Atlanta, GA Lawn Maintenance Guide

Warm-season grasses (i.e. bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysiagrass) are native to tropical regions and do their best work in the scorching Southern sun. Warm-season grasses grow best in temperatures between 75 – 90 degrees fahrenheit and have the highest growth rates during the summer season. They experience winter dormancy for 3 – 5 months, depending on type and location, and usually green back up when spring rolls around.

Compared to their cool-season counterparts, warm-season grasses require less maintenance and are generally less susceptible to pest invasions.

Examples of Warm Season Grasses

1. Bermuda Grass

bermuda-grass
Photo: Flickr / Forest and Kim Starr

2. St. Augustine Grass

st-augustine-grass
Photo: Flickr / Nathan Thewlis

3. Zoysia Grass

zoysia-grass
Photo: Flickr / Forest and Kim Starr

Spring

Spring Fertilization

Warm-season grasses should be fertilized with a slow release nitrogen fertilizer after they’ve emerged from winter dormancy and turn green again. Most established lawns generally only need a nitrogen fertilizer (which is the first number on the bag), however we recommend a soil test to be sure. A soil test will reveal certain nutrient deficiencies that your lawn may have.

Every fertilizer will have instructions on the bag that will inform you of the recommended amount that should be applied. It’s better to spread the fertilizer on a lower spreader setting to avoid spreading too much in one area at once. If applied properly, you shouldn’t be running out of fertilizer half way through.

Mowing Recommendations

There’s a lot of debate as to which is better; bagging the clippings or recycling the clippings back into the lawn. So, here’s the breakdown:

Bagging the clippings will reduce thatch build up in warm-season lawns. However, if you’re mowing on a weekly basis at the recommended mowing height then the clippings shouldn’t be so abundant that they will produce a layer of thatch. So, if you’re lax on your mowing then yes bag the clippings.

Recycling the clippings back into your lawn acts as a natural fertilizer which can help your grass remain green and healthy. But only do so if you’re mowing on a regular basis and only removing ⅓ or less of the grass blade at a time.

Make sure that your mower blades are sharpened regularly. This puts less stress on the grass and also helps prevent fungus from damaging the grass. Mowing with a dull blade tears the grass blades creating jagged ends, instead of cutting them evenly at the tips. (It’s the same concept as biting your nails, which is bad, and using nail clippers, which is good.)

Never cut off more than ⅓ of the grass blade at a time. If you skipped a mowing then it’s better to start at a higher setting and gradually get back to the preferred grass height.

Recommended mowing heights for different types of grass:

Bermuda Grass: ¾ – 1 ½ inches
St. Augustine Grass: 1 ½ – 3 inches
Centipede Grass: 1 -2 inches
Zoysia Grass: ¾ – 2 ½ inches

Watering

We’ve already written a post about watering your Atlanta lawn. I recommend checking up on that if you need watering tips.

Establishing a new lawn?

The best time to establish a warm-season lawn is in the early spring. Some experts suggest that you can do so at any time during the growing season, however we would disagree assuming that you’re reading this because you’re looking for optimal results.

There are three different ways to establish a new lawn:

  • Sodding: This is the quickest, most expensive way to establish your new lawn. Water regularly and don’t set a mower on the sod until the roots have penetrated your pre-existing soil. This usually takes 3 – 4 weeks to happen.
  • Overseeding: You can either overseed your existing lawn with a grass type that blends well or simply start over completely. Be warned though, starting a new lawn by seed takes a lot of patience and care.
  • Plugging: This is more for fixing areas where the grass is sparse. Adding plugs in a cross pattern about six inches away from each other should do the trick. Make sure to water!

Summer

Aerate

The best time to aerate your warm-season lawn is in the late spring or early summer. This will foster fresh, healthy growth right before your lawn hits its peak growth rates. Aeration involves perforating your lawn with small holes by removing plugs of soil from the ground, alleviating soil compaction.

First push the aerator horizontally and then switch to a vertical pattern, or vice versa. This allows for the most coverage and avoids removing plugs too close to each other.

Watering

Once again, we’ve written a complete guide on watering your Atlanta lawn. You should check it out!

Fungus

Have you ever seen those brown patches in your lawn that grow like an amoeba and no amount of watering or fertilizing seems to be helping the situation? If frustrated nostalgia is setting in then you probably know what I’m talking about. Fungus is an airborne spore that enters through the grass blade tips and is most common where the climate is humid. A good indicator for a fungus problem is carefully inspecting your grass blades; if the crown/base of the grass is green whereas the tips are a yellowish or brown color towards the tip then you most likely have a fungus problem.

Here’s a couple preventative actions you can take to avoid fungus in your lawn:

  • Make sure your watering is happening early in the morning versus late in the night. Watering during the night doesn’t allow for the water to be evaporated off of the grass blades. Moisture sitting on the grass too long is an open invitation for fungus to creep in.
  • Sharpen your mower blades, dull blades tear the grass blades and make it easy for fungus to invade.
  • Avoid fertilizing your lawn during the summer. Some expert lawn care professionals say that rapid growth temporarily weakens the grass, making it more susceptible to fungus.
  • Apply liquid fungicide as a preventative if the nighttime temps will be above 70 degrees. Most fungicides are inexpensive and will protect your lawn for 3 – 4 weeks per application.

Grub Control

Grubs are one of the most annoying pests to deal with in the Southern states. The damage is most evident during the spring and fall when grubs are feasting on your grass roots. It’s easy to tell if grubs are the problem because your grass will rip up easier than carpet.
Because beetles lay their eggs in July, this is the best time to apply chemical grub control.

Fall

Leaf Removal

It’s crucial to remove leaves from your lawn as soon as possible during the fall season. A thick layer of leaves will suffocate your lawn, not allowing adequate amounts of air, nutrients, and sunlight to reach your grass.

Winter

Winter Dormancy

Congratulations! You’ve made it all the way to winter and your lawn should be entering its winter dormancy period. You can finally sit back and relax because your lawn is basically hibernating and isn’t growing. However, if you want a few tips for winter lawn care that will help you go the extra mile then check out our winter lawn care blog post!

This is our complete maintenance guide to lawn maintenance in Atlanta, GA. For more details about certain seasons you can certainly check out our other posts.

Have questions about lawn care? Visit our Atlanta lawn care page or simply share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

 

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