11 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Memphis

Red lawn mower mowing the yard with yellow flowers everywhere

Spring is an excellent time to get out and explore the best Memphis festivals, including the May International Festival, Overton Square Crawfish Festival, and the Bacon & Bourbon Festival. Spring is some of the best weather the Home of Blues has to offer, with temps in the mid-60s to lower 70s.

The beautiful weather also will inspire you to roll up your sleeves and do some serious yard work. In spring, the name of the game is preparation. If you follow these 11 spring lawn care tips, you’re well on your way to having a yard to admire and enjoy year-round.

  1. Get your lawn care equipment ready
  2. Nip lawn disease in the bud
  3. Apply pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides
  4. Dethatch annually
  5. Aerate, depending on your grass type
  6. Overseed for a thick lawn
  7. Test your soil
  8. Fertilize growing grass
  9. Water wisely
  10. Know when and how often to mow
  11. Take care of pests now

1. Get your lawn care equipment ready 

After having all your lawn equipment stored away for months, you need to take the time to get it ready for peak season. Right before spring begins, you should make sure your tools are in working condition. 

To get your equipment ready for the spring, follow these steps:

  • Stock up on gas for machines, such as lawn mowers and weed eaters.
  • Charge your battery-operated tools and look for signs of corrosion.
  • Sharpen the blades of your lawn mower.
  • Check your lawn mower’s spark plugs and oil filters.
  • Feed plenty of fresh line into your weed eater.

2. Nip lawn disease in the bud

yellow diseased area of a patch of grass
Scot Nelson | Flickr | CC0 1.0

Spring can bring with it a host of lawn diseases. Between the harsh, snowy winter and the gradual warming weather, your lawn can be susceptible to disease in the spring. If you catch these diseases early, you can ensure that your lush lawn will look healthy the rest of the season.

Here are a few common diseases you might see in your Memphis lawn:

Snow mold

What to look for:

  • After a wet winter, watch for any residual, slimy leaf tissue in your yard.
  • White or pink patches (pink snow mold) or grey 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 (organic matter around the base of the grass).
  • If you’ve caught it early enough, use a fungicide to stop it in its tracks.
  • Overseed bare spots, if needed.

Brown patch

What to look for:

  • Dark, circle-shaped patches of dead grass that grow outward over time.
  • Wilting grass that slowly fades in color.

How to treat brown patch:

  • Treat it with a fungicide that contains chlorothalonil.
  • Don’t over fertilize.
  • Aerate and dethatch your lawn.
  • Water your lawn early in the morning so the water does not saturate the soil.

Dollar spot

What to look for:

  • Patches of white or brown grass no bigger than a half-dollar.
  • Cobweb-type growth between individual blades of grass.
  • Yellowish-green blotches on grass blades.

How to treat dollar spots:

  • Use nitrogen- and potassium-rich fertilizers.
  • Apply more water less frequently in the very early morning hours.

3. Apply pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides

Just like the grass loves to grow with the warmer temperatures and springtime showers, so do weeds. 

What can you do to control the weeds in your Memphis yard?

Early spring is the best time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicides kill weeds before they sprout. You should use pre-emergent herbicides before soil temperatures reach 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have already noticed signs of weeds on your lawn, it’s time to invest in a post-emergent herbicide. Post-emergent herbicides kill weeds that have already invaded your turfgrass. 

Post-emergent herbicides can be selective or nonselective. Selective herbicides will list on their labels what specific weeds they target. Nonselective herbicides will kill almost all plant material with which they come into contact. A nonselective herbicide works best for weeds growing in places that shouldn’t host any plants at all, such as cracks in your driveway.

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. Likewise, annual warm-season weeds won’t survive fall or winter. 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 Memphis:

  • Crabgrass
  • Poa annua (annual bluegrass)
  • Goosegrass
  • Dandelion

4. Dethatch annually 

Graphic explaining thatch on grass

What is dethatching? Dethatching is the removal of thatch (grass clippings, leaves, and other organic plant matter) from above the surface of the soil. Although a mild amount of thatch can support the grass and retain water and important nutrients, too much thatch can suffocate your lawn and make it easier for pests to invade your lawn.

Whenever you have more than a half-inch of thatch, consider using a rake or a dethatcher to remove the excess plant matter. A rake works just fine, but if you have a thick layer of thatch, it would be wise to invest in a special tool such as a dethatcher.

Memphis is located in the transition zone, which means both warm-season and cool-season grasses can thrive here. If you have a warm-season grass type (bermudagrass, zoysia, or centipede), you won’t have to dethatch until late spring through early summer. If you have cool-season grass  (Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue) you should dethatch in early spring or early fall.

5. Aerate, depending on your grass type

Aeration is the process of creating better airflow in your soil to make it easier for your grass’s roots to access water and important nutrients. Aeration allows water and nutrients direct access to your turfgrass and the roots.

The best time for aeration is during the grass’s growing season, just like with dethatching. Ideally, aerate your cool-season grass in early spring or early fall. Wait to aerate your warm-season grass until late spring or early summer.

