Priorities for spring should be–#1 weed control, #2 mowing, #3 watering, #4 aerating, #5 insect control, and #6 fertilizing.
Spring is the perfect time for crabgrass and other weed controls. Please read instructions carefully on your choice of weed control. To legally use and lawn chemicals, you must follow all directions on the bag. The chemicals work at certain concentrations, so a little more only allows a chemical to run off desired treatment area & pollution occurs. For actively growing weeds, it is especially critical that you apply when there is moisture on the plants for broad leaf control. Chemicals must stick to leaves to be effective. This is easiest to achieve by applying in early morning when there is a heavy coat of dew. If the grass is not wet, you have most likely wasted your time and money.
For those weeds that you using a pre-emergent herbicide such as crabgrass control to prevent them from germinating, early spring is the perfect time to apply. As a general rule of thumb when the forsythia blooms drop, it is the perfect time to apply pre-emergent herbicides to control crabgrass/etc.
Mowing is critical to establishing an attractive lawn. As soon as some of the grass reaches a height of approximately 2 to 2.5 inches mow. If you have an adjustable height to your mower, the first time or two mowing in the spring, you should set the height to 1.5 to 2 inches. This will help remove winter burned leaves and get you started on a good healthy lawn. During summer and periods of drought, mowing height raises to 3-3.5 inches. Then during the fall, mowing heights lowered to 2.5. This prevents matting down & fungus problems. Remove no more than 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaf at any one time. Do not scalp the lawn with uneven mowing. The problem, with most people is that they mow every Saturday from spring until fall and do not consider the growth rate or weather. You have to mow when you have time. Just try to remember no more than 1/3 to 1/2 cut off at any time.
Another item that most people overlook in mowing is failing to sharpen their mower blades. Sharpen your mower blades multiple times during the year. A raggedy appearance to the leaf blade is an indication that your mower blades need sharpening. A rough appearance allows more surface to be exposed and the possibility of disease to appear.
Watering will be a necessity only “occasionally”. When necessary, plan for once or twice a week with a deep watering several inches deep to encourage root growth.
Aerating is something almost unheard of several years ago & not every lawn needs it. Most home lawns will benefit from it. It is the process of removing a small core at set intervals to aerate and allow for addition of organic matter, treatments, loosening soil, & minor renovations. Do when soil is moist and grass is actively growing. It works best in spring or fall for cool season grasses.
For Kentucky, the most common insect problem is White Grubs. Do not worry about this until summer. Preventative controls should be used in June/early July. Curative controls should be used in Aug/early Sept. when grubs are causing damage.
In spite of all the ads you see, spring is the wrong time of year to fertilize. Apply in the fall. Excessive Nitrogen fertilizer causes the plant to put on leaf or top growth. By adding fertilizer in the spring, you are condemning yourself to mowing, mowing, & more mowing. It causes so much top growth that the roots cannot support the plant during periods of heat and drought.
Submitted by Suzanne Stumbo, ANR Agent, Pike Co. Cooperative Extension