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Johnson County

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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

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(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

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Spring Lawn Care Commandments:

Thou Shalt Not…

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Spring is the time of year when the breeze is filled with the scent of fresh cut grass and it’s tough to keep yourself from working out in the yard. Watering, mowing, fertilizing, watering and mowing again — is it all necessary right now? The answer is, not at all! While watching your neighbors drag their hoses and push fertilizer spreaders, sit back on the patio and give your lawn some tough love to prepare it for the coming wrath of summer. Here is a “Though Shalt Not” list for spring lawn care:

Thou shalt not water unless REALLY necessary
In the spring, your lawn puts on a big flush of new top growth. So get out there and mow, mow, mow. But don’t water! In the Kansas City area, there is generally enough spring moisture to sustain the growth of your lawn. By withholding irrigation until late June to early July, your turf will develop drought and heat tolerance which will toughen it up for the summer. Grit your teeth and don’t feel guilty about keeping the hose coiled up and the irrigation system turned off. When it is time to water, remember these two words: deep and infrequent. The key is getting moisture past the soil surface and to the lawn’s deepest roots.

Thou shalt not fertilize heavily
The use of fertilizers in the spring should be reduced greatly or eliminated entirely. Overuse of fertilizers can pollute water and harm the soil. Excessive use of fertilizers can be leached from the lawn and carried to local streams and creeks. This results in increased levels of nitrates, phosphates and other harmful compounds that destroy a natural ecosystem. The only lawns that should be receiving fertilizer this spring are ones that will be on a regular watering schedule throughout the summer. If this is the case, then an application should be made in early to mid-May with a slow release form of nitrogen. Otherwise, save the fertilizer for this fall.

One complication to withholding fertilizer is the crabgrass control applied from late March to mid-April. It can be difficult to find these products without a fertilizer mixed in the bag. There are pre-emergent products out there without fertilizer, but you do have to look harder for them. If your preferred garden center does not carry a crabgrass control product without fertilizer, request that they add that to their selection in the future. It will save you time and money in watering this summer. But if you strike out, make this your only spring application and early summer application.

Thou shalt not scalp the lawn
Avoid the urge to lower the mower blade and remove all the winter debris from the lawn. Scalping the turf in the spring sets the turf back in several ways. Mowing low opens up sunlight to the soil surface which results in weed seed germination. Low mowing can also damage the growing points of the turf and potentially cause harm if a late spring freeze occurs. Instead of mowing very low, just drop the mowing height no more than one notch for the first mow of the season. This will remove winter debris and give the old blades a trim. Then return to the recommended mowing height for the rest of the season. This recommendation saves not only the grass but you from hours of work handling the debris. Sit back with a cool drink in hand and watch your neighbors struggle and just smile!

Thou shalt not be aggravated by vigorous spring growth
Even though the grass is growing by leaps and bounds in the spring, don’t let it get you down. Keep your mower blades sharp and stick to the one-third rule. Never remove more than one-third of the height of the blades at one mowing. Mowing height this spring should be about 3 inches for fescue and bluegrass. Don’t make spring lawn care too complicated. After mowing, sit back and just enjoy that fresh cut grass scent.

Thou Shalt Treat Broadleaves with Caution
Dandelions, henbit and chickweed and other spring weeds can be an issue. Caution should be used when treating in the spring. Broadleaf hebicides can vaporize on a warm spring day. Spray drift can damage many desireable landscape plants including flowers and vegetables. It is best to treat spring weeds in the late fall which is the most effective time. If you must treat in the spring spot spray only the weeds, not the entire lawn. Spray with larger dropelts of the water mixture, avoid a fine mist which drifts more easily and hold the wand close to the soil surface. Spray on a calm day to reduce drift. Herbicide drift can travel from a foot or a block away causing damage.


Spring lawn care does not have to be arduous if you follow these simple Spring Lawn Care Commandments.

K-State Research and Extension Johnson County Master Gardener logo

Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050

Email: garden.help@jocogov.org