbly texture before planting. 

Love your Knoxville lawn

Having a knock-out lawn in Knoxville isn’t impossible, it just takes some time and preparation. If you get your lawn going strong early in spring, you’ll have less to worry about in later months, giving you more time to stop and smell the roses. 

If you want a stunning landscape without the headache, reach out to a Knoxville Lawn Love pro to take care of all your lawn care and landscaping needs. 

Main Photo Credit: rseigler0 | Pixabay

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.