10 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Murfreesboro, TNBY KIMBERLY MAGERL | MAY 25TH, 2023 | LAWN CARE, MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE
The `Boro shares its parks and restaurants with 25,000 Middle Tennessee State University students for most of the year. Situated 35 miles southeast of downtown Nashville, Murfreesboro’s warmer spring temperatures, ranging from 57 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit, bring students and residents outdoors. Execute our 10 spring lawn care tips and take advantage of the pleasant weather to prepare your yard for the humid summer just around the corner.
- Dethatch Warm-Season Turfgrass
- Aerate Warm-Season Grass
- Test Your Soil
- Mow More
- Water As Needed
- Control Weeds
- Perform Pest Control
- Identify and Treat Lawn Diseases
- Overseed Your Lawn
- Apply Fertilizer
What Are the Benefits of Spring Lawn Care?
Tennessee is in the transition zone, and both cool and warm-season grass varieties grow well in its soils. Spring in Murfreesboro hits the sweet spot between not too hot and not too cold. Average March temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit gradually increase to 80 degrees by May, setting off the active growing season for many Tennessee native plants and grasses.
Tennesseeans care for their warm or cool-season grasses from March to May, hoping to encourage fresh growth before the heat and humidity take over in June. Spring lawn care is more than mowing your lawn and setting the timer on your irrigation system. As your yard goes through its most active growing season, you need to be on the lookout for diseases, pests, and bare spots. With the proper spring maintenance plan, your lawn will be ready to take on the Tennessee summer.
Spring lawn care benefits include:
- Increased drought resistance
- Healthy grass is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than concrete or asphalt
- Reduced air and noise pollution
10 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Murfreesboro
1. Dethatch Warm-Season Turfgrass
Photo Credit: Rawpixel
Murfreesboro winters are short, cold, and very wet, causing warm-season grass cultivars and even some cool-season cultivars to go dormant and develop thatch. Thatch is the tight layer of dead grass intertwined with living grass blades and roots that accumulates just above your soil level and below eye line visibility. A thin layer of thatch insulates grass roots and makes your turfgrass more resilient, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Dense thatch causes:
- Pests and disease
- Increased moisture and humidity
- Shallow root growth
- Restricted air, water, and nutrient penetration
Watch for thatch that is a half inch or more thick, spongy turf, footprints, increased pest activity, and active diseases. Aim to dethatch your lawn during its active growing season using a dethatcher, also known as a lawn scarifier. Dethatchers work like a complex rake to remove thatch, bringing it to the surface of your lawn for collection. Always remove the loose layer of thatch immediately.
Tennessee warm-season grass cultivars like bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and centipedegrass actively grow in late spring and summer. Cool-season varieties such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass hit their green-up phases in early spring and again in the fall. It is important to understand your grass variety. Dethatch your warm-season lawn in mid-spring to early summer and save your cool-season cultivar dethatching session for fall.
2. Aerate Warm-Season Grass
Murfreesboro receives around 54 inches of rain per year, well over the national average of 38 inches. Springtime is notoriously wet in the `Boro with precipitation occurring in 30% of the days. Aeration is a common method to introduce oxygen back into struggling lawns with restricted root growth, allowing for water and nutrients to permeate more easily.
Oxygen allows your turfgrass to establish deep roots and a dense appearance. There are two types of common aeration: spike aeration and core aeration. Aim to aerate your Murfreesboro lawn to stimulate root growth following your dethatching schedule: mid-spring to early summer for warm-season grasses like bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and centipedegrass, and early fall for cool-season varieties like fine fescue, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.
Spike aerators create small holes in the ground with a rotating punch. This method does not remove material from the soil, so there is no chance of natural de-thatching.
Core aerators remove 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 the middle Tennessee region with its well-drained loam, limestone, or clay-based soils. These alkaline soils retain less moisture, heat more quickly, and have an abundance of phosphorus. Core aerators do a better job of breaking up sand or rock particles, creating airflow, and improving water and nutrient access.
