If you live in the southeast, you get a variety of temperatures in the winter time. It is not uncommon to have temperatures in the 70s and 80s in January and February. These mild air temperatures might force your grass out of dormancy or spur the growth of weeds. These early weeds are often the cause of anxiety for many homeowners.
Determining when to apply pre-emergent herbicide is imperative to an early start on a weed free lawn. By reading a few signs, however, you'll manage the transition from dormancy to green-up like a pro!
Watching the Blades of Grass
The first and most obvious is the color of your grass. As we enter in the spring, green blades will begin to pop up in the brown. Depending on your location, this might be as early as February.
The green color change is triggered by increased temperature, nutrient availability and sunlight. If favorable conditions continue, grass will return to full color in several weeks.
Watching the Weeds
Another way to determine the beginning of spring is by the type of weeds. Often, winter weeds like henbit, common chickweed, and and hairy bittercress become noticeable in late winter. Unfortunately, these late winter weeds have been growing in your lawn all winter. It's only in late winter when you begin to notice them.
You shouldn't stress too much over these annual winter weeds. They’ll die out as we get into the Spring. However, if you begin to see spring weeds (ex. clovers, lespedeza, Florida betony) you are late to the game in applying your early season weed killer.
Weed Identification Help
If you’re not up to par with the thousands of weeds that can be growing in your yard….there’s an app for that. Picture This Plant Identifier quickly and accurately IDs thousands of weeds.
Watching the Change in Temperature
Air and soil temperature also foreshadows the beginning of spring. These two factors directly affect your grass coming out of dormancy.
- Bermuda grass will become active when air temperatures remain above 50ᐤF.
- Zoysia and St. Augustine grass need soil temperature above 55ᐤF and air temperatures above 80ᐤF.
- Centipede grass truly never goes dormant, but metabolism increases when air temperatures remain above 70ᐤF.
To monitor soil temperature in your area, we recommend this website.
Bonus: How to Distinguish Between Dormant and Dead Grass
If unsure if your grass is dormant or dead, pull up a small clump. Dormant grass will have resistance as you pull up. The roots will also still look healthy and moist. If your grass is dead, it will easily pull up and roots look dry and brittle. If this is the case, check out our article on repairing dead grass spots.
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Late winter can be a stressful time for homeowners. Temperatures are bouncing around and winter weeds may be prominent. However, by following the advice in this article you'll be able to determine the best time to begin maintaining your yard during the growing season.