6. Overseed for a thick lawn

infographic showing the best time for overseeding on the US map,

Are there bare or brown spots in your turf? Have you had a lot of foot traffic in your yard? To make your lawn healthy and lush, consider overseeding. Overseeding is great for lawns with a high volume of foot traffic – you know, backyard soccer games, fetch with Fido, and backyard parties.

What is overseeding? Overseeding is the spreading of grass seed on an established lawn to fill in any “cracks” in your lawn and ensure thick turf growth.

Here are the steps to overseeding:

  1. Mow your grass to an average height of 1 to 1.5 inches.
  2. Aerate your lawn to remove soil compaction, giving your grass’s roots plenty of growing room.
  3. Use a slice-seeder (a special tool that has “teeth” able to push the grass seed deep into the soil below).
  4. Fertilize with fresh compost.
  5. Perform regular lawn maintenance and keep foot traffic down for a couple of days.

7. Test your soil

To know the health of your soil and lawn, it’s important to take regular soil tests. A soil test lets you know which nutrients your soil has, but more importantly, it lets you know what your soil lacks.

You should always test your soil before adding fertilizer. You can’t add the right fertilizer if you don’t know what your soil needs. 

You can get a basic DIY soil testing kit or for a more detailed analysis, send a sample to The University of Tennessee Soil Testing Laboratory.

One to look out for when reading the results of a soil test is acidity. 

What influences soil acidity?

  • Rain: Rain carries nitric, carbonic, and sulfuric acid that it has absorbed in the atmosphere down to Earth. More rain, more acidity.
  • Fertilizer: If your fertilizer contains ammonium, it will lower your soil’s pH level, but it will eventually increase levels of acidity as it converts to nitrate after it’s added to the soil. 
  • Microbes: As microbes decompose organic matter, they release acidic byproducts back into the soil.

Memphis lawns are often too alkaline (they have an acidity that is too low). To remedy this, increase the application of ammonium-based fertilizer.

8. Fertilize growing grass

new grass sprouting in dark dirt
Timo Newton-Syms | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Fertilizing can replenish your lawn with the basic nutrients it lacks. 

In Memphis, you should fertilize your lawn twice a year, including once in the spring so that it can reach maximum growth in the summer. A good time to fertilize is after overseeding, once you’ve noticed new growth.

You can use organic or synthetic fertilizer. Plant parts and animal residue compose the bulk of organic fertilizers, whereas synthetic fertilizer uses man-made inorganic compounds such as petroleum byproducts. Synthetic fertilizer is lighter, meaning you can use less of it for the same effectiveness.

How to fertilize your lawn? It’s easy: Use a spreader. A tool such as a spreader lessens the workload on you and evenly distributes the fertilizer.

9. Water wisely

You shouldn’t water your lawn in spring until you notice signs that your grass needs water. Your soil in early spring may still have moisture from the winter, so it would be inefficient to water until your grass. If you are getting a lot of rain in the spring, you won’t need to water.

Signs of a dry lawn:

  • Wilting grass
  • Persistent footprints
  • Greyish-blue colored grass

You can use a screwdriver to test your soil’s moisture. If you push the pointy end of the screwdriver into the soil and it goes right in, your soil is moist. If you have to work hard to drive the screwdriver in, then your soil is too dry.

Once you start watering your yard, you should water no more than 1 inch per week for the remainder of spring. Most importantly, be sure to water early in the morning (between 2-8 a.m.) so the water does not evaporate before the roots can absorb it.

Deep, infrequent watering is ideal so the grass’s roots can absorb the water. If you water twice a week, you are giving your lawn the right amount of time to soak up the water without risking dehydration. 

10. Know when and how often to mow

When should you start to mow your lawn? We advise waiting until your grass is at least 2.5 to 3 inches tall. Check out the chart below for more information.

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 wet, dewy grass; it’s too brittle.
  • You can let some of the clippings stick around to act as thatch, but too many clippings will deprive your yard of sunlight and host a variety of fungal threats.

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 Memphis grasses. 

Grass typeMowing height
Bermuda1 ½ – 2 ½ inches
Zoysia2 – 3 inches
Centipede1 ½ – 2 inches
Tall fescue2 – 3 inches

11. Take care of pests now

Now is the time to proactively eliminate any pests that might be invading your yard. You can kill adult pests before they have the chance to reproduce or target larvae within the root systems.

Keep an eye out for these common Memphis springtime pests:

  • Moles
  • Fleas
  • Termites
  • Ants
  • Wasps

If you regularly maintain your lawn, you will have an easier time dealing with pests. If you ignore your yard, pests can quickly get out of hand.

If you are considering pesticides, be sure to choose a solution for that specific pest. Catch-all pesticides can be dangerous to more than just bugs, including plants, pets, and even children.

Spring lawn care pays off year-round 

That beautiful, luscious summertime lawn will be the envy of all your neighbors if you can put in the work while the weather is still mild in spring. All it takes is some preparation and following those simple steps to get your lawn in winning condition.

If getting the lawn you always dreamed of sounds impossible, consider contacting a Memphis lawn care professional who can make your dreams come true.

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

Josh Camacho

Josh Camacho has been working in landscaping in the American Southeast for over 10 years. His experience with outdoor event planning enables him to spot foot traffic considerations from miles away.