Winter Lawn Care Tips for Warm Climates

warm season grass

Winter living in a southern climate can be the most glorious time of year. Humidity levels drop, the sun continues to shine, all while temperatures are seemingly perfect. As an added layer, we watch as the rest of the country struggles with snow, ice, and freezing temps – making us appreciate our lot in life that much more. There are nuances, however, to caring for our lawn during these cooler winter months that can help us keep our outdoor living spaces thriving all year round. Let’s unpack the why’s, how’s, and do’s, versus the don’ts of caring for your winter lawn in a southern climate.

Attention Southern Climate Dwellers: Your Tips for a Thriving Lawn This Winter

1. The differences in summer lawn care and winter lawn care

Even though the winter is mild and the threat of a frost may be minimal in southern areas, winter lawn care does come with some special instructions. As the temps drop (ever so slightly) and the rainy season closes, it’s important to continue to mow your lawn to encourage growth and prevent disease. When it appears to stop growing, you can give your mower a break. In the late fall, it may be a good idea to aerate your lawn to help increase root growth and promote breathing as well as minimize thatch build up to avoid susceptibility to diseases and insects.

2. Understanding winter lawn fertilization

When it comes to fertilizing your winter lawn, commonly asked questions are sure to pop up. Is it okay to fertilize my lawn in winter? What type of fertilizer should I put on my lawn when it’s cold? When and how much should I fertilize my winter lawn? Here are some rules of thumb: If you have warm season grasses (such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, or Centipede), fertilizers that contain winterizers should not be used because they’re designed for lawns that go dormant in the winter, not lawns in warmer climates where winterizing is less of an issue. Warm season grasses respond best to fertilization when the temps are warm and the grass is growing.

3. No break from weeding during winter

While warm climate dwellers do get a break from snowy roads and frozen sidewalks, they don’t get a break from weeding the lawn. Keep up with your weeding during the winter months by applying a broadleaf weed control treatment. Raking and clearing away thatch and debris will also contribute to your lawn’s overall health during winter and all year round.

4. Give special attention to warm season grasses

Warm season grass can be defined as types of grasses that have maximum growth at higher temperatures (in the range of 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit). Warm season grass species usually include Bahia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Carpet Grass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. These grasses will go dormant if temps fall below freezing and return when warm weather returns. If your climate rarely or never falls below freezing, your warm weather grass will need moderate mowing (not too much, not too little) and, depending on the rainfall in your area, watering. Be careful not to overwater and night watering may also be avoided during winter months.

5. School yourself on the do’s and don’ts for winter lawn care

It’s winter, and if you live in the south, you’re relishing in the break from the heat! But don’t forget about the most important do’s and don’ts for winter lawn care:

  • DO – Clean debris, leaves, and toys or trash to allow your winter lawn to breathe, as well as avoid conditions that promote disease and invite unwanted pests like insects and rodents.
  • DO – Pay attention to your lawn mowing practices. Be sure to lower the height of your mower and avoid over-mowing to avoid damage to your winter lawn.
  • DON’T – Walk all over-sensitive lawns. While dormant grass can certainly tolerate a moderate amount of traffic, heavy traffic will cause problems.
  • DON’T – Assume the weather will always be perfect. Extreme weather patterns occur more and more frequently, making it important to monitor weather conditions even in warm climates. Conditions like heavy rains or uncharacteristic cold temps can harm your winter lawn without preparation.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that resides in a warm climate during the winter, your trade-off for not having to shovel snow is that your winter lawn care may require a bit more from you all year round. The good news is it will actually be warm enough for you to get outside and enjoy the green garden. Follow these best practices to keep your winter lawn healthy and set your spring, summer and fall lawn up for beauty and health as well.

If you are in need of a professional to help you with your lawn care needs, don’t hesitate to contact Spring-Green, the neighborhood lawn care team that has been supporting communities likes yours since 1977. We can provide the professional and courtesy service you need to keep your residential or commercial property looking great 365 days out of the year and through any type of weather.

