9 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Ocala, FL

Dangling Spanish moss and meandering pathways bordered with tall oak trees create a picturesque scene in the heart of horse country. Tucked away in North Central Florida, Ocala’s spring temperatures range from 74 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Take advantage of the pleasant weather and implement our nine spring lawn care tips to help prepare your yard for the humid Florida summer just around the corner. 

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. Aerate Your Turfgrass
  2. Test Your Soil
  3. Mow More, Cut Less
  4. Water As Needed
  5. Identify and Treat Lawn Diseases
  6. Control Weeds
  7. Perform Pest Control
  8. Overseed to Fill Bare Patches
  9. Apply Fertilizer

What Are the Benefits of Spring Lawn Care?

Spring in Ocala feels like summer to most of the United States. Average March temperatures of 79 degrees Fahrenheit gradually increase to 90 degrees by the end of spring in May. Like most of Florida, residents tend to lawn care year-round.

From March to May, Floridians care for their warm-season grasses hoping to encourage fresh growth before the extreme heat and humidity take over in June. Spring lawn care in Ocala is more than watering and mowing. As your yard goes through its most active growing season beginning at the end of March, you need to be on the lookout for diseases, pests, and bare spots that need some TLC. With the proper spring maintenance plan, your lawn will be ready to take on the tough summer. 

Spring lawn care benefits include:

  • Increased drought resistance 
  • Healthy grass is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than concrete or asphalt
  • Lush landscapes reduce air and noise pollution 

9 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Ocala

1. Aerate Your Turfgrass

pitchfork in soil for aeration

Photo credit: Pixabay

Oxygen is the secret weapon for establishing deep roots and dense turfgrass. Aeration is a common lawn method to introduce oxygen back into struggling lawns with restricted root growth. There are two types of common aeration: spike aeration and core aeration. Aerate your lawn in mid-spring to nourish your grass and stimulate root growth before the long, hot summer.

Core Aeration

A core aerator removes plugs of soil to create small holes so the soil can breathe. This method leaves leftover plugs of soil on the surface of your lawn, adding beneficial nutrients and microorganisms to decrease thatch naturally.

Core aeration is the best method for North Central Florida soils. Sandy soils retain less moisture, heat more quickly, and lack the nutrients of other soil types. Core aerators do a better job of breaking up the soil, creating airflow, and improving water and nutrient access. 

Spike Aeration

Spike aeration is less effective than core aeration. Spike aerators create small holes in the ground with a rotating punch. Unlike core aeration, this method does not remove material from the soil, so there is no chance of natural de-thatching. 

2. Test Your Soil

You cannot bake a cake without preheating the oven, and the same goes for your spring lawn. Soil preparation is crucial to the success of your Florida landscape. It provides nutrients for your grass to thrive. Unfortunately, Ocala soils are notoriously sandy and nutrient deficient, requiring fertilization and other nutrient applications. Residents should send in a soil sample for testing in March.

Simply collect samples from different areas of your landscape and combine them to create a one-cup sample. Send this sample in to receive your unique results detailing amendments you can make to improve your soil. Common amendments include lime for soil pH imbalances and nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus applications.  

3. Mow More, Cut Less

Close-up of a lawn mower while mowing lawn

Photo Credit: Wallpaperflare

Your lawn feels stressed, just like you. While mowing more is the last thing you want to hear, every time you mow your lawn, you stress your turfgrass, leaving it more susceptible to insects, disease, drought, and sunscald. Taller grass blades develop deeper roots and a more dense appearance. 

Ocala’s subtropical climate requires year-round lawn maintenance. The city’s warm springs lead to early active growing seasons beginning in March. Your grass variety determines your unique mowing schedule and lawn height. To avoid injuring your lawn, never remove more than ⅓ of the leaf blade regardless of your cultivar. 

Always aim to cut less, more often. You should mow weekly within the recommended range for your grass type and leave clippings unless you see large clumps on your lawn. 


Grass growth peaks in March thanks to Ocala’s warm spring temperatures. Bahiagrass is the most low-maintenance warm-season variety. Aim to mow every seven to 14 days to maintain a height of 3 to 4 inches, encouraging deeper roots and a more dense and resilient turfgrass. 


Bermudagrass is the lowest-growing warm-season grass and the most high-maintenance, requiring weekly to twice weekly mowing sessions. Mow to a height of 1 to 2 inches to encourage deep roots and a better appearance.

St. Augustinegrass

The most popular Florida turfgrass requires very particular mowing heights and is prone to scalping and sun scalding. Mow St. Augustinegrass to heights of 3.5 to 4 inches to encourage deep roots and decrease insect activity. 

The more frequently you mow this dense turfgrass, the less likely your lawn will develop a buildup of harmful thatch. While some thatch is a good thing, too much is harmful, blocking out light and water. 


Mow Zoysiagrass weekly, aiming for heights of 1.75 to 2.5 inches. Zoysiagrass leaves contain larger amounts of lignin and silica, making them more resistant and difficult to mow.

