Achieving a green lawn in the transition zone can be a challenge for many Music City homeowners. Our boiling summers are as hot as a plateful of Nashville hot chicken, so it can be stressful on our turfgrass. Our freezing winters are no picnic either. Whether you’re growing warm- or cool-season grass, our 11 spring lawn care tips for Nashville will help your turf survive both weather extremes.
But don’t get too carried away with your spring chores –– it’s best you leave some lawn treatments for fall. Let’s take a closer look at which tasks best prepare your lawn for summer and which tasks can wait. So turn on some tunes, and let’s get started!
Here is our list of 11 spring lawn care tips for Nashville:
- Rake deeply
- To dethatch or not to dethatch?
- Delay aeration
- Overseed warm-season turf
- Test your soil
- Fertilize, but only if necessary
- Apply fresh mulch
- Apply pre-emergent herbicide
- Run the lawn mower
- Clean the gutters
- Turn on the irrigation system
1. Rake deeply
As temperatures begin to rise and the ground begins to thaw, your turf is waking up from winter dormancy. Grab your rake and give the lawn a deep comb to freshen up the turf. Broken twigs, fallen acorns, dry leaves –– let’s rake up all that debris so that your lawn has a chance to shine.
Raking deeply also helps remove any thatch that developed over the winter.
What is thatch? Thatch is the layer of dead and living organic matter that accumulates between the grass and soil. Too much thatch can:
- Compromise your turf’s health
- Attract pests and disease
- Encourage poor drainage
- Block nutrients, water, and oxygen from reaching the root system
2. To dethatch or not to dethatch?
Sometimes raking isn’t enough to remove thatch, especially if you’re dealing with a thick layer.
Once a thatch layer reaches ½-inch thick or more, you should dethatch the lawn with a dethatcher, power rake, or verticutter.
When to dethatch: The best time to dethatch your turf is during its active growing season. Dethatching is an invasive treatment, so you want to dethatch when the turf is its healthiest.
- That means dethatching warm-season turfs, such as centipedegrass and bermudagrass, late spring through early summer.
- For those cool-season turfs, it’s best to dethatch in fall when the turf is already in recovery mode after a stressful summer and is in its active growing season.
3. Delay aeration
Similar to removing thatch, aeration can be tough on your grass. Aeration is the process of relieving compact soil by creating small holes in the ground. Compact soil can block oxygen, water, and nutrients from reaching your turf’s root system, so it’s essential to perform aeration at least once a year.
However, spring isn’t the best time to start poking holes in the lawn. You want to aerate your lawn during its active growth season. Aerate your warm-season turf in summer and your cool-season turf in fall.
4. Overseed warm-season turf
Is your turf grass thinning or developing unattractive patches? Give your lawn a boost of new growth this spring by planting grass seed (but first you might want to make sure a pest isn’t causing those patches).
- The best time to plant warm-season grass is spring through early summer.
- Overseed your cool-season lawns, such as tall fescue and fine fescue, in September but no later than mid-October.
Pro Tip: Your grass seed will have a greater chance of success if it has good access to soil. That’s why we recommend overseeding after dethatching or aerating, as both treatments help to expose more soil.
|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|
5. Test your soil
Here in the transition zone, our freezing winters and boiling summers make it a challenge for either cool- or warm-season grass to thrive for most of the year. That’s why it’s so tempting to douse your lawn in fertilizer so that it can look like the ideal lush, green lawn. But drowning your yard in fertilizer will make your turf suffer more if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Before implementing a fertilizing regime for your yard, we recommend performing a soil test first. If you want your Nashville lawn to outshine the rest, a soil test will let you in on your lawn’s secrets.
A soil test can reveal many different things about your lawn’s soil, including:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Salt levels
- pH imbalances
- Soil factors that might be hindering your turf’s growth
- The right fertilizers and soil amendments that can enhance the soil and ensure healthy turf growth
6. Fertilize, but only if necessary
If you’ve performed a soil test, you should have a good understanding of what fertilizers and soil amendments your turf needs. But if you’re still in the dark about when to fertilize your turf, let’s go ahead and shed some light.
The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service recommends applying nitrogen fertilizer to warm-season turf around mid-April, depending on the soil test results.
Fall is the best time to fertilize cool-season grass because the summer stress depletes the turf of its nutrients.