Weed And Feed 101 – Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know

weed and feed

Like many things in life timing matters. If you want a healthy, vibrant lawn year-round, it’s just as important to understand what it needs as well as to understand when it needs it. A foundational link to your lawn’s health is providing protection from the weeds that can threaten its very existence. Weed killers, weed and feed and the timing of it all, however, can be mystifying to homeowners seeking answers.

Not to worry though, you’ve got a neighborhood lawn expert at your disposal! Spring-Green has the basics of weed killer best practices, timing recommendations and more. Before you go out to administer any weed and feed, check out this primer on the when, what, where, how and why…well, we know the why, right?

Common Weed And Feed Questions Deboned

What is weed and feed? Weed and feed is an interchangeable, universal name given to a wide variety of lawn chemicals that have the purpose of strengthening the lawn by killing weeds. It generally improves your lawn’s ability to absorb water and food and adds necessary nutrients which promote healthy growth.

A healthy lawn, in turn, discourages weed propagation, enabling the use of a reduced amount of the product over time. There are many types of weed and feed that we will drill down on for further learnings.

What is the “weed” in my weed and feed? The weed component is comprised of herbicides (typically Dicamba, 2, 4-D and/or MCPP). These chemicals are designed to squelch dandelions, dollarweed and the most common green leafy weeds.

What makes up the “feed” in my weed and feed? The “feed” is a fertilizer. Typically, it is a combo of nitrogen, phosphorous and/or potassium. The blends vary, but all are designed to help your lawn flourish.

How does weed and feed work? Granules are applied to and absorbed by the leaves of the weed but doesn’t kill regular grass (unless too much is applied). In addition to the granular form, liquid forms are available that can be applied with a sprayer.

What is pre-emergent weed and feed? Pre-emergent weed and feed, as the name implies, targets weeds before they appear. Pre-emergent weed and feed does not control existing weeds. Annual applications over the target area for best results. Water in your pre-emergent weed and feed to activate the herbicide and create a barrier against weeds before they grow.

What is post-emergent weed and feed? Post-emergent weed and feed is the most common form for ridding weeds from lawns. When you already have weeds, the post-emergent weed and feed varietal is in order. Using a mixture of chemicals, they kill the weed and keep it from growing back.

How do seasons impact my weed and feed strategy? To be effective with your weed and feed strategy, you need to get the timing right. As a rule of thumb, time the application of weed and feed with the fertilization of the lawn during the last week of March or early April.

Keeping weeds out of your lawn can often be a chronic struggle that requires a strategy that is comprehensive and continuous. Understanding when to use pre-emergent weed and feed versus post-emergent as well as getting the timing right can be the winning combination to help you reach the finish line.

Whether it’s weeds or routine upkeep you’re in need of, Spring-Green is America’s go-to for neighborhood lawns and landscapes care since 1977. We are locally owned and operated and take our commitment to our community seriously.

Contact your nearest neighborhood Spring-Green lawn care professional today.

Winter Weed Control On Warm-Season Grasses

warm season grass

This picture is a Bermuda grass lawn in Opelika, AL entering dormancy. Each year, as the temperatures drop, this is what happens to most warm season grasses when exposed to freezing temperatures. They take on this almost camouflage-look to them.

Except for parts of Florida, most warm season grasses enter into a dormant state during the winter. They will turn brown and do not green-up until next spring through early summer. Even though the grass turns brown, there are still broadleaf weeds and annual grasses that continue growing throughout the winter dormant period.

Types of Winter Annual Weeds

The broadleaf weeds are classified into annuals and perennials. They can also be broken down into winter germinating and summer germinating weeds. Winter weeds germinate in the fall/winter, grow throughout that period and then die when the warm weather returns the following year.

These plants will produce flowers and seeds during that time, which will then germinate again next year. That is why applying a weed control application or two during the dormant-turf period will help to eliminate these weeds from your lawn.

Most broadleaf weed control products will take care of the majority of the winter annual weeds like Henbit, Large Hop Clover Poa Annua and Chickweed.

One good thing about warm-season grasses turning brown in the winter is that weed control applications from Spring-Green can be used on grassy weeds like annual bluegrass and Dallisgrass.  The grass you wish to control are often still green and growing while the desired grasses are dormant.