3. Test Your Soil
Plants and turfgrasses growing in loam soil require regular fertilization and irrigation. Spring soil preparation is crucial to the success of your Murfreesboro landscape. Proper preparation provides nutrients for your grass to thrive, even in the deficient soils of middle Tennessee. Residents should send in a soil sample for testing in March or September.
Mail in a one-cup sample, collected and combined from different areas of your lawn, 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.
4. Mow More
Healthy lawns resist insects, weeds, and diseases, and taller grass blades develop deeper roots and a dense appearance. Mowing is necessary for maintenance, but it stresses your turfgrass, leaving it more susceptible to pests, drought, and sunscald. Murfreesboro’s warm, wet springs kick-start the active growing season for most plants and warm-season turfgrasses in March.
Your grass variety determines your unique mowing schedule and lawn height. To avoid injuring your lawn, never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade regardless of your cultivar. and always cut less, more often. You should mow weekly during the active growing season and aim to mow every two weeks during your turfgrass’ off-season.
Always mow within the recommended range for your grass type and leave clippings unless you see large clumps on your lawn.
|Recommended Mowing Height
|0.75 – 1.5 inches
|1 – 2 inches
|1.5 – 2.5 inches
|1.5 – 2.5 inches
|1.5 – 2.5 inches
|2 – 3 inches
|0.75 – 1.5 inches
Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and Zoysiagrass are all low-maintenance, warm-season cultivars that go dormant during Murfreesboro’s cold winter months. Growth peaks in summer, but the active growing season begins in late spring. Aim to mow every seven to 10 days to maintain the recommended mowing height for your cultivar and encourage deeper roots and a more dense and resilient turfgrass.
Cool-season Tennessee turfgrasses include fine fescue, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass. Unlike their warm-season counterparts, these cultivars remain green through most winter months but can go dormant during hot, dry months in the summer.
Active growth for cool-season varieties peaks in the early spring and fall. Mow cool-season grasses to their recommended heights every seven days during early spring. Aim to decrease mowing frequency to every 14 days in mid to late spring when growth has slowed.
5. Water As Needed
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Unless your lawn is brand new, all grass varieties respond well to the typical conditions of a Murfreesboro spring. The best watering method for Tennessee turfgrasses is as needed early in the morning, starting in May. It is true what they say about April showers bringing May flowers. April in the `Boro is wet, typically providing more than enough precipitation for your plants and turfgrass.
You will know it is time to water your turfgrass when you notice a dark blue-gray color, footprinting, or wilted, folded, or curled leaves. Water all varieties twice per week, aiming for one-half inch of water per session to moisten the top 4 to 6 inches of soil and encourage deeper roots.
6. Control Weeds
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Murfreesboro’s subtropical climate and wet spring weather create the optimal habitat for plant growth, including weeds. Weeds signify an underlying problem with your lawn’s health and maintenance plan. They thrive in low-nitrogen soils, imbalanced pH, and thinning damaged turf.
Weeds steal nutrients, water, and sunlight from your grass and spread pests and diseases. The best control and prevention method is routine maintenance, coupled with supplemental chemical methods like 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 mid-March when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit to control grassy weeds.
Look for solutions containing prodiamine, dithiopyr, benefin, or pendimethalin. Wait 60 days and apply a second application of pre-emergent herbicide in mid to late May.
Common grassy weeds in Murfreesboro include:
- Wild Garlic
Post-Emergent Herbicides for Broadleaf Weeds
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 temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or if your lawn is moisture stressed. Additionally, be sure to wait a few days after a fresh mow before applying chemical treatments.
Common perennial and annual broadleaf weeds include:
- Common Pokeweed
- Giant Ragweed
- Hophornbeam Copperleaf
- Perilla Mint
- Pitted Morningglory
7. Perform Pest Control
Photo Credit: Istock
Different insects invade particular grass cultivars at different times. The most common Murfreesboro springtime pests include chinch bugs, billbugs, and sod webworms.
