Lawns: When to Weed, When to Seed?

AUBURN, Ala. – They say the grass is always greener… with proper lawn care. As spring approaches, Alabama residents are making plans to get their lawns ready for a season of new growth. With the transition into warmer weather, there are lawn care maintenance tips to keep in mind for optimal results for a beautiful lawn.

“In Alabama we mainly grow the four warm season grasses, which are Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda,” said Ellen Huckabay, a regional horticulture agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “The warm season grasses actively growing during the hot summer months, drastically reduce their growth in the cooler spring and fall, and stop growing altogether in the winter (but they’re not dead, just dormant).”

“In Alabama we are blessed with a growing season pretty much year-round. Now is a great time to transplant or add new ornamental [plants] to the landscape,” said Tim Crow, an Extension regional commercial horticulture agent.

If you are planning to sow seeds or purchase sod, it is important to consider the best time to do so. Alabama has a relatively warm climate year-round but unpredictable winter weather can unexpectedly and severely damage the warm season grasses.

“If it was my money and my yard, I’d wait until mid- to late April before I laid sod or planted any seed,” said Huckabay.

(Photo: Lou Gold/ Flickr) )

It is also important to be informed about the type of soil you are dealing with when planning to grow grass. Taking the time to test a sample of soil can make a difference in successful growth.

“Sometimes you can provide the lawn with needed nutrients and the turf is not able to take up and use those nutrients because of deficiencies in the soil,” said Crow. “Just like blood work for a doctor, check your soil first.”

Managing weed growth is another key factor to maintaining lawn health. Proper lawn care practices like mowing, irrigating and proper fertilization will help reduce weed growth but in some instances herbicide may be necessary.

“The most effective chemical weed control is with the use of pre-emergent herbicides, which means the herbicide is applied before weed seeds germinate in the spring, summer, and fall,” said Huckabay. “Unfortunately, most people wait until the weeds are too large to be controlled with an herbicide. When that is the case, the best thing to do is to prevent the weeds from going to seed either by mowing or hand-pulling, make a note of what weeds you have, and be prepared to use a pre-emergent product the following year in the appropriate season.”

Getting the timing right is another necessary part of lawn care. A pre-emergent herbicide should be applied in February and then you should wait to fertilize the soil until May. Over watering and fertilizing turf too early in the spring can lead to problems for your turf down the road. Warm season grasses only require one inch of water per week, whether from a sprinkler or rain according to Huckabay.

“Know the season and the things that need to be happening now to make you successful two to three months down the road,” said Crow. “You’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the landscape instead of working yourself to death trying to play catch up.”

When making plans for your lawn, it is important not to get overwhelmed. There are many resources at your disposal to help you achieve a lawn you can be proud of.


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