As winter winds down, and the wisteria starts to bloom while the sweet smell of jasmine fills the streets, we know that spring has finally sprung in the Lowcountry. Now is the perfect time to get your lawn ready for the summer months. Check out these nine tips for spring lawn care in Charleston that will give your lawn a lush look, making all your neighbors green with envy.
1. Start Dethatching
A layer of dead and living stems, leaves, and grass known as “thatch” builds up on top of the soil. Thatch develops when the organic material in your lawn develops faster than it decomposes.
A little thatch is natural and healthy, but too much can prevent nutrients, oxygen, and water from reaching your plants’ roots. It also encourages pests like grubs and lawn diseases. For pest control, consider an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach since using chemicals often kills helpful microorganisms that break down thatch.
Dethatching removes excess thatch from the soil’s surface. You can do this with hand held rakes or power rakes in various forms and sizes. A dethatching rake works for light thatch, but significant build-up requires a machine. The cost of dethatching by a professional is outweighed by the time and labor you save.
The quantity of pore space between soil particles shrinks over time. Eventually, the soil beneath the grass will become compacted, particularly on a lawn that receives a lot of traffic. Oxygen, water, and nutrients cannot get to the roots of the grass in compacted soil.
Aerate your lawn if it has been a while since you’ve done so. If you know how to aerate a lawn, you can DIY this in an afternoon with a rented aerator from your local garden center. If you want to save time, landscapers charge about $145 to aerate for you.
- A week before you plan to aerate, call 811 and they will come out and mark underground utility lines for free. You should also flag sprinkler heads to avoid hitting them while aerating.
- Water your lawn 1 inch deep the day before aerating or the day after a thunderstorm. This will soften the soil to make it easier.
- Aerate your entire lawn rather than just a few spots. Cross your yard as if mowed, ensuring your aerator tool punches holes and removes dirt plugs.
- Leave soil plugs on your lawn. After a few days of drying, shred them with the back of a rake and spread them around. They’ll break down thatch and serve as a natural top dressing, replenishing the soil’s nutrients.
- Apply soil amendments such as manure, compost, and shredded leaves. Now is the ideal time to treat the lawn. If you haven’t already, fertilize, spread compost over your lawn, and rake it into the holes to add nutrients.
- After coring, you can overseed your yard while applying fertilizer and compost to make it greener and denser. The compost will help the newly planted grass seedlings thrive.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to overseed your grass, use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from growing in the holes.
3. Test Your Soil
You can test your soil to see which nutrients it may need and learn more about its overall composition. Most grass types thrive in neutral conditions, and as a result, your soil should not be too acidic or alkaline. Clemson University has a soil sample mailer available that you can mail in for your test results.
You can raise or lower your soil pH with minimal effort, but you first must know the existing soil pH. Knowing what nutrients to add when choosing a fertilizer to prevent burning your grass is also essential.
4. Treat for Weeds
Spring is the perfect time to prevent summer weeds in Charleston. Annual weeds can hinder your lawn’s growth, but you can prevent them by applying a pre-emergent herbicide before weed roots establish. It’s best to treat weeds between mid-February and early March or when the soil temperature hits 50-55 degrees.
For granular herbicides, you’ll need a spreader. For liquid herbicides, you’ll need to buy a weed sprayer if you don’t have one.
How to Apply a Granular Pre-Emergent Herbicide
- To disperse the granules, you’ll need a fertilizer spreader.
- Carefully read the label.
- Adjust your spreader according to the label specifications.
- Apply the granular pre-emergent as evenly as possible using your spreader.
How to Apply a Liquid Pre-Emergent Herbicide
- Pre-emergent liquids are available in different sizes.
- Combine the ingredients according to the label. Please carefully follow the directions to ensure effective treatment and maintain your lawn.
- Apply the pre-emergent evenly and methodically.
Pro-tip: A second fall application of pre-emergence herbicide will prevent winter annuals from taking root.
If a harsh winter or pet urine damage has left bare spots in your lawn, you should overseed it. Spreading fresh grass seed over an existing lawn is known as overseeding, and it is done to fill up bare spots and thicken the grass.
To overseed your current grass, you need to prep the soil, sow the seed, and care for the new seedlings. The article How to Overseed a Lawn in 8 Steps will walk you through the process.
Overseeding is not reseeding, which involves removing the grass and planting a new lawn. See our article How to Plant Grass Seed in Six Steps for more information on reseeding.
