Is Your Lawn Equipment Ready for Spring?

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Spring is here! The temperatures are starting to drop, and our outdoor world is alive with the splendors that spring brings. The time has never been more urgent to review the status of your lawn to ensure it’s ready for the spring season. If you’ve been distracted with all the events that are taking place in the world today, it’s perfectly understandable. It might be time, however, to shift gears and focus on your lawn for a few moments to make sure it’s prepped and ready for the upcoming season. You’ll need to take stock of your equipment, including lawnmowers, weed whackers, edgers, gardening tools, electric power equipment, and garden hoses. Use this checklist to ensure your lawn is healthy.

Your Spring-Ready Lawn Gear Checklist

1. Prep Your Lawnmower

The lawnmower has been in hibernation all winter, but now it’s time to gear up for a working season ahead. Don’t wait until the grass is in need of an overdue trim to give some attention to the lawnmower. Step one of your spring-prep checklist is to bring the mower out of the shed and follow some easy steps to shake off the winter dust. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cleaning and De-winterization: Start by draining and replacing any old fuel in the mower before attempting to turn it on. Then do a quick inspection of basic maintenance points like the oil, spark plugs, and air filters to make sure they’re in good condition. Take a quick check of the pull cords, making sure they aren’t frayed and are in good working condition. This might be a good time to pull out the machine’s manual and check that you’ve followed all recommended maintenance protocols.
  • Warm Up Run Before the First Use: Once everything appears to be in good working order and you’ve filled up with fresh fuel, it’s the perfect time to start the engines and let your lawnmower warm up before the first cut of spring. This warm up will allow the engine to run before prolonged use and also allows you to listen for any strange sounds that might indicate a problem is brewing.
  • Common Repairs to Lookout For: Some common post-winter lawnmower repairs are generally related to chords, air filters, dirty fuel or oil, and debris buildup.These are areas to keep an eye out for as you prep your mower for spring. If you have a battery-operated mower or riding lawnmower, the battery may need to be charged or even replaced after a long winter break.
  • Lawnmower Blade Maintenance Tips: One of the most frequently asked questions lawn pros get is, “how can I tell if my lawnmower needs a new blade or just needs to be sharpened?” The rule of thumb is most mower blades will last 20-25 hours until they need to be sharpened. Overall lifetime of most blades is approximately 100-200 hours total. This number can be higher, ranging up to 400 hours, for higher quality blades. Once you’ve cleared the cuttings deck of any clippings, you can keep an eye on how well your lawnmower works on your grass.

2. Take Stock of Your Other Electric Equipment

Be sure to take a look at all your other lawn power equipment before its first spring use – not just the lawnmower. You might have a shed full of weed whackers, edgers, gardening tools, electric power equipment all ready for spring cleaning. As you dig into that packed shed, be sure to inspect your lawn equipment for signs of rust, broken parts, or frayed wires. If blades need to be replaced or sharpened, now is the perfect time.

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3. Decide to Repair or Buy New

To repair or replace, this is always the question that befuddles lawn equipment owners. The answer is usually clear when you weigh out the pros and cons, asking yourself questions such as:

  • Is my lawn equipment still under warranty?
  • Do I use this piece of equipment often?
  • Is there a newer model that offers more features?
  • Is the cost (or time required) to repair more than the worth of the equipment?

4. Get Ready for Watering

April showers bring May flowers, undoubtedly. And, as we approach the summer months, lawn watering becomes crucial to keeping everything lush, green, and healthy. Having said all this, no spring checklist could be complete without some attention to hoses and sprinklers. Here are a few best practices to follow to get yourself ready to water your lawn.

watering hose
  • De-winterize Your Gardening Hose: Follow a few easy steps to make sure your garden hoses are ready for use this spring. Unroll your hose and hook it up to the tap to ensure it’s in full working order and has not rotted or been otherwise damaged during the winter. Make sure you have enough hoses to keep your lawn hydrated and healthy this summer, keeping in mind that your lawn will need about an inch of water per week on average to remain perfectly hydrated, or about .63 gallons per square foot of grass.
  • Prep Your Sprinklers: Sprinkler systems can get damaged during winter for a myriad of reasons. Any homeowner knows how frustrating it can be to turn on the sprinkler system when the lawn is turning brown, only to find it not working properly. Your quick check to make sure all parts are working can save you frustration at a key moment later in the summer.

As the most beautiful and warmest season descends, be sure to take a few key steps to ensure you’re ready to care for your lawn. Spring-Green is, of course, here for you should need our professional services. Our team of expert technicians is standing by as your neighborhood lawn care partner with services for your lawn, landscape, pest control, and more.