Chinch bugs affect most Tennessee turfgrasses. Watch for yellow spots in sunny locations, signifying chinch bug activity. These foliage-seeking insects suck vital plant juices from your turfgrass until fall with peak activity occurring in March or April.
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.
There are several species of billbugs affecting Tennessee turfgrasses. Hunting billbugs are a problem for homeowners with Zoysiagrass and centipedegrass, while bluegrass billbugs wreak havoc on Kentucky bluegrass. Watch for irregular-shaped patches of dead turf. Like chinch bugs, billbugs feed on the roots of turfgrasses, sucking vital nutrients from the plant.
Infestations are often misdiagnosed as dormancy in middle Tennessee, but billbug activity peaks in the late spring and lasts through summer. Treat billbugs with an insecticide application containing bifenthrin, beta-cyfluthrin, or imidacloprid.
Sod webworms are the nocturnal larvae of lawn moths. These pests feed on grass blades and create tunnels just below your lawn’s surface. Sod webworms attack most grass cultivars, preferring fescues and bluegrass. Watch for small brown spots of dead turfgrass that rapidly increase in size during dry spells. Treat sod webworms with an insecticide application containing bifenthrin.
8. Identify and Treat Lawn Diseases
Lawn diseases and fungi love Tennessee’s subtropical climate. The best defense against these lawn invaders is routine maintenance, watering, and fertilization for a healthy and dense lawn. Some of the most common diseases affecting Murfreesboro turfgrasses are large patch, dollar spot, helminthosporium diseases, and rust.
Large patch is a fungus affecting many Tennessee turfgrasses, including ryegrass, tall fescue, and bermudagrass. The fungus typically occurs in April or May and lasts through the end of summer in cool-season cultivars. Watch for brown, circular patches several feet in diameter.
Most large patch infestations do not respond to fungicide applications. The most effective control and prevention method is proper lawn maintenance. Improve drainage and air movement. Monitor patches and limit fertilization in affected areas. Avoid over-watering.
Dollar spot affects bluegrass, ryegrass, bermudagrass, and Zoysiagrass. It is caused by a fungus living in Tennessee soils. Watch for circular brown or yellow spots that look like dollar coins in spring through fall.
Like most fungi, treat dollar spot with proper lawn maintenance. Maintain nitrogen levels by applying a nitrogen-based fertilizer and minimize moisture stress by ensuring proper drainage. Always water deeply and infrequently in the early morning to reduce foliage wetness.
Helminthosporium diseases affect all turfgrass species. Numerous fungi species cause these leafspot diseases, affecting grass blades, crowns, or roots. Watch for dark, circular lesions that expand to light-brown dead turf. Most diseases affect roots and crowns, causing turf thinning and fading, especially during dry periods, but occur year-round in Murfreesboro.
Combat infections with proper lawn maintenance. Improve air circulation by 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. Apply a fungicide at the first signs of infection.
Nematodes affect all Tennessee turfgrasses. The best prevention method is proper lawn maintenance to develop dense roots. Nematodes are unsegmented roundworms. Watch for yellowing and thinning turf, especially during dry periods.
Nematode populations peak in fall but remain a problem for some homeowners in the spring, and nematodes need moisture to survive. Apply nematicides like Indemnify to affected areas alongside routine lawn maintenance and proper yard drainage.
Powdery mildew affects Kentucky bluegrass in the cool, wet months of early spring. This fungus produces a white or gray powdery growth on grass blades. Watch for yellow areas of dying turfgrass.
Treat powdery mildew with proper lawn maintenance and fungicide applications. Remove thatch, avoid fertilization and post-emergent weed killers while the disease is active, and monitor and fix drainage issues. Avoid over-watering to prevent active and future infestations.