Grass TypeRecommended Mowing Height
Bahiagrass3 – 4 inches
Bermudagrass1 – 2 inches
St. Augustinegrass3.5 – 4 inches
Zoysiagrass1.75 – 2.5 inches

4. Water As Needed

The best watering method for Florida turfgrasses is as needed early in the morning. Unless your lawn is brand new, all varieties respond well to typical drought conditions. It is time to water your turfgrass when you notice a dark blue-gray color, footprinting, or wilted, folded, or curled leaves. 

Bahiagrass and St. Augustinegrass

Water these warm-season varieties as needed. Aim for ⅔ to ¾ inch of water per application. Each application will moisten the top 8 inches of soil, saturating the roots of your turfgrass. 

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass

The roots of bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass are more shallow than other cultivars. Aim to apply ½  to ¾ inch of water per application to moisten the top 4 to 6 inches of soil.

5. Identify and Treat Lawn Diseases

Bermudagrass with dollar spot

Photo credit: Scot Nelson / Flickr / Public domain

The subtropical climate in Florida creates the perfect environment for lawn diseases and fungi. The best defense against these lawn invaders is a healthy lawn and routine maintenance, watering, and fertilization. Some of the most common diseases affecting Florida turfgrasses are large patch, pythium root, gray leaf spot, take-all root rot, dollar spot, and spring dead spot.

Large Patch

Large patch is a fungus affecting St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass in winter through the end of spring. Watch for brown, circular patches several feet in diameter. The most effective control and prevention method is proper lawn maintenance, and most infestations do not respond to fungicide applications. 

Improve drainage and air movement. Monitor patches and limit fertilization in affected areas. Be sure to avoid over-watering. 

Pythium Root

Slow-growing, thinning turf with irregular bleached patches of yellow grass is a sign of the water mold pathogen pythium root. Pythium root occurs in poorly drained or over-watered soils and commonly affects St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass year-round. 

Avoid spreading the infection by reducing mowing and watering frequencies. Combat current and future infections by improving drainage and increasing sunlight exposure, if possible. Apply a blend of phosphorus, potash, and nitrogen to the soil to combat active infections. 

Gray Leaf Spot

Grey leaf spot is another turfgrass fungus affecting St. Augustinegrass in Ocala beginning in April through the end of summer. Watch for grass that appears yellow, mottled, or scorched. Treat gray leaf spot with proper lawn maintenance. 

Improve air circulation by reducing or removing thatch. Avoid fertilization and post-emergent weed killers while the disease is active. Monitor and fix drainage issues and avoid over-watering to prevent active and future infestations.  

Take-All Root Rot

Take-all root rot is a soil-dwelling fungus active in spring through early summer. Be on the lookout for yellow or brown grass blades, wilting, horizontal stems, and dark brown roots. 

Treat the warm-season turfgrass disease using fungicide labeled for take-all root rot. Apply to the affected area in 14-day intervals during spring. Prevent the fungus with proper lawn maintenance by improving drainage, reducing thatch buildup, and increasing the time between irrigation sessions. 

Dollar Spot

Dollar spot affects bermudagrass and bahiagrass. It is extremely common in the Southeast and is caused by a fungus living in Florida soils. Keep an eye out for circular brown or yellow spots that look like dollar coins. 

Treat dollar spot with proper lawn maintenance. Maintain nitrogen levels by applying a nitrogen-based fertilizer. Minimize moisture stress by ensuring proper drainage and watering deeply and infrequently in the early morning to reduce foliage wetness. 

Spring Dead Spot

Spring dead spot is another soil-dwelling fungus affecting bermudagrass in Ocala. Watch for circular patches of dead grass ranging in diameter from 6 inches to several feet. The easiest way to spot spring dead spot is to monitor your lawn during its active growth phase in March. Areas affected by spring dead spot will not go through the growth process.

Treat spring dead spot by removing thatch and aggressively aerating affected areas to relieve soil compaction and increase airflow. 

6. Control Weeds

Ocala’s subtropical climate creates the optimal habitat for plant growth, including weeds. Weeds invade your lawn, signifying an underlying problem with its health and maintenance plan. These plants thrive in low-nitrogen soils, imbalanced pH, and thinning turf with damaged roots. 

Weeds steal nutrients, water, and sunlight from your warm-weather grass and spread pests and diseases. The best control and prevention method is optimal lawn health from routine maintenance. However, supplemental chemical methods work in tandem with proper maintenance. Chemical methods include post-emergent herbicides and pre-emergent herbicides.

Pre-Emergent Herbicides for Grassy Weeds

Pre-emergent herbicides minimize the number of weeds in your yard by killing seeds before germination. Apply pre-emergent herbicides in March when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit to control grassy weeds.

Look for solutions containing benefin, bensulide, oryzalin, or prodiamine. Wait 60 days and apply a second application of pre-emergent herbicide.

Common grassy weeds in Ocala include:

  • Annual Bluegrass
  • Crabgrass
  • Crowfootgrass
  • Goosegrass
  • Sandbur

Post-Emergent Herbicides for Broadleaf Weeds

Broadleaf weeds are a year-round problem in Florida. Post-emergent herbicides target annual and perennial broadleaf weeds, disrupting their growth. Use these herbicides year-round to target weeds you can see. 

