Spring in Omaha signifies new growth on the trees and budding tulips. After the last frost of the year in mid to late April, it’s time to clean up your lawn care equipment and get to work.
So how can you make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood? Follow these nine spring lawn care tips to keep your grass growing healthy and green through spring and summer.
- 1. Tune up your lawn care equipment
- 2. Clean up your yard
- 3. Control weeds
- 4. Treat lawn diseases
- 5. Test your soil
- 6. Fertilize to ensure growth
- 7. Aerate
- 8. Overseed brown patches
- 9. Don’t mow too short
- Maintain your beautiful Omaha lawn
1. Tune up your lawn care equipment
Your lawn care equipment has been collecting dust in the garage over the winter. Now that it’s spring, it’s time to clean and tune them up. Get your tools in good working condition so they can handle months of heavy and prolonged use.
For gas-powered mowers, here are some things to check:
- Sharpen your lawn mower blade. You can take it to a local lawn mower repair shop, but if you’re a DIYer, check out our guide on how to sharpen your lawn mower blade.
- Check the spark plug. Spring is a good time to replace the spark plug; just be careful not to tighten it too much or it can cause the mower not to start.
- Change the air filters. A dirty air filter will put stress on your mower and waste gas.
- Change the oil. You should change the oil in your lawn mower once a year, or once every other mowing season.
For battery-powered lawn mowers:
- Charge the battery. If the battery doesn’t come to a full charge, it’s time to replace it.
- Sharpen the blade and adjust the cutting height.
- Check the air filter. If you didn’t replace it last fall, now is the time to get a new one.
- Inspect air intakes and remove any built-up debris. You’ll also want to check the outside of the carburetor and clean it, if needed.
- Inspect bolts and the zipper. Check and tighten bolts, screws and nuts, and make sure the collection bag zipper is in working condition. Add a coat of wax if it’s sticking.
- Change the spark plug. Do this once a year, if needed. Check your owner’s manual for specific information.
- For gas-powered blowers, add fresh fuel.
- For battery-powered blowers, make sure the battery is fully charged.
For gas weed eaters:
- Remove all debris from the exterior of the weed eater.
- Clean the cooling fins of the engine using a toothbrush. Citrus-based cleaners or detergent mixed with hot water are good at removing stubborn grease and stains.
- Dispose of old gasoline responsibly and add fresh fuel.
- Check and replace (if needed) air filters and spark plugs.
- Clean the fuel tank cap, exhaust, and muffler.
- Check for any cracks in the fuel lines.
- Clean the string head and install the proper size and amount of weed eater string. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Tighten all the screws on the handle, string head, shaft, and the motor attachment point.
2. Clean up your yard
Now that your lawn has thawed out from the cold winter, it’s time to get to work cleaning up your yard so your grass can thrive again. Grass requires ample sun for healthy growth, so any debris on top of it will prevent your lawn from getting the proper nutrients it needs. Follow this checklist below to get your lawn prepped for success.
- Rake up any remaining leaves and excess thatch, the layer of organic matter that piles up on a lawn around the base of the grass. Just be sure to do this when your lawn is completely dry to prevent further damage and bare spots. Looking for an eco-friendly way to dispose of all those leaves? Why not make a DIY leaf compost bin.
- Remove fallen branches, pet waste, and any other debris cluttering your yard.
- Trim your shrubs, hedges, and trees. Make sure to get rid of any dead or diseased branches.
- Remove weeds, fallen limbs and leaves, and dead foliage from your garden beds.
3. Control weeds
Spring is a great time to get on top of weeds before they take over your lawn. Common annual weeds like foxtail, spurge, and crabgrass can be controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide that prevents the weed seed from ever germinating. You should apply pre-emergents to Omaha lawns between April 20 and May 5.
However, if you plan to reseed or overseed your lawn this spring, the only pre-emergent herbicide that can be applied with new seedings is siduron, more commonly known as Tupersan. This herbicide enables good control of annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass and foxtail, yet still allows the new grass seed to germinate.
If you have not overseeded your lawn this spring, a few other pre-emergent herbicide products will provide good weed control. Look for these chemical names under the active ingredient on the fertilizer bag:
- Balan (Benefin)
- Betasan (Bensulide)
- Prodiamine (Barricade) or a combination of trifluralin and benefin
*Note: Pre-emergent herbicides must be watered immediately after application with at least 0.5 inches of water.
4. Treat lawn diseases
Eastern Nebraska lawns are prone to four different diseases. It’s important to eliminate them in spring as your grass starts to grow or they can get out of control. To reduce your risk of inviting these diseases in the first place, follow good lawn care maintenance practices.
As its name implies, dollar spot appears in your lawn as brown spots about the size of a silver dollar. It is a fungal disease that occurs most often when the temperatures are warm during the day and cool at night. The leaf blades have distinct markings with light brown spots covering the blade and reddish-brown edges. Dollar spot can be prevented by keeping your lawn healthy, well-watered, mowed at the correct height, and by following fertilizer recommendations for your specific grass type. If your lawn does become afflicted with dollar spot, check out this guide on how to treat fungicides.
