Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses make up most of the lawns in the south and southwest. Just as it sounds warm season grasses such as Bermuda and St. Augustine grow in spring and summer. They will grow a minimal amount in fall and in winter become dormant until spring.
In spring, warm season grasses are awakening from winter and will need preparation to grow healthy. Before you can do anything to the lawn, any leftover ice or snow must thaw out.
- Crabgrass Preventer- Crabgrass is a type of weed and will suck the nutrients from the soil, your lawn needs to grow. Crabgrass grows in patches from a central root underground. It is easy to spot as it looks different than regular grass. The best way to get control of crabgrass before it germinates is a crabgrass preventer that will kill it before it grows. This should be done in early February after all the frost has thawed.
Tip: If you plan on planting grass seeds to cover bare spots you must wait 90 days after using crabgrass preventer.
- Prevent Fire Ants from occurring- Fire ants are more aggressive than the normal black ant and more likely to sprout during spring. You can tell if you have them by their red exterior hence the name fire ant. Not only will they kill your lawn but will also fiercely protect their home. Fire ant granules are the way to go and most brands last for 6 months. (A granule is a small compound of a substance and is similar to a crumb of food.) The granules should be applied when the temperature outside is 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit. The lawn should be watered after applying to allow the granules to take effect. This should be done mid-February to early March.
- Bare Spot Repair- Every lawn may need to be repaired if it has bare spots from winter. A combination of products is needed for this step. Grass seeds, fertilizer, and mulch are used to repair bare spots on lawns. All in one products that include all of the above are available for use on bare spots. After you have applied the all in one, water it in so it soaks into the soil. This should be done March to May.
- Spring Seeding /Overseeding lawns with Zoysia and Bermuda Grass- Planting is done for one purpose and that is to grow, lawns are no different than crops. Seeding for warm-season grasses for most types is in spring or summer. Seeding is done for growing new grass over a preexisting lawn or bare soil. Overseeding is seeding grass seeds over a preexisting lawn. There a number of reasons to overseed a lawn such as if it is insect prone, to fill in bare spots, or if it is an old lawn. Overseeding should be done in late spring to early summer. This ensures the grass seeds planted will have a smooth transition from seed to grass. There is a method of overseeding called slit-seeding. Slit-seeding involves a device called a slit-seeder that uses slits to plant the seeds. Inside the slit-seeder, there are vertical blades that cut through the thatch layer of grass and plant the seeds. Using this method of overseeding guarantees the grass seed enters the soil and germinates. After you have planted the seeds be sure to water the lawn deeply so the grass seeds enter into the. After the seeds have been planted 10-14 days’ water 2-3 times a day. When the lawn has fully germinated, water the normal amount for the type of grass you have.
Tip: If you applied crabgrass preventer earlier in spring, you will need to wait 90 days to seed.
- Using Lime and Sulfur- Raising or lowering your lawns pH level can allow to plant various flowers, as well as kill weeds that grow at a different levels. Checking your pH level is actually easier than it sounds. There are home tests that allow to stick a vial into the soil to see your level. Another option is to send it off for testing for a professional opinion. A pH level of 7 is considered neutral, above 7 is high, and below 7 is low. You can raise or lower your soil’s pH level using lime and sulfur. Lime is used to raise your soil’s pH level. Lime can be applied any time of the year but spring and fall are the best times. Lime is applied directly to the soil by a spreader or by hand if you wear gloves. Sulfur is used to lower the pH levels of soil and is applied the same way as lime. Sulfur can also be applied any time of year but like lime it is best in spring or fall.
- Kill weeds and feed lawn - Weed and feed is not just a catchy slogan it is an actual process. Weed and feed is a process of killing weeds with weed killer and feeding the lawn with nutrients. Weed and feed comes in the form of fertilizer and thus must be applied to a wet lawn before application. Weed and feed is used all year long but needed mainly from April- mid May.
Tip: Do not apply to a lawn that has been seeded. You must wait 90 days before applying Weed and Feed. Wait 36-48 hours after application to water lawn.
- Lawn Fertilizer if your lawn has no weeds are present- Every lawn can use fertilizer to help it grow. There are two types of fertilizers: liquid and granule. Liquid fertilizers are absorbed by plants quicker and need to be applied every 2-3 weeks. Most liquid fertilizers come as a concentrate and are mixed with water to create the substance. Other liquid fertilizers come as hoses and are just sprayed on. Granule fertilizers are dry and are poured from shakers, then have to watered to be absorbed by the soil. There two types of granule fertilizers: Quick release and slow release. Quick release fertilizers give nutrients to plants immediately and generally last for 3-4 weeks. Slow release fertilizers are encased in plastic and gradually give the plant nutrients, these fertilizers usually last about 12 weeks.
- Controlling Pests- Besides fire ants there are many other insects that lurk beneath the soil. The best way to eliminate pests is to use insecticide. Insecticides come in various forms, granules are the best form for lawns. Granules are spread using a spreader and then watered in. Granules can reach above and below the soil to kill pests. This should take place all year long except for winter.
- Fertilizing in summer is not as important as spring is, if weeds are still present do not fertilize your lawn.
- Pests are around more in summer as it is the time they are most active. If you applied granules in spring, then the summer pests should not be a problem.
- pH levels are a must for a healthy lawn. Your lawn may need some more lime or sulfur in Summer.
- Overseed the lawn if it is still looking old and rundown.
- Prevent Lawn Fungus- Warm season grasses can get fungal diseases such as brown patches and dollar spot in summer. Preventing the diseases are easier than combating them. Fungicides are the perfect way to combat and prevent fungus. Similar to fertilizer, fungicides come in a liquid form or a granule form. Both versions work the same way. When applying fungicide make sure the nighttime temperature is above 70 degrees. Liquid fungicides last about 3-4 weeks and granule fungicides last about 6-8 weeks.
- Using the spot weed control method- In the spot weed control method a single spot is inhabited by weeds. Instead of dowsing the whole lawn with weed and feed you can use an organic way. Selective herbicides are geared to kill only certain weeds and will not harm your lawn unless you apply it at the wrong temperature. Since the weeds are only in one spot they are easier to kill. Selective herbicides come in a variety of different ways from liquid to granule. Apply the herbicide before the temperature is 87 degrees as lawn damage may occur. Be sure to not use non-selective herbicides as it will kill your lawn.
- Turning your lawn green- If your lawn is a yellow or pale green color it is lacking iron or nitrogen. Luckily, this is an easy fix. There are products formulated specifically with iron and nitrogen. It comes the form of granules and is applied with a spreader. After the granules are applied they must be watered in. Unlike, other fertilizers these products do not require a certain temperature to use them.
- Aeration- As everyone knows aeration loosens the soil underneath the lawn. Aeration also makes sure that oxygen is being taken from the roots underground. Aeration is essentially to any lawns health. The best times to aerate for warm season grasses is the spring but can also be until the fall. Aerators are the device that makes the hole in the ground to take out the “plug” of soil.
- Overseeding with Rye grass seed- Bermuda grass like all other warm season grass withers away in the winter. A way to prepare for the frost is to overseed with the slit-seeding method and protect from frost damage. As always after the seeds have been planted, water the lawn heavily.
- Repairing a bare lawn can always be an issue. If your lawn is still bare continue using the all in one to combat it.
- If you are not overseeding with rye seeds in fall, use some fertilizer to protect it from the harshness of winter.
There is nothing vitally important to do in winter for warm season. As long as your lawn is prepared for the frost, sit back and relax.