Controlling Winter Annual Weeds

Now is a good time to apply a pre-emergent weed control product to prevent many annual grasses from germinating. As the name implies, these products will control these problem weeds, like crabgrass, from germinating in the spring. Once the pre-emergent application is completed, it’s important to water the lawn at least half an inch to ensure it reaches the grass root growth, especially of there is no rain in the forecast.

Even though your yard may be brown during the winter, keep in mind this is completely normal during this time. There are a few tasks that you can still do to have a more weed-free lawn next year. If you have questions on winter annual weeds or lawn maintenance, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green.

When Is The Best Time To Aerate Your Lawn?

beautiful home core aeration

The best time to aerate your lawn is based on 3 conditions:

  1. Type of grass in your lawn
  2. Weather conditions in your area
  3. Amount of moisture your lawn has received

Aeration can take place at any time of the year, but the best time is usually in the spring/early summer or fall. 

core aeration - what it looks like

The general recommendation is to core aerate when there is the most root growth. For warm-season grasses: Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede, Zoysia, it is in May and June when these grasses are coming out of dormancy. Cool-season grasses: bluegrass, ryegrass and the fescues, receive the most benefits when the lawn is aerated in the fall.

What would happen if you aerated a warm-season grass in the fall?

In most cases, nothing bad. The roots of the turfgrass will probably not grow any faster. But there is still the benefit of helping to reduce compaction. When a lawn is aerated, a certain amount of soil is lifted from the lawn and left back on the lawn.

As these cores are broken apart by mowing or melt into the lawn through rain fall or irrigation, the soil will intermingle with the current thatch layer and start feeding on it to naturally break it down.  The only concern would be if abnormally cold temperatures were to occur and the ground were to freeze. This may cause some roots to die that are close to the edge of the core holes.

spring-green tech core aerating a lawn

Fall may be the best time to aerate a cool-season lawn, but in some cases, aeration in spring and fall may also be recommended. If the thatch layer has been built up above a half of an inch over a period of time, spring and fall aeration may be the best choice. Many people like to seed after aeration, but we don’t recommend seeding a lawn in the spring, since we cannot apply a crabgrass preventer and the lawn will require more watering than it will in the fall.

The most important condition that can affect the quality of aerating a lawn is the amount of moisture that is in the soil. The lawn has to be moist for the tines to penetrate into the ground. Be sure to either wait until after a good rain fall or provide about a half inch of water to the lawn before trying to aerate it.

If you have not scheduled your lawn for a fall core aeration, especially if you are in the cool-season turf areas, contact your local Spring-Green office. It is one of the best things you can do to help ensure you have a healthy lawn.

Winter Weed Control in the South

While the northern parts of the US are in the process of hunkering down for the winter, the milder temperatures of the southern states are providing the ideal temperatures to control many troublesome weeds in what soon will be dormant lawns.

Even though these lawns may be dormant, many weeds are just starting to become active in the fall. These weeds are known as winter weeds. They can be annual, biennial or perennial in regards to life cycles, and these winter weeds can be very difficult to control.

winter weeds

The Different Types of Winter Weeds

The ones that are most troublesome are the winter broadleaf annual weeds, which include common chickweed, henbit, lawn burweed, large hop clover knawel and parsley-piert.

Winter annuals germinate in the fall, grow during the winter, and then develop flowers and set seeds in the spring and finally die when the weather turns hot during the summer. The seeds they leave behind will germinate in the following fall.

What Are Some Common Winter Weed Control Methods?

Most of these weeds can be treated with broadleaf weed control products, which are available at hardware stores, garden centers and home improvement centers. Lawn care companies like Spring-Green also offer programs that are designed to keep these weeds from becoming a major nuisance in your lawn. In many cases, these weeds distract from the uniform appearance of the lawn and will often overtake the desired grasses.

Winter weeds are probably the most annoying;, they are an annual bluegrass also known as poa annua . This annual weed has two periods of germination. The first period is in the late summer, usually in early September. The second is in late winter/early spring, usually late February to mid-March.

