Nurturing a lawn is one of the most exciting things that you can do as a homeowner. However, getting your lawn and garden back on track after a cold winter can be challenging. Most of the green color in warm and cool season turfgrasses fade out with winter temperatures and dormancy so it’s important to make sure it greens back up properly in the spring. In some cases, turfgrass can use a little assistance in doing so.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help it. The following are some of the things that you should consider to properly green your lawn up in the spring.
1. Clean the Debris
The first step to reviving your lawn and garden is to remove any unwanted debris. It’s not doing anything positive for your lawn. Instead, it tends to pile up on the ground and block sunlight, water or essential nutrients from reaching your lawn.
Removing the debris will help the lawn get full sun exposure, better nutrients and a fresher external look in general. You might see a great difference as soon as you clean all the debris off your lawn.
2. Test Your Soil
Sometimes soils don’t contain the proper amount of necessary nutrients which can hinder healthy grass growth. If you are having trouble with greening up your lawn, consider collecting a soil sample. We’ve included a few soil testing kits below. These tests help identify what nutrients the soil lacks. Once you know what your lawn needs, you can easily amend the soil for an optimal growth environment. Learn more in Soil Management for Lawns and Gardens.
3. Mow Your Lawn
Dormant or dead grass not only looks bad—it also affects the lawn’s growth. Mowing it helps stimulate grass growth and removes dead material. In fact, people who mow their lawns in March typically have a greener lawn than those who might wait until April. Depending on your geographical location, mid-March is usually the best time for the first mow of the year. This essentially allows sunlight to get down into the base of the grass blades and warm up the roots.
If you have a bermuda or zoysia lawn, lower the mower down a few notches to remove the dead material located near the top of the grass blades so that the bases can grow a nice, green canopy. For most rotary mowers, this means a little more than 1 inch in height.
Pictured from left to right: An EMPIRE® Zoysia lawn mowed at about 1 inch in height on March 15th and a thriving EMPIRE lawn in the summer.
A fully established zoysia or bermuda grass lawn (at least six months old) will have a healthy bed of underground rhizomes and surface stolons, enabling it to regrow when given a buzz-cut.
Mowing as low as 1 inch can result in a barren looking lawn, which can be shocking. Also, such a low mow will reveal any imperfections in your grade. High spots will get “scalped,” and low spots will be left with more plant material, resulting in an uneven display. You can use this opportunity to top dress low areas with sand to provide a more level lawn surface.
The first mow of the year may be difficult because of all the material you have to remove. Consider mowing the lawn twice at varying heights (first mow slightly higher than the second mow) to make this task easier.
A good way to keep this from happening again next year is by mowing your lawn at the proper height during the last mow of the year in the fall. Once it’s dormant, it won’t actively grow. Mowing it a good height right before dormancy keeps you from having to remove too much plant material in the spring.
Be sure to bag the leftover clippings for the first mow of the spring. Although clippings are a great source of organic material for your lawn, the first mow of the year for bermuda and zoysia grasses results in a large amount of clippings and your newly mowed lawn will need access to sunlight. Add leftover clippings to your lawn for the remainder of the year if you desire to.
Other warm season grasses like St. Augustine or centipede grass can be mowed at their regular heights, however, we still suggest conducting your first mow of the year around mid-March. Visit our care guides for exact heights each grass type should be kept at.
If you’re going to have more frosts in the year, wait a little longer before the first mow because the brown grass material serves as a protective layer for the roots and insulates them. Longer grass with more brown material also outcompetes weeds.
Don’t mow it too short in the fall though—taller grass blades provide a layer of protection from frost, snow or cold temperatures from damaging the root zone.
4. Fertilize Your Lawn
Everyone knows how essential fertilizers are for plant growth. Oftentimes, homeowners think they can just apply a bunch of nitrogen to dormant grass as a means of “waking it”.
This is a mistake.
If the grass is still dormant, fertilizer will be wasted because the grass isn’t actively growing—it can’t absorb nutrients. Wait until it greens up before making fertilizer applications or use a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer like Lawnifi® Foundation or Boost. Slow-release fertilizers allow grass to break fertilizer down slowly as conditions become more favorable.
It should be noted that fertilizers applied to dormant grass sit in the soil and can runoff into streams and lakes causing toxic algal blooms that are harmful to aquatic life and even people and their pets. Wait until the grass starts to green up before applying fertilizer
As mentioned in our blog on Spring Lawn Maintenance Tips, we advise that you typically wait until the last frost has hit. If you fertilize your lawn and another frost hits, your grass will go right back into dormancy, and you’ll have a harder time getting it to green up again. This does more harm than good.
Once the grass starts to green up, it’ll be craving nutrients after storing them as a means of survival during dormancy. The Lawnifi Spring Fertilizer Box is a great fertilizer that’s designed to assist with this specific occasion. The Spring Box comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer: two bottles of Maintain and one bottle of Boost. The three bottles are strategically scheduled for application throughout the different months of spring.
With its 16-0-4 formulation, Maintain works to fortify your lawn with potassium, amino acids and carbon. Use Maintain in the spring to promote healthy roots and the return of green leaf blades after winter. Boost, on the other hand, is a 30-0-0 formulation that’s designed to revitalize the green leaf blade color in your lawn after winter. Boost also has a slow-release formula that allows it to keep feeding your lawn nitrogen over a six-week time frame.
5. Water Your Grass
It’s important to recognize that watering the grass serves as an important function to stimulate and boost turfgrass growth. We suggest that you spray the ground with a balanced amount of water regularly. You can either do this manually, hire someone to do it for you or simply install sprayers all over your lawn for consistent watering.
Our Winter Lawn Maintenance Tips article suggests watering the lawn even though it’s not actively growing. The lawn is dormant—this doesn’t mean it’s dead and doesn’t still need water.
In most areas, you will just need to water your lawn less than the active growing season. However, if you are in an area that receives a really dry winter, be sure to water your lawn enough so that the soil receives nourishment and keeps grass blades from drying out. Irrigating your lawn helps it grow faster and ultimately produces greener grass.
Be careful not to overwater the grass though as too much irrigation can lead to disease outbreaks.
Helping your grass quickly green up in the spring isn’t as tough as most people make it sound, however, the above practices should be followed to encourage success. We hope that this guide helps you improve your grass for the spring season.