Do not use post-emergent herbicides if your lawn is moisture stressed or if temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, be sure to wait a few days after a fresh mow before applying chemical treatments. 

Common perennial and annual broadleaf weeds include:

  • Beggarweed
  • Chickweed
  • Clover
  • Henbit
  • Florida pusley
  • Knotweed
  • Lespedeza
  • Matchweed
  • Plantain

7. Perform Pest Control

an image of a person spraying pesticide on a plant

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Insects love the year-round warm weather as much as Floridians, and like the seasons, different insects invade particular cultivars at different times. The most common Ocala springtime pests include chinch bugs, hunting billbugs, and nematodes.

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are the largest threat to your lush St. Augustine lawn. These foliage-seeking insects suck vital plant juices from your turfgrass with peak activity occurring in March and April. Watch for yellow spots in sunny locations, signifying chinch bug activity.

DIY collect chinch bugs using a coffee can with both ends removed to create a hollow pipe. Insert the can into the soil inside the affected area. Fill the can with water and leave it for a few days. Chinch bugs will float to the top of the can for removal. If you notice more than 15 chinch bugs per square foot, it is time to call a professional. 

Hunting Billbugs

Hunting billbugs are a year-round problem for homeowners with Zoysiagrass. Watch for irregular-shaped patches of dead turf. Hunting billbugs feed on the roots of Zoysiagrass. 

Like chinch bugs, activity peaks in the spring, and infestations are often misdiagnosed as dormancy. Treat billbugs with an insecticide application containing bifenthrin, beta-cyfluthrin, or imidacloprid.


Nematodes affect most warm-season turfgrasses and are one of Florida’s most prolific pests. The best prevention method is proper lawn maintenance to develop dense roots. Nematodes are unsegmented roundworms, and unfortunately, Florida is home to numerous types. 

Watch for yellowing and thinning turf, especially during dry periods. Nematode populations peak in mid to late spring, and nematodes need moisture to survive. Apply nematicides like Indemnify to affected areas alongside routine lawn maintenance and proper yard drainage.  

8. Overseed to Fill Bare Patches

Spring is the best time to seed or replant your lawn in Florida. The active growing season beginning in March encourages fresh growth, filling in thin and patchy areas. 


Overseeding involves spreading new grass seed over existing turfgrass to fill thin areas. Both bermudagrass and bahiagrass are low-maintenance cultivars that respond well to overseeding. 

Prepare to seed your Florida lawn in early March. Spread 0.5 to 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square feet for bermudagrass and bahiagrass varieties.

Sod Plugs

St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass do not respond to overseeding. Instead, plan to replant large bare areas using sod plugs in March, April, or May. Space plugs 6 to 12 inches apart and water well daily. Keep crabgrass at bay by applying a root-safe pre-emergent herbicide.

9. Apply Fertilizer

man in the process of applying fertilizer to the plant

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Fertilizer promotes healthy growth, and the best time to apply this lawn food in Ocala is in mid-April before the Florida summer heat sets in. The type of fertilizer for your lawn depends on your turfgrass cultivar and your unique soil sample analysis results.

Fertilizer comprises three primary nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Labels have three numbers, such as 15-10-5, which means the fertilizer contains 15% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 5% potassium. Select a fertilizer ratio to satisfy your soil test results.

Keep in mind that Florida’s sandy soil is high in phosphorus, so it is often unnecessary to apply fertilizer containing this chemical. Apply 0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in mid-April, but keep in mind that shaded grass requires less fertilizer than grass growing in full sun. 

The Urban Turf Fertilizer Rule mandates that slow-release nitrogen fertilizer applications cannot exceed 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, and quick-release, soluble nitrogen fertilizer applications cannot exceed 0.7 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn. 

FAQ About Spring Lawn Care in Ocala

How often should I water my lawn if I overseed it? 

Use sprinklers or an automatic irrigation system to apply water in 10- to 20-minute segments, twice per day, until the seeds have germinated. The germination process typically takes seven to 10 days in Florida.  

When should I mulch my flower beds?

Organic mulch provides moisture retention and nutrients for your plants. Florida residents can take advantage of the year-round warm weather and lay down new mulch anytime. However, the optimal time to lay mulch is in the spring or fall.

What time of day should I water my lawn? 

Irrigate your lawn in the early morning hours to cut down on evaporation and potential mold growth, which can lead to lawn pests and diseases.

Get Help With Your Spring Green-Up

Florida homeowners spend a lot of time outdoors and take pride in their lawns. With the proper spring lawn care schedule, you can enjoy your Ocala yard year-round and protect its lush, green color from the summer heat. Consider planting some Florida native plants alongside your warm-season turfgrass to complete your oasis.  

If you need help controlling your active spring lawn, contact an Ocala lawn care pro to help your turfgrass establish deep roots to survive the hot summer. 

Main Image Credit: Ocala Historic District FK1027 / Ebyabe / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!