Winter weeds 2

Since annual bluegrass is in the grass family, broadleaf weed control products will not be effective. The product that is usually applied to control annual bluegrass is a pre-emergent weed control product.

Pre-emergent weed control inhibits the formation of a new plant from the seed the plant leaves behind. Annual bluegrass is a prolific seed producer. The same pre-emergent weed control product that is applied to control crabgrass will also control annual bluegrass.

Taking care of weeds during the winter on warm season turfgrasses will help to assure that the lawn will be more attractive in the spring. The best weed control method of all is a thick, well-fertilized lawn that is mowed high and receives adequate moisture during the growing season. However, you may find it easier to contact your local lawn care provider , such as Spring-Green, to help you care for your lawn.

The Best Time to Aerate Your Lawn, for Cool and Warm Season Grasses

core aerator used by a Spring-Green technician

September is here and the amount of sunlight is becoming less and less each day. Less sunlight means that the leaves on trees will start to show their fall colors, summer weeds will begin to slow down growing and another summer is coming to a close. Early fall lawn projects are on homeowners’ minds, and many are wondering if this is the best time to aerate their lawns.

Aerating Your Lawn in the Fall Works for Cool Season Grasses

For cool-season grasses, this is the time of year when the top growth slows down and the root growth increases. Fall is the time when these grasses naturally “repair” the damage that was caused by the stresses of summer. Heat and a lack of rain have taken their toll on cool-season lawns. Insect and disease outbreaks add to the damage level and have left many lawns in a sorry shape for the fall.

In my 37+ years in lawn care, I have always been amazed at the recuperative ability of turfgrasses to recover from these stresses. Even though they can come back, one of the most important things you can do to help a cool-season lawn recover is to core aerate to increase rooting and the overall health of the lawn. It is also a good idea to overseed the lawn to help it fill in even faster. By opening up the lawn, more air, water and nutrients can easily reach the root zone. The cores or plugs of soil that are left behind will breakdown and incorporate into the thatch layer. It is the microorganisms in the soil that feed and the thatch to lessen its impact on the lawn.

CoreAeration_770x287

When Is the Best Time to Aerate Warm Season Grasses?

For those of you that have warm-season grasses, the best time to aerate your lawn is in early summer. If you aerate the lawns right now, they won’t be harmed, but the benefits are much less.

When Is the Best Time to Add Nitrogen Fertilizer?

If you plan to apply an application of nitrogen to your warm-season lawn one more time this year, be sure to do so by the end of September. Stimulating new growth in October or November can be detrimental to the lawn if an early frost hits the area. Too much nitrogen in the fall can also lead to an increase in disease activity the following spring.

Before we know it, leaves are going to begin to fall. There are a number of fall lawn and landscape projects that are coming up as the year moves on. I will be discussing those in future blog posts. Enjoy the last of the summer warmth while you can.

Core aeration is just one of the services Spring-Green offers to help homeowners prepare their lawns for winter. Contact your local Spring-Green for a free estimate of your lawn’s unique needs.

When You Should Core Aerate and Reseed Your Lawn

soil plugs from core aeration

What Is Core Aeration?

You may have heard about core aeration from a local lawn care company or have read about the procedure in gardening publications. Simply put, core aeration is a process where a machine travels across a lawn or turfgrass area and removes and then deposits plugs of soil and thatch back onto the lawn. This process opens up the lawn to provide more air, water, and nutrients to the root system of the turf. This process will help to produce a healthier lawn. It is recommended that you leave the plugs of soil on the lawn so the soil that has been brought up will melt back into the lawn to help reduce thatch – the microorganisms in the soil will feed on the thatch and break it down. Now that we know what it is, when is the best time to core aerate your lawn?

When to Core Aerate Cool Season Grasses

The process works best when the root system of the plant is actively growing. For cool season grasses, the most root growth occurs in the fall, followed by the spring. Most core aeration for cool-season grasses takes place in the fall.

