March is a great time to start working on your lawn! Depending on the type of turf, you may have some early spring lawn care, or you could go play golf! If your lawn is Zoysia or Bermuda most of this article will not apply; this about “cool season” grasses and their early spring care. Kentucky Blue Grass, Rye, and Fescues make up what we refer to as “cool season” grass types and there are hundreds of varieties and types in each category.
The first step is to clean up the winter mess that is on your lawn; old leaves, sticks and twigs, bark, sweetgum balls and acorns. By removing the debris, what you apply to your lawn will actually reach the ground. If your mower is back from the winter tune up with a sharp blade, it is a good idea to mow on a low setting to remove the grass blades that have been damaged during winter. This also gives you a chance to evaluate your turf. Are there small bare spots or large ones? Do I need to seed? Are there weeds? Was crabgrass a problem last year? The answers to these questions will help plot your course of action for this spring.
If you have weeds, no crabgrass, and a good stand of grass, you should spray Fertilome Weed Free Zone; it is a great weed killer for early spring and works in much cooler temperatures than traditional weed killers. If you have good turf, but crabgrass is was a real problem last year, you should apply a Pre-emergent. They come in various formulations; with or without fertilizer, organic or chemical. Like with all products timing is everything. You don’t want to apply too early in the season; pre-emergents set up a barrier in the soil that kills germinating seeds and the freezing and thawing of the soil can break that barrier down making the product less effective in stopping late spring and summer crabgrass. If your lawn is thin and there are weeds, that’s when you seed and fertilize for achieving a healthy lawn.
Fertilizing in the spring is a big help to your turf! Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen, as the grass will grow too fast (the first number on the bag is nitrogen.) This can lead to fungus problems in late spring also. Even though you are not necessarily starting a new lawn, I always recommend a “starter fertilizer” as it has more phosphorous for better roots and more potassium also. I feel that using starter fertilizer gives me the turf I want without mowing twice a week!
I also suggest the use of agricultural lime. In most of the St Louis area (at least on the Missouri side) the soil is slightly to moderately acid, so regular applications of lime helps your lawn use the fertilizer better. If you have a lot of trees on your property, apply lime every year or two; if you don’t have trees, you can go every other or every third year. Acidic soil can deplete the nutrients in your soil, which causes the grass's roots to be unable to absorb the needed nutrients. As always if you have questions about what to use, when to use it, how much to use, stop in and have your questions answered by the pros!