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Spring is a good time to spruce up your lawn

Spring is a good time to spruce up your lawn

ETTRICK—It’s never too late to revive a struggling lawn.

Just keep in mind that renovating a lawn is usually a long-term project, explained Christopher Mullins, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist and host of the “From The Ground Up” garden segment on Real Virginia, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s weekly television show.

Most of Virginia is in a transition zone where both warm- and cool-season grasses can grow, but aren’t well-suited to our climate, he noted. A homeowner needs to decide which variety to plant in order to restore a lawn.

“Warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass and zoysia do very well in warm weather,” Mullins said. “But in the winter they tend to brown out and can even die from frost. Cool season grasses are adapted particularly well to Northern Virginia and the mountains, types like tall fescue and rye grass and blue grass.”

He said these varieties will thrive if planted from August through September, and they will continue to grow throughout the winter.

Warm-season grasses are best planted in the spring once there is no threat of frost. They need a minimum of an inch of water a week while they’re being established and throughout the growing season.

Homeowners can plant seeds, buy plugs that will spread through the lawn over time, or put down grass sod.

“If you decide to plant cool-season grasses in the fall, you can still do things in the spring to prepare,” Mullins said.

The first thing to do is get a soil test.

“The soil test will tell you exactly what needs to be applied before you plant,” he said. “What you don’t want to do is arbitrarily spread fertilizer.”

While some lawns may just need a few repairs, if they’re full of weeds or have been neglected for a while it may be easier to start over, Mullins said.

If a homeowner wants to renovate the whole yard, they can use a non-selective herbicide a few weeks before the project, till the soil, and spread appropriate amounts of fertilizer and other inputs before seeding cool-season grasses in September.

Many Virginia lawns need significant amounts of lime to balance the pH values in the soil, which can be determined by a soil test. Extension soil tests are $10. It only takes a few minutes to collect samples of soil from your yard, mix the dirt in a clean bucket, fill the sample box and mail or take it to the Extension office.

Good lawn care is an on-going process, Mullins added. “After you’ve planted your grass you need to make sure it’s watered, and in the following spring you need to apply proper weed controls to make sure it thrives in the next season. Caring for your lawn takes a little time, but the results are well worth it.”

For more information about home lawn care, watch Mullins at or contact your county’s master gardener.

Media: Contact Mullins at 804-524-5834 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.