Get started with Spring-Green today.

How Cooler Temperatures Are Affecting Lawn and Landscape

Is It Spring Yet?

As is the case with most years, sometimes it will warm up early, fooling a lot of plants, including turfgrasses, to start the annual spring green-up. Only to be broadsided with an arctic blast and cooler temperatures that pushes plants back into winter dormancy.

Cool-season turfgrasses like bluegrass, ryegrass and the fescues are somewhat accustomed to these weather fluctuations, but the warm-season grasses, such as Centipede, St. Augustine and Bermuda grasses can be greatly affected by a cold snap after they have been coaxed into an early spring green-up by an early warm up. Such is the case with many lawns in the warmer parts of the United States.

Roland Freund, Franchise Owner in the Houston, Texas area, posted some information on his Facebook page about lawns in his area that are turning a purplish color due to some cooler temperatures that have pushed southward. Turf turning a purple color is often a sign of stress and when warm season grasses that have started to come out of winter dormancy get hit with freezing temperatures, the result can cause turf to turn an off-color. Luckily, it is a temporary condition and the turf generally recovers on its own.

Some warm-season grasses that have started to green-up can display an usual camouflage-like pattern when subjected to cooler to freezing temperatures, such as what you see in the picture below. This can happen to Bermuda and Zoysia grasses. Just as is the case with St. Augustine, this is a temporary problem and the grasses usually grow starting growing and the damage disappears as new grass blades cover up the blades that have turned brown.

grass in cooler temperatures
The one unknown for warm-season turfgrass lawns is how the extremely cold temperatures that affected much of the South in early to mid-January. Temperatures in the single digits is a common occurrence in the areas where cool-season turfgrasses grow, but this year many parts of the south experienced near record setting cold weather for an extended period. It is still a little early to tell if those temperatures had a lasting effect on lawns and landscapes in the South. I will tell you that I was conducting a training session in Lake Charles, Louisiana towards the end of January, and I saw many palms trees whose fronds were badly damaged by the cold weather. It is going to take some time for those trees and the lawns to recover from the cooler temperatures.

Caring for warm-season turfgrass lawns at this time of year focuses on controlling existing winter weeds and preventing the growth of annual grasses like crabgrass and goosegrass. Weeds are much more durable than turfgrasses and will quickly come back from the onslaught of freezing temperatures. It is almost time to start fertilizing these grasses, but patience is necessary. Applying fertilizer too early can have detrimental to these grasses.

As the South gets ready for the beginning of spring, what about the lawns and landscapes in the cool-season areas? Spring applications have started for lawns in the Transition Zone where Tall Fescue is the predominate turfgrass. Except for parts of Northern California, Oregon and Washington, it is still too early to prepare for the first application of spring.

It is a best practice to wait until the ground is no longer frozen to apply the first application. In many northern states, this is mandated by law to prevent run-off from fertilizer or weed control products off of the frozen ground. It is still early and spring will be here before we know it, unless, of course, the area is hit with a late winter storm – not an uncommon occurrence in March or even early April. The best thing to do is make sure the lawn mower is tuned up and plan ahead for the season. Spring is just around the corner, so remember you can count on your local Spring-Green to make sure your lawn looks green, and thick for the upcoming season!

Watch Out For Large Underwing Moth Larva

Last fall, we described a new turfgrass pest that was causing some damage in the Seattle area.

At the time the article was written, the insect was thought to be an army cutworm. Since that time, we have learned that it is the larva of the Large Underwing Moth.

Underwing Moth larva1

This insect was accidentally introduced from Western Europe and was first founded in 1979 in Nova Scotia, Canada.  According to a bulletin from the University of Idaho’s Extension service, the first moths were collected flying around a porch light in Nova Scotia. There is no information on how it arrived in North America.

The bulletin also stated that once the insect was established, it moved south and west and is a potential threat to winter wheat and barley. What makes it challenging is that it feeds during the winter months, which is the same time as the feeding period of another major turfgrass pest in the Pacific Northwest, the European Crane Fly larva.

Although it is not known to be a major turf grass pest, it will feed on bluegrass from fall through early spring. As you can see from this picture, which was taken in March, the damage can be extensive.

Moth damage

As with other cutworm species, these larva feed during the evening hours and hide during the day. The Black Cutworm, a major insect pest on golf courses, will dig into the soil on greens and tees during the day.

