Geographically, Middle Tennessee sits in a climate band called a transition zone, which means subtropical and temperate climates meet where we live. This presents homeowners with a unique challenge in caring for their lawns; our sizzling summers and freezing winters are difficult for both warm- and cool-season grasses to survive.
The good news is that our team at Parks has excellent lawn care tips for everyday problems Middle Tennessee homeowners face. Whether you’re starting from scratch or rehabilitating a lawn that has seen better days, read on to ensure that your lawn retains maximum curb appeal all year long!
Rake, Dethatch, and Aerate
At the first thaw, use a sturdy rake to give your lawn a thorough, deep combing. You’re working to remove dry leaves, bits of twigs, and compacted bits of dead grass.
Thatch, which is a thick layer of living and dead organic matter that builds up beneath your grass, can make it difficult for your lawn to thrive. Fortunately, a deep raking will help remove thatch as well. However, if it’s been a while since your lawn has been dethatched, you may want to use a specialized dethatching tool, verticutter, or electric rake.
Wait to deeply dethatch until your lawn is actively growing. Carrying out invasive remedies is best done when a lawn is thriving. Aeration is another process that should only be done during an active growing season. As essential as aeration is, your annual aeration needs to wait for summer (for warm-season grass) or fall (for cool-season grass).
Test Your Soil
Fertilizer sounds like an essential step in feeding a healthy lawn. While this can be true, it’s important to test your soil before you begin fertilizing your grass—too much fertilizer can be quite damaging to your turf. Testing your soil will tell you whether your yard has high or low sodium levels, whether the pH is properly balanced, and which nutrients to add to feed healthy grass.
Now that you’ve conducted a soil test, you’re ready to fertilize according to the results you’ve gathered. Add nitrogen fertilizer to warm-season lawns in mid-April, and cool-season lawns in early fall. After you’ve fertilized, it’s important to test annually; you may not need to fertilize again right away, even if your first test revealed very low levels.
If you’ve decided to grow cool-season grass, it’s important not to fertilize prior to mid-April. If you fertilize too early in the season, your grass may shoot up rapidly, becoming weak in the process.
Plant Supplementary Grass
Once your soil is prepared, you may observe bald or thinning spots on your lawn. This is the perfect time to overseed in preparation for the growing season that’s right around the corner. Warm-season lawns should be seeded in spring, while cool-season lawns should be seeded in September.
A fresh layer of mulch in the flower beds surrounding your lawn will prevent weeds from taking root along the perimeter and slowly spreading. Additionally, mulch will help your yard retain a good balance of water and keep the summer heat from beating down directly on the soil. Mulch no earlier than mid-Spring; otherwise, your plants may struggle to grow.
If your yard already has an existing layer of mulch, there’s no real reason to completely replace it with a fresh layer. Instead, rake your mulch to fluff it up, then only add as much new mulch as necessary. Overall, your garden beds don’t require more than two inches of mulch.
The University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Extension Service recommends that homeowners in our region add one to one-and-a-half inches of water per week. Rather than watering every other day, deeply water the soil to between four and six inches. Wait until your grass begins to show signs of dehydration before watering deeply once again.
The best time to water your lawn is between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.. This window is the perfect time for your lawn to absorb moisture before the sun rises, while also preventing water from soaking your lawn at night. Too much moisture causes disease, while too little results in weak or dying grass.
Let the Sun Kill Moss
Anywhere that’s damp and shady is an ideal spot for moss to grow. If possible, trim back surrounding trees and shrubs so that more sunlight reaches your yard. Anywhere that gets a good dose of direct sunlight daily will see all moss die off rapidly.
Mushrooms like to grow where organic matter is decaying. If deep raking doesn’t prevent mushrooms in your yard, you may need to remove pet waste more promptly. As pet waste breaks down, it provides the nutrient mix mushrooms need to take root.
Battle Pet Damage
Speaking of pets; if your pet uses your lawn as a potty zone, the high levels of nitrogen in their urine may cause chemical burns on your grass. Feeding your pet a healthy diet and training them to urinate on mulch or gravel can be good preventive measures, but diluting urine with water is the only other fix for this common issue.
Address Grub Woes
In late July and early August, keep your eyes peeled for round spots of damage. These spots will feel soft and spongy when you walk over them. To check for grubs, cut out one square foot of your lawn, peel it back, and look for white, C-shaped grubs. If you see more than a couple of grubs, it’s time to fight back. Once they’ve hatched, you’ll need to hire a lawn care professional to kill them. Next year, put down grub control products before they have the time to hatch.