Brown patch is another common fungal disease that occurs in Omaha yards, especially in tall fescue lawns. This disease most often occurs in lawns that were overwatered or overfertilized during the summer months. It shows up as brown patches in an otherwise healthy-looking, green lawn. Brown patch disease is when grass blades have long, tan-colored spots with a dark brown margin. If your lawn does become affected by brown patch, check out this video for tips on how to treat this disease.
This common fungal disease also leaves brown patches in your yard. These patches generally form in a circular pattern with an area of green turfgrass in the center. There are no distinct markings on the leaves. The best way to prevent summer patch is to adhere to watering and fertilization recommendations for your specific grass type. If these practices do not work, check out this guide for tips on how to control fungicides.
Rust can be identified by its “rust-like” color that can easily transfer to your white shoes when you walk through your grass. This disease generally goes away after fertilization, but if not, here are some tips to help get rid of lawn rust.
5. Test your soil
It’s vital to have your soil’s pH levels tested before applying fertilizer and lime. A soil test will tell you the health of your soil and can measure nitrogen levels. Soil tests are inexpensive and take the guesswork out of what — if any — kind of fertilizer your lawn needs.
Click here to learn how to properly gather your soil sample and where you can submit it for testing locally.
6. Fertilize to ensure growth
Once you have your soil test results, it’s also important to know whether you have a cool-season grass type or a warm-season grass type. For Omaha’s cool-season grasses, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, the optimal time to fertilize your lawn in eastern Nebraska is between mid-April and mid-May.
For Omaha’s warm-season grass — buffalograss — you’ll want to wait till late spring (mid-May through early June) to apply fertilizer. Be sure to use a slow-release formula in order to keep present nutrients from seeping down into the soil and “burning the turf.”
When applying fertilizer, use a spreader to ensure an even layer. By using a spreader you can cover large areas in a shorter time and can manually control the speed and distance of the fertilizer being spread.
*Note: Lesser rates of spring fertilizer applications aid in a reduction of summer disease problems, and also lower your lawn’s water needs.
Fall is the best time to aerate your Omaha lawn, but if it didn’t get done and you have compact soil, aerate in early spring when your grass is starting to grow again. Aeration is one of the most important steps in maintaining a healthy lawn. Heavy clay soils (what is most commonly found here in eastern Nebraska) become extremely compacted over time. Clay soil particles are tiny and tightly packed with little room for water, air, and root movement. Since grass roots need a combination of water, air, and nutrients to thrive, aeration allows the roots to penetrate deeper into the soil.
Core aeration provides many benefits including:
- Releases gases from the soil and lets oxygen in.
- Increases water absorption in the soil.
- Encourages new root growth.
- Helps mitigate harmful thatch buildup.
- Enables nutrients to be absorbed faster and directly to the root.
- Relieves soil compaction caused by equipment, traffic, and debris.
- Reduces water runoff on hills and slopes.
8. Overseed brown patches
Overseeding is best to do in the fall, but if you have brown patches, we recommend overseeding as soon as the snow melts and the soil is workable. Overseeding is planting new grass seed straight into existing turf. Normally spring overseeding of Kentucky bluegrass should be done between April 1-30. Tall fescue should be seeded between April 15 and June 15.
Spring is the perfect time to spread seed because soil temperatures are warm and spring rains begin to fall. As long as your soil is not frozen or excessively wet, new grass should begin to grow.
Usually, eastern Nebraska will receive some spring rain starting in late March and early April. However, if not, then you’ll need to start watering the seeded area, beginning around mid-April, until germination has occurred. Post-germination, gradually decrease watering. For best practices on exactly how much and how often to water and when to mow, check out this guide. Kentucky bluegrass should receive an inch of water per week, and 1.5 inches of water per week in mid-summer. To encourage deep rooting, watering should be longer and infrequent.
9. Don’t mow too short
Choosing a taller mowing height helps your lawn develop a deeper root system. This allows your grass to draw water from a larger soil area, better handle hot and dry conditions, and recover from droughts. Taller grass also reduces crabgrass germination.
Listed below are four common grass types found in Omaha and their recommended mowing heights:
|Grass Type||Classification||Recommended Mowing Height|
Ideally, you should mow frequently enough so that grass clippings can be left on the lawn to act as mulch. Grass clippings returned to the turf can contribute as much as 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of a few months.
You should never cut more than one-third of the grass blade height at one time. If at the first mow of the season your grass is long, mow multiple times to get it down to the recommended height. If you have excess grass clippings, you will need to bag and remove them. Excess clippings do not cause thatch, but they will block sunlight from reaching your lawn, resulting in the yellowing and thinning of the turf. Excess clippings also can encourage diseases and pests.
Maintain your beautiful Omaha lawn
Now that you’ve successfully accomplished all the prep work needed to grow a healthy, green, beautiful lawn, why not relax and take advantage of all that Omaha has to offer in spring? Perhaps take the family for a stroll through Lauritzen Gardens, or enjoy a cold pint at Thunderhead Brewing.