Spring-Green employee core aerating a lawn

When to Core Aerate Warm Season Grasses

For warm-season grasses, the best time to core aerate is in the early summer because the roots for these plants are most active during this time of year. Aerating warm season grasses in the fall will not provide the benefits of improving root growth since the turf is beginning to enter a dormant period and growth will stop.

After Aerating, Reseed the Lawn

Reseeding a lawn after it has been core aerated is advantageous for cool season grasses, but seeding does not perform as well for warm season grasses. The main reason for this is that the seed is difficult and can take a long time to germinate. For a seed to germinate, it needs to be kept moist during the germination process. If the roots dry out before the seed has been able to send the root into the soil, it will die. Most warm-season grasses’ reproductive systems (called stolons) grow very quickly and will fill in thin and bare areas quickly, so seeding is not as much of a concern.

Re-sodding Is Another Option

If there are larger areas that have died out due to winter kill or past insect or disease damage, placing new pieces of sod of the same turfgrass that is growing in the lawn will help to fill in these areas. The easiest way to do this is to unroll the piece of sod, and then use a spade to make vertical cuts around the perimeter of the sod. After doing so, remove the sod and, using the spade, make horizontal cuts at about an inch below grade. Remove the dead grass and some of the soil and place the new sod in the prepared area. Keep it watered and it will soon fill in the surrounding areas.

Contact your local Spring-Green professional to schedule a core aeration today and start to enjoy the benefits of a healthy lawn.

Lawn Diseases: Caring for Warm Season Grasses Like Centipede Grass

Lawn disease solutions for warm season grasses

I recently attended the South Carolina Landscape and Turfgrass Association annual conference and tradeshow in Columbia, SC for the second year now. Since I’ve lived most of my life in northern Illinois, I always welcome the chance to learn more about warm-season grasses, and this show provides some appreciated insight.

Warm Season Lawn Disease: Centipede Decline

One of the presentations I attended was about warm-season grass disease. Centipede grass is grown in many home lawns throughout the South and requires less fertilizer than many other warm-season grasses—it’s also prone to two diseases: Large Patch and Centipede Decline. The speaker, Dr. Bruce Martin from Clemson University, explained that Centipede Decline is considered a man-made disease, often brought on by homeowners who seem to follow the “if a little is good, a lot is better” school of thought on centipede grass care. Too much water, improper mowing and too much fertilizer will often lead to this lawn disease. It is more of a condition brought on by too much outside stimulus.

When speaking with our franchise owners in the southern states, they’ve told us that several homeowners have contacted them for help after they have tried and failed at caring for their own Centipede grass lawn. At that point, it is an uphill battle to get the lawn back into shape. Fortunately, our owners have the experience and knowledge to help improve these warm season grass lawns.

Warm Season Lawn Disease: Large Patch

Large Patch disease (formerly known as Brown Patch) occurs in the cooler weather of fall through early spring on warm-season grasses. It can infect Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia grasses. (Brown Patch, in contrast, occurs during the heat and humidity of summer and is often found on Tall Fescue lawns.) Large patch appears mostly in circular patches that are yellow to tan in color. They start off small—2 to 3 feet in diameter—but can quickly expand to 10 feet or more in diameter. The patches can grow together to form even larger patches, which is where it gets the name “Large Patch.”

To determine if Large Patch is happening on a lawn, you have to look for spots or lesions on the grass plants. It may be necessary to peel back the dead, older leaves to see the lesions. Disease-control materials are available to treat this lawn disease, but the treatments need to start in the fall when soil temperatures fall to about 70 degrees.

Not only were there sessions on warm-season grasses, but there were also sessions on tree care, such as caring for palm trees. South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State, named for the Sabal Palm that grows along the coast. The botanical name for the Sabal Palm is Sabal Palmetto, which is where it got its name. It is more commonly called the Cabbage Palm and can grow as high as 80 feet. One of the interesting things I learned about these trees is that the wood is soft and spongy, not dense like a regular deciduous tree. These trees were used to construct a fort during the Revolutionary War—the British became frustrated when their cannonballs would not penetrate the walls, but just bounced off… but I digress.