When disturbed, cutworms will curl up into a c-shape. Once they are done feeding, the larvae will burrow into the soil to make a cocoon. They will pupate in May and the adults will emerge and be more active at night. The females will then lay eggs (a single female can lay up to 2,000 eggs) through August, but they can be active all the way until October.

Fortunately, cutworms just feed on the upper part of the grass plant and it usually recovers from such damage. As long as the crown of the plant has not been damaged, the turf will regrow new grass blades.  This can be helped along by fertilizing the lawn.  In severe cases, some reseeding may be necessary.

If you think your lawn may have an insect problem, contact your local Spring-Green office and have them come out to inspect your lawn. It is the best way to keep your lawn looking green.

Should You Overseed Your Lawn This Spring?

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A common question we receive in the spring is in regards to overseeding your lawn.  If you live in an area with warm season grasses, like Centipede or Bermuda grass, reseeding is not a very common practice and it does not work all that well. For those who live in areas where cool-season grasses like bluegrass or turf-type tall fescue grow, seeding can be a successful and a necessary part of caring for your lawn.

The best time to overseed an existing lawn is late summer until early fall. If you did not have a chance to do so last year, it might be something you want to take care of this spring.

You can overseed in the spring, but here are 4 important aspects that you should consider:

  1. Be conscious of the season for crabgrass preventers – If you seed in spring, you cannot apply most standard crabgrass preventers. These materials keep crabgrass seeds from germinating, as well as the new seeds. In the past if crabgrass has been a problem in your lawn, it would be advisable to wait until the fall to start overseeding. For most crabgrass materials, there is a 16 week waiting period between seeding and applying a crabgrass preventer.
  2. Be conscious of the season for broadleaf weed controlBroadleaf weed control is the same as crabgrass preventers, except the waiting time is less. If a broadleaf weed control is applied to an area, the standard wait time before seeding is 3 to 4 weeks. Once the new grass has germinated and become established, it has to be mowed two or three times before any weeds can be sprayed.
  3. Aerate before broadcasting seed – One of the best methods to ensue good germination is to aerate the lawn first before broadcasting seed across the area. Broadcasting seed across an established lawn will result in little to no germination.
  4. Water, water, water – Finally water is critical to the success of seeding at any time of the year. Once the seed germinates, the roots are tiny and have an immediate need for water.  If the roots dry out, the seed will die. Be sure you have some way to provide adequate water once the seed has been broadcast across the area. The best method is to have an automatic sprinkler system. If the system has not been started for the year when you complete the seeding, you may have to manually water the areas until your system is turned on. Depending on the variety of seed, you may need to keep the area moist for 4 to 6 weeks after seeding.

As you can see, seeding in the spring is not the easiest thing to do, especially when dealing with weeds. It is often better to keep the weeds down throughout the summer and then complete the seeding in the fall.  If you are a Spring-Green customer, contact your local Spring-Green and they will advise you with the best information on helping your lawn looks its best.

Spring Lawn Care Tips: Your Guide to Mowing, Seeding & Fertilizing

spring lawn care tips

Now that lawns are beginning to become green throughout the country, many people start to get anxious to seed and fertilize and, believe it or not, mow their lawns—and they’re looking for the spring lawn care tips to get them on the right track. (For me, having to start mowing my lawn again is a chore, although not a difficult one. Maybe this is the year I hire an outside service to handle this work for me… On second thought, maybe not, as no one can mow my lawn better than what I can do.)

Tip #1: Mow High

I have written on the subject of mowing many times in the past, but it bears repeating. Proper mowing is the key to having a green, healthy, and more weed-free lawn, and it’s the #1 spring lawn care tip I consistently tell people. Unless your lawn turned completely brown during the winter, start mowing at the highest recommended height for the type of grass growing in your lawn. Bermuda and Zoysia should be mowed shorter—around 1 ½ to 2 inches. Centipede lawns should be mowed at about 2 inches, and St. Augustine at 2 ½ inches. Bluegrass and perennial Ryegrass should be mowed at 2/12 to 3 inches and Tall Fescue at 3 to 4 inches high. Set your mower at the appropriate height at the first mowing and leave it at that level for the rest of the summer. If your area experiences drought-like weather, it is better to mow a notch even higher.

Tip #2: Seed Smart

Many people want to seed in the spring. This is an okay practice as long as you take into account a couple of important lawn care tips. First, for those in the warm-season turfgrass areas, the availability and success rate for growing new grass from seed is usually low. If your lawn has cool-season grasses, you may end up battling weeds for a good part of the summer as you wait until the plants are mature enough to apply weed control products.