Rust is a tissue-dwelling fungus active in spring through fall. Be on the lookout for yellow flecks and raised areas on grass blades and thinning, wilting turf. Rust affects bluegrass, ryegrass, tall fescue, and Zoysiagrass.
Treat this turfgrass disease using a fungicide, and prevent the fungus with proper lawn maintenance. Improve drainage, reduce thatch buildup, and increase the time between irrigation sessions.
Spring Dead Spot
Soil-dwelling fungus, spring dead spot affects Murfreesboro bermudagrass. Keep an eye out 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 May. 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.
9. Overseed Your Lawn
Spring is the best time to seed your warm-season lawn in Murfreesboro, while fall is the best time to seed cool-season cultivars. The active growing season encourages fresh growth, filling in thin and patchy areas.
Overseeding involves spreading new grass seed over existing turfgrass to fill thin areas. Bermudagrass and centipedegrass are low-maintenance, warm-season cultivars that respond well to spring overseeding.
Prepare to seed your Tennessee lawn in May. Spread 0.5 to 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square feet for bermudagrass and 4 ounces per 1,000 square feet for centipedegrass.
Zoysiagrass does not respond to overseeding. Instead, plan to replant large bare areas using sod plugs in May. Space plugs 6 to 12 inches apart and water well daily. Keep crabgrass at bay by applying a root-safe pre-emergent herbicide.
10. Apply Fertilizer
Photo Credit: Pixnio
The best time to apply fertilizer to your Murfreesboro turfgrass is March or April, depending on your grass type. Fertilizer promotes healthy growth. 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 Tennessee’s soil can be high in phosphorus and potassium. It is often unnecessary to apply fertilizer containing one or both of these chemicals. Instead, apply straight nitrogen depending on your soil test results.
Warm season grasses such as bermudagrass, centipedegrass and Zoysiagrass only need one spring fertilizer application. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet around April 15, but keep in mind that shaded grass requires less fertilizer than grass growing in full sun.
Cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass need two spring fertilizer applications to prepare the turfgrasses for the hot summer temperatures. Aim to apply 0.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet around March 15. Apply a second round of fertilizer around April 15.
Mature centipedegrass has low nitrogen requirements. Always follow the amendment recommendations from your soil sample test results. Centipedegrass does not respond well to overfertilization, and nitrogen applications are not typically necessary. High nitrogen levels lead to centipedegrass decline, increased insect activity, and thatch accumulation.
FAQ About Spring Lawn Care in Murfreesboro
Use sprinklers or an automatic irrigation system to apply water in 10- to 20-minute segments, once per day, until the seeds have germinated. The germination process typically takes 10 to 14 days in Tennessee. Be sure to skip watering sessions if it rains.
You should stop fertilizing your lawn at least one month before overseeding to give the new seeds a chance to germinate and grow without struggling against actively growing grass.
Additionally, you can apply fertilizer after overseeding, which is the preferred method. Apply a slow-release fertilizer immediately after overseeding or wait two to three weeks and apply a fast-release fertilizer to your newly seeded lawn.
Overwatering your turfgrass stresses your lawn, leading to increased pests and diseases. Watch for these signs you are overwatering your turfgrass:
• Thick layer of thatch over ¾ inch thick
• Fungus growth including mushrooms
• Increased weed growth, including crabgrass and nutsedge
• Signs of pest activity
• Spongy grass and footprint indents
• Pooling water and increased runoff
Get Help With Your Spring Maintenance Plan
Murfreesboro homeowners love three things: hitting the trails outdoors, the MTSU Raiders, and donuts. With the proper spring lawn care schedule and our fall lawn care checklist, you can get your lawn ready for summer or winter and save yourself time so you can get up early to grab your donut before spending the day outdoors.
If you need help identifying a pest or lawn disease, contact a Murfreesboro lawn care pro to help your landscape recover and establish deep southern roots.
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!