Spring-Green: Staying Up to Date on Lawn Care Research

Even though I have been working in lawn care for over 37 years, I always find that I can learn new information and enjoy attending these regional conferences. In addition to validating what I already know, I always learn new techniques and recommendations. There is a good deal of research on turfgrass being done at universities across the United States, and staying up to date on the latest information is a value to our franchise owners—especially in regards to the customers that they service.

Want to learn more about warm season grasses or other problems affecting your yard? Ask your local Spring-Green professional to come out for a free estimate!

Winter Weed Control on Warm-Season Grasses

With the colder weather hitting the states lately, we don’t need to be worrying about weeds, right? Wrong! Areas with warm season grasses, like Alabama, can still have a weed problem even when the turf goes dormant.

Except for parts of Florida, most warm season grasses enter into a dormant state during the winter. They will turn brown and not green-up until next spring through early summer. Even though the grass turns brown, there are still weeds that continue growing throughout the winter dormant period.

These broadleaf weeds are basically classified into annuals and perennials. They can also be broken down into winter germinating and summer germinating weeds. Some weeds germinate in the fall/winter, grow throughout that period and then die when the warm weather returns next year. Winter germinating weeds will produce flowers and seeds during that time, which will then germinate again next year. That’s why winter weed control on warm season grasses is so essential—applying a weed control application or two during the dormant-turf period will help to eliminate these weeds from your lawn.

Most broadleaf weed control products will take care of the majority of the winter germinating annual weeds like Henbit, Large Hop Clover and Chickweed. One good thing about warm season grasses turning brown in the winter is that a non-selective weed control product like Round-Up can be used on grassy weeds like annual bluegrass and Dallisgrass. Be sure the desired grasses are completely dormant, but that the grass you wish to control is still green and growing before using Round-Up.

Winter is also a good time to apply a pre-emergent weed control product to prevent many annual grasses from germinating. As the name implies, these products will control problem weeds, like crabgrass, from germinating.

Even though your yard may be brown during the winter, there are still a few tasks that you can do to have a more weed-free lawn next year. Talk to your local Spring-Green professional to find the right program for your lawn and budget!

Fertilizing Your Lawn in the Fall: Cool vs. Warm Season Grasses

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Is Fall a Good Time to Fertilize?

It all depends on what type of grass you have growing in your lawn.

If your lawn has warm-season grasses in it like Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda or Zoysia, you are at the latest possible time to fertilize your lawn. Many universities recommend that these grasses not be fertilized after the end of September since you don’t want to stimulate new, tender growth that could be damaged by frost. These warm-season grasses need to “harden off” or slowdown in growth as they begin to enter into their dormant period. If you still want to fertilize your lawn now, you could cause damage to your lawn that may not become apparent until next spring.

If your lawn has one of the cool-season grasses, like bluegrass, ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue, this is the best time of year to fertilize it. Fall is the time of most active root growth for these cool-season grasses. They need the food that the fertilizer provides to grow new roots. These grasses are better adapted to the cooler temperatures of fall and actually grow better at this time of year. In addition to lawn fertilization, fall is also a good time to core aerate your lawn as this process will help the roots grow better as well.

How Much Fertilizer Do I Need?

Depending on where you live, there may still be enough time to apply two applications of fertilizer this fall. You should space the applications apart by about 4 to 6 weeks. As far as the amount of fertilizer you should apply, generally speaking you should apply between three-quarters to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. Determining how much fertilizer product you need to deliver requires the use of some mathematical equations.

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percent by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that is in the bag. So, if the bag has an analysis of 28-0-3, the bag contains 28% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus and 4% potassium. If your goal is to provide three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., then divide .75 by .28, which equals 2.68 pounds of product applied per 1,000 sq. ft. If your lawn is 10,000 sq. ft. you will need about 27 pounds of product to supply three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.
Fall is rapidly approaching, which means that leaves will be falling soon and before we know it, we will be switching from lawn mowers to snow blowers. For this, I can wait.

If you hate math, leave fertilizer application to the pros. Get in touch with your local Spring-Green today!