Pro spring lawn care tip: If you seed in the spring, you cannot apply any commercially available crabgrass control materials for as long as 4 months after seeding. If crabgrass has been a problem in your lawn in the past, it would be better to get that under control first and seed at the best time for cool-season grasses: late summer to early fall.

Tip #3: Fertilize Carefully

Finally, spring is a great time to fertilize your lawn. As the plants start growing in the spring, they are using up the food that was stored in the roots during last summer and fall. Pushing out new plants will use up a lot of that stored food and it needs to be replaced. Just don’t overdo it – too much fertilizer can either damage the lawn with fertilizer burns or push out too much top growth instead of helping the roots grow better and deeper.

It is great to see lawns and landscapes beginning to wake up from their long winter’s nap. By following a few basic practices, your lawn and landscape will improve and provide you with a pleasant outdoor environment.

Your local Spring-Green owner has countless other spring lawn care tips—and recommendations for summer, fall, and winter. Get in touch today!

When to Plant Grass Seed: Spring Seeding & Cool Season Grasses

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It may seem like spring is the best time for planting grass seed, and you can do it, but you need to keep a few things in mind before you spend the time and money to do so. First of all, you need to consider the temperature that the soil has to reach before the seed will germinate. Bluegrass and Fine Fescue begin germinating when soil temperatures reach around 60 degrees. Perennial Ryegrass germinates when soil temperatures reach about 70 degrees. This means that you should wait until about May before you begin seeing any germination occur. How much grass seed do I need? Use this chart to determine how much seed you will need to apply per 1,000 sq. ft.:

grassseedchart

The second consideration involves controlling weeds. If you seed in the spring, you cannot apply conventional crabgrass control products. These products will prevent crabgrass seed from germinating and it will keep your new seed from germinating as well. If the area that you are seeding has broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions or clover, you may not be able to use regular broadleaf weed controls. Most of those products state that you have to wait 6 to 8 weeks after the application before seeding. They also require the product cannot be applied until the lawn has been mowed 2 or 3 times after the seed has germinated. What this may mean is that your new grass will have to compete with weeds for the majority of the summer.

Another consideration is the length of time it takes for the seed to germinate. Ryegrass germinates in 5 to 7 days; Fine Fescue germinates in 7 to 10 days; and Bluegrass takes 28 days to germinate. The seed has to stay moist for the entire time from when it is sowed until it germinates. It also needs to receive water for at least two weeks after it germinates. If it is hot and dry, it will continue to need water until it is established.

Finally, you need to have good seed to soil contact to promote germination. Planting grass seed across an established lawn will result in very little germination. The best way to ensure good germination is to core aerate the lawn first and then broadcast the seed.

Planting grass seed in small areas in the spring may work, but trying to reseed your entire lawn in the spring is not a good idea. It is better to wait until mid to late August to seed. Soil temperatures are higher, rain is often more regular and weed pressure is less in the fall. Follow a good fertilization program and control weeds through the summer and the results will be better when you seed cool season grasses in the fall.

Spring Lawn Care Tip #2: Dealing with Early Warmth

I have been involved in lawn and landscape care for almost 40 years – and this has to be one of the warmest years I can ever remember. *80 degrees in Chicago can be normal in June, July and August, but to have 6 consecutive days of 80 degree weather in March is unprecedented. Leaves are budding out, magnolias are blooming, spring bulbs are get ready to open and we haven’t even reached April yet.

This weather is great, and it might feel like time to kick start spring lawn care, but Mother Nature has a way of turning the tables on us and it can come very quickly. The long term forecast does not indicate any freezing temperatures on the horizon, but it is only March. Traditionally, for much of the Midwest, the danger of frost gradually dissipates by mid May, which is a long way off.

Late Freeze Protection

What can you do to protect flowers that have opened up when the forecast calls for frost or freezing temperatures? Most spring bulbs close up every evening and can protect themselves, but it is a good idea to cover them with a plastic sheet or old sheet to prevent the frost from forming on the flower bulbs. Most trees can tolerate some freezing temperatures, although some leaves may be damaged. Fruit trees, on the other hand, can suffer a good deal of damage if the flowers freeze. It could lead to low fruit production this year.

About the only thing you can do this year is enjoy the warmer weather while you can and hope for the best. Lawns can handle a lot of temperature fluctuations and pull through just fine. Landscape plants may suffer, so it is best to take a wait and see approach and hope that it does not get too cold. The plants will survive, but they may look a little weak this year. But again, they may not. We just have to be patient and wait to see what will happen. You can always find a local Spring-Green lawn care franchise that will help you restore the beauty you are used to!