Now that spring has arrived our bermudagrasses are starting to get a little color and the paspalums are starting to show one of their biggest strengths–an early green up.  For everyone who has overseeded turf or a cool season grass you are quickly realizing that mowing once a week clearly is not enough and turf canopy is getting denser and the ryegrass is getting extremely green and lush.  While your overseeded turf looks amazing this time of year, you don’t want to lose site of the big picture and that is transitioning to your summer lawn.  Our temperatures have risen and the nights have been warmer but it is still too early to see any growth from your summer grass, as the soil is still too cold.  I am going to give you some guidelines to maintain your cool season or overseeded turf, and some tips if you are just coming out of dormancy.


Anytime we start to get warmer temperatures our instinct tells us to increase our watering and our grass will automatically start to improve in color.  This is partly true, but it’s not time to get drastic.  If you have dormant turf (non-overseeded) you should be watering one time per week for about 15-20 minutes.  This is the equivalent of about ½ inch of water per week depending on what type of sprinklers you have in your yard.  If 15-20 minutes is causing a pooling effect in your lawn it’s time to go rent the aerifier.  Aerification at this time of the year will open up the pore space in the ground and allow for better infiltration and percolation of water.   If you have overseeded turf or a cool season variety such as fescue, blue/rye, or straight ryegrass your watering cycle should be 1-2 times per week for 15-20 minutes per cycle or the equivalent of ¼ to 1/2 “ of irrigation per cycle.  This doesn’t mean set your clock and leave it alone because with the nice wet winter that we have had a good rain can last you up to 7 days in the ground and save your water bill and precious resources. 


Non-overseeded grass that is coming out of dormancy has a couple of options depending on which route works best for you.  At this time of the year you will start to get some good reaction from a balanced fertilizer such as 21-7-14 or 15-15-15.  These can be applied at 3-5 pounds of product per 1000 SF and watered in when you are finished.  These are just guideline numbers and something that is close will work fine so don’t be alarmed if you cannot find the exact numbers I put down.  If you have a dormant paspalum lawn it is the time to put down your first application of fertilizer such as Milorganite 5-0-0 at a rate of 10-15 pounds per 1000 SF.  The Milorganite will produce a nice temporary odor for your neighbors, but will keep the heat in the plant and get you that golf course look.  If you have an overseeded lawn or a cool season lawn it is best not to get carried away with fertilizer because as I said the grass is already jumping out of the ground with the nice warm temperatures.  At this point you are best applying a slow release fertilizer such as 21-7-14, 11-52-0, or even Milorganite 5-0-0.  There is no reason to juice up your lawn and have to fight the battle of transition in another month.  We are not far from starting a spoon feeding fertilizer program to encourage bermuda growth so keep an eye for when I tell you it is time.

Mowing Heights

It is an optimal time to start to lower your mowing heights and reduce the turf density.  This will allow more sunlight to get into the plant and give the bermudagrass or paspalum a easier time during transition.  If you keep your lawn too long you are creating shade and bermuda and paspalum are not shade tolerant grasses.  Anything that is prohibiting the growth of your underlying turf can be detrimental so start lowering your height of cut–never cutting more than a 1/3rd of the leaf blade at a time.  Your height should be no longer than 1 ¼” as you move through the spring months, but optimally around ¾ to 1 inch.  If you have dormant turf it will not hurt you to put a mow on the lawn to clean it up and keeping it at a lower height will exhaust any of the food reserves that have built up.   You can also put light verticuts on your ryegrass to get it to start to thin out and promote underlying bermuda growth.

These are some basic tips for the month of March and as our soils warm up my program will change and we will begin the spring transition. Send me your questions, problems, comments or pictures.  You can also follow us on Twitter