6. Tend to Your Equipment
You’ll need a few key lawn care tools to maintain a beautiful, lush landscape in Charleston. As you gear up for a healthy lawn, ensure all your equipment is in good working order.
- Lawn mower: Because only razor-sharp edges can deliver perfect grass cutting, learn how to sharpen lawn mower blades.
- String trimmers, often known as weed whackers or weed eaters, are excellent for maintaining crisp lawn edges. Use the appropriate string gauge for your trimmer and follow the instructions in your owner’s manual. If you need a new one, check out the 10 Best String Trimmers on our list.
- Power supplies are different for each tool. Ensure you have the correct oil, fuel, or battery packs before you begin.
According to LawnStarter’s data research, during the last decade, U.S. emergency departments reported an estimated 3,195,333 injuries related to lawn equipment. Maintain your lawn care equipment and follow key safety tips to stay safe while caring for your property.
7. Get in Your First Mow
If you’re wondering when it’s safe to start mowing your lawn again after a Charleston winter, there isn’t a set date. Most homeowners can start mowing in late February or early March, depending on the weather.
Don’t be tempted to mow your lawn as soon as it gets warm. Wait until the weather and grass conditions are suitable. This way, you’ll keep your lawn healthy and vibrant throughout the growing season.
- Dry lawn: Make sure the grass is dry to prevent any damage.
- Tall grass: Let the grass grow to at least 2 inches before mowing to avoid messing with the roots and causing growth issues.
- Ready equipment: Before starting the mower, give it a quick check. Make sure you have enough oil and gas, sharpen the blades, and test the safety features.
If your lawn looks ready to go, follow these tips for your first spring mow.
- Before your first mow, clear the area of any leaves, sticks, and other debris that could get in the way of cutting or damage the mower blade. The cost of a professional lawn cleanup is around $280, though it varies based on your specific needs.
- Ensure all chances of frost have passed.
- Set your mower deck to the highest setting possible and avoid cutting more than one-third of the grass blades at once to avoid damaging your grass.
- Bag the first mow to prevent spreading fungus or disease your lawn may have picked up over winter.
During the main growing season, you should mow your grass regularly, at least once per week, to keep it healthy. Mid-morning, between 8 and 10 a.m., is the ideal time to mow your lawn.
8. Topdress Your Lawn
Spreading a thin layer of material, such as compost or sand, over the grass is known as topdressing. Very often, topdressing is made by mixing compost, sand, and topsoil then spreading a thin layer across your lawn. It has multiple benefits:
- Improves poor soil by adding organic material.
- Increases water retention so more water is absorbed by the grassroots.
- Reduces fertilizer use and slows thatch build-up.
Even though topdressing your grass is a do-it-yourself project, it takes a lot of time. Renting motorized spreader equipment from some home improvement stores reduces labor but raises costs. Alternatively, you can hire a Charleston lawn care expert to do the job for you.
9. Activate Your Irrigation System
You’ll need to test your irrigation system in the spring, especially if you didn’t winterize your sprinkler system. When you turn your irrigation system on, note how long it takes to produce an inch of water. This will help you determine whether your system works effectively and reaches the appropriate depths and distances.
This spring, your Charleston lawn will require regular irrigation to promote healthy growth. Aiming for 1 inch of water for every 12 inches of soil depth would be beneficial. Water your lawn thoroughly once a week, especially during dry seasons.
Avoid shallow watering as much as possible because it promotes fungal development. If you don’t have a system, you can have one installed. On average, a professionally installed underground sprinkler system costs about $0.60 per square foot.
FAQ: Spring Lawn Maintenance
Proper lawn care during spring is crucial to encourage strong roots and nutrient storage to help grass withstand summer droughts. Also, neglecting spring lawn care can lead to pests, diseases, and an unhealthy lawn.
Turfgrass needs only 1 inch of water per week in a single, deep watering session, not several, and don’t water during the rainy season. If you winterize your automatic irrigation system, now is the time to activate it. Be sure to audit your sprinkler system to make sure everything works.
In the Charleston area, grass fertilizer is typically applied around May 1st. The local warm-season grasses are most active from May to August, during which time they grow rapidly.
When to Call a Pro
If you don’t have the time to prep and plant your ideal lawn or would prefer someone else to take care of the work, hire a Charleston lawn care specialist to take care of it while you spend your time enjoying Chucktown.