Pro Tip: According to the Colorado State University Extension, fertilizing cool-season turf with nitrogen March through April might not be necessary if you fertilized the previous fall. However, if your turf does need fertilizer in spring, avoid applying nitrogen too early in the season.
Here’s why: Fertilizing cool-season turf too early encourages rapid growth. Rapid growth might sound appealing, but it’s not healthy for your cool-season grass, which already has a flush of shoot growth on its own. If applying fertilizer in spring, the Kansas State Extension recommends waiting until the flush is over, usually in late spring.
7. Apply fresh mulch
Colorful, healthy flower beds are just as crucial to your lawn’s curb appeal as green grass. Spring is the perfect time of year to add a fresh layer of organic mulch to your soil.
Mulch has many advantages. A layer of mulch in your flower beds:
- Retains moisture in the soil
- Limits erosion
- Deters annual weeds
- Regulates temperatures
- Adds nutrients to the soil (if the mulch is organic)
Apply mulch mid to late spring. If you apply mulch too early in spring the soil temperatures will remain cold and delay plant growth. Mulch also makes it difficult for plants to sprout, so only apply mulch once you see new growth.
Do your garden beds already have an old layer of mulch from last winter? No need to remove it. Just grab a rake and loosen the old mulch layer before spreading a fresh layer. Fluffing the old mulch helps to prevent it from matting.
Pro Tip: Two inches of mulch is typically enough for your flowers and veggies to reap the benefits.
8. Apply pre-emergent herbicide
If you notice spring weeds becoming a problem in your yard, you might want to consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicide is a chemical barrier that stops pesky weeds in their tracks.
Keep in mind that many pre-emergent products should not be applied when you overseed.
Why? Because many herbicides will prevent the seeds from germinating. Consult the product label to determine when you should apply the herbicide and when you can safely overseed. In some cases, you might have to wait many weeks before you can overseed.
Before applying any pre-emergent herbicide product, it’s essential to read and follow the instructions.
9. Run the lawn mower
It sure was nice not having to mow in winter. But once your spring grass starts growing, it’s time to start up the engine.
How low should you mow? Mowing heights vary among grass types, so it’s important to do your homework before you start cutting your grass. Most cool-season grasses should be cut to at least 3 inches high, and warm-season grasses 1 ½ to 2 inches.
But remember: Never cut more than ⅓ of your turf’s total height in one mow. Cutting too much turf at once can stress the grass blades. For example, if your turf is 3 inches tall, don’t cut off more than 1 inch.
10. Clean the gutters
What’s one more chore on the honey-do list? While you’re outside raking, mowing, and seeding, let’s also remove the dry leaves, broken twigs, and acorns out of your gutter system.
Here are four reasons why it’s important to clean your gutters:
- Clogged gutters are an eyesore.
- You don’t want dirty gutters to distract from your polished spring lawn.
- A clogged gutter system attracts pests and small animals.
- Clogged gutters can cause water damage to your home.
11. Turn on the irrigation system
Every fall, it’s a good idea for Nashville homeowners to winterize their irrigation systems. Now that spring is in the air, let’s start the water back up again.
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 the grass type, precipitation levels, and weather conditions.
- The best time to water the lawn is before 10 a.m. If you water too late in the day, then the water will evaporate before the soil has a chance to absorb any moisture.
- The evening is not a good time to water. Water droplets will remain on the grass blades through the night and encourage disease.
- Many homeowners make the mistake of frequently watering for short periods. Doing so encourages a shallow root system. Instead, water your lawn infrequently for long periods to promote a deep root system.
- Save water and time with an automatic sprinkler system. An automated sprinkler system recognizes when moisture levels are low and irrigates the lawn with a precise amount of water. You’ll never have to do the guesswork again (or carry a hose) when you’ve got an automatic system taking care of the job for you.
Set up your lawn for success
If you want your Nashville lawn to survive the transition zone’s hot summers and freezing winters, you need to give it some TLC in spring. Watering deeply, raking the yard, and planting warm-season grass seed are all great ways to prepare your lawn for summer.
But remember, you don’t want to go overboard. Some lawn care chores, such as aerating cool-season grass, are best done in fall to help the turf heal after summer and prepare for winter.
Don’t want to spend your weekends doing yard work? Hire a local Nashville lawn care pro to save yourself time and energy. From fertilizing the lawn to spreading grass seed, a lawn care pro tackles the hard work for you. So call up a pro, whip on those cowboy boots, and explore your favorite city!
Main Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region | Flickr | Public Domain