Spring Lawn Care Tips for Oklahoma City

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Inside a tool shed with garden tools and supplies hanging in an organized manner on the back wall, with a lawn mower on the floor
Robert Couse-Baker | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Springtime in Oklahoma City — when the days are warmer, the rain is steady, and the grass is growing. And growing. And growing.

Make a list and get started. Those lawn care chores await!

  1. Repair and prepare equipment
  2. Clean up the yard
  3. Rake and dethatch
  4. Prevent weeds with pre-emergent herbicides
  5. Aerate, if needed
  6. Repair bare spots and overseed
  7. Test the soil
  8. Apply fertilizer
  9. Mow high for the first cut
  10. Edge the drive and walkways

1. Repair and prepare equipment

Caring for the lawn begins with a well-tuned mower. Change the oil, spark plugs, and air filter. Scrape off dried, caked-on mud and grass clippings from the undercarriage. (Tip: Detach spark plug wires before cleaning the cutting blade). Do NOT turn the gas mower upside down to clean underneath. Sharpen the cutting blades (or replace them).  

If you want to sharpen your mower blade yourself, it is fairly simple and requires a few basic tools.

Equipment:

  • Wrench
  • Paint scraper or air compressor
  • Metal file
  • Vice to hold the blade

How to sharpen your lawn mower blade:

  • Disconnect the spark plug.
  • Remove the lawn mower blade using a wrench.
  • Remove buildup debris on the blade using a paint scraper.
  • Place the mower blade in a vice. Sharpen the edge with a file.
  • Hang the blade on a nail. Make sure it hangs relatively level. If one side is leaning, file a little more off of that side until the blade is level.
  • Remove debris from underneath the lawn mower deck using a paint scraper or air compressor.
  • Replace the mower blade.
  • Reconnect the spark plug.

Now you are ready to mow!

2. Clean up the yard

Over the winter, the yard becomes a dumping place for large and small tree limbs, twigs, and blowing trash. If your property has a lot of trees, it may be easier to cart around a wheelbarrow so you won’t have to make too many trips to the compost pile.  (Better yet, urge your kids to do the cleanup, it’s good exercise for them).

3. Rake grass and remove thatch

Graphic explaining thatch on grass

It is good after the long winter to rake the grass to pull up dead leaves, stems, and other debris. Raking is also an excellent way to prevent thatch buildup. 

What is thatch? Thatch is a thick mat of tangled runners, rhizomes, and dead stems that thickens over the soil between the grass roots. 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
  • Create poor drainage
  • Block nutrients, water, and oxygen from reaching the root system
  • Prevent herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers from working effectively

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.

4. Prevent weeds with herbicides

Weeds never really go away — that’s a fact of life for any homeowner. But treating the lawn in fall with pre-emergent herbicides helps to curb winter varieties like chickweed, crabgrass, dandelions, and clover from showing up in spring.

For the spring, timing is everything. Products meant to keep weed seeds from germinating work mostly when the ground is still cold. Because Oklahoma City’s weather in March and April varies every year, it’s hard to target an exact time frame for how effective pre-emergent herbicides would be if applied in the spring. 

If you see weeds already sprouting in your yard, you need a post-emergent herbicide.

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.

5. Aerate, if needed

Punching holes in the lawn and removing clumps of dirt lets compacted soil breathe, but it also can be tough on your grass. You should hold off and aerate warm-season grasses in summer, during the turf’s peak growing season, and cool-season grasses in fall.

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.

Aerating every few years allows grass roots to spread and receive water and fertilizer. If you DIY with hand core punchers or machinery, you’ll need a strong back and a lot of patience — aerating is a big job for large yards. It may be that doing this job yourself is more cost-effective, but it is much easier to hire a lawn care professional.

6. Repair bare spots and overseed

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

Even the healthiest and lushest lawns may develop bare spots. Patches of dead lawn are usually caused by compacted soil, pests, fungi, and overwatering. 

Overseeding with the right kind of mixture will help your OKC lawn bounce back after a long, cold winter. Suitable warm-season lawn grasses for Oklahoma include bermudagrass varieties like Guymon, Arizona, and Sunturf. Among other warm-season blends, your lawn may contain buffalograss, zoysia, or St. Augustine. Cool-season grass (Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, and ryegrass) grow well in Oklahoma City’s hot sun if the turf is watered frequently.

Here’s how to overseed a small, thinning area of turf:

  1. Pull the weeds by hand.
  2. Use a heavy rake to rough up the soil.
  3. Add compost and a starter fertilizer on top of the area you’re going to seed.
  4. Cast the seed (or use a hand spreader). Be sure to use new seed for the best germination rate.
  5. Use the back of the rake to press the seed lightly into the soil.
  6. Water twice a day or so, or often enough to keep the seed consistently moist but not soggy.
  7. Stay off the new area for a few months as the new grass establishes.

7. Test the soil

Soil provides most of the 16 essential nutrients needed for turfgrass and garden plants to grow. When you perform a soil test, it is like giving it a checkup. Soil testing determines the pH balance and which fertilizers are needed.

Here’s how to perform a soil test:

  • Choose a place that represents the whole yard.
  • Scrape plant debris from the soil.
  • Use a clean bucket, probe, or spade. Combine scoops of soil from at least 15 locations scattered throughout the lawn and garden.
  • Mix all the soil samples in the sample bag.
  • Submit samples to your county extension office. 

Soil test kits are also available at your local lawn and garden store.

8. Apply fertilizer

Since you have performed the soil test, you now know what nutrients your soil needs and what kind of fertilizer to use on your Oklahoma City lawn. If you’re only going to fertilize once a year, you should do it in September. But you can break down the task into three or four separate applications.

Number of fertilizer applications per yearIdeal fertilizing schedule
1Early September
2Early May > Early September
3Early May > Early September > Early November
4Early May > Mid-June > Early September > Early November

Fertilize warm-season grasses when soil temperatures are in the ‘60s. Fertilizing too early produces weak grass roots. Soluble nitrogen products dissolve after three or four weeks. Slow-release granules spread out six to eight weeks.

9. Mow high for the first cut

Before the first mow of the season, let the grass grow to at least 2 inches high. Raise the cutting deck about 2.5 to 3 inches high. Oklahoma City gets an average of 3 to 5 inches of rain per month from March through August, so grass grows well in spring and summer. Cutting grass too short in hot summer months keeps it from getting lush and green.  

Whether you mow once a week or more often, change the pattern. Mowing in straight lines each way (all the time) tamps down grass blades and could eventually damage roots. Change direction every time you mow so the blades can spring back up.  Don’t bag lawn clippings; they make great natural fertilizer.

10. Edge the driveway and walkways

edged walkway leading to a house
Inspector | Pixabay

Whether you prefer paving stones, steel, plastic, aluminum, or wooden landscaping borders, the perfectly coiffed garden bed or driveway edge starts with grass removal. Cordless string trimmers whack off high, scraggly grasses over beds and walkways.

  • Turn the edger so it is vertical, keeping the deflector shield close to you.
  • Wear protective eye gear.  
  • Walk on hard surfaces when edging, and always wear flat, non-slip shoes.
  • Hold the string trimmer level and in the same position.
  • Clean the trimmer after use.

Rotary, sawtooth, and spade edgers are other options to consider for lawn edging.

The never-ending list of spring lawn care chores

Homeowners know this: Yard work is unavoidable, especially during spring and summer’s growing season. Avid DIYers may enjoy burning their weekends with hard work, but if you’re one who likes to enjoy the fruits without the labor, hiring a lawn care pro is one way to make time for a glass of lemonade without having to squeeze the lemons. 

Main Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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