Nitty Gritty Serious Lawn Maintenance.
Homeowners may have a lot of work ahead of them, but this is the most optimal time to get your lawn into shape. If you’re unprepared when the warmer weather hits, you’ll be waging a war against weeds and may deal with some bare, patchy spots in your lawn. Both warm and cool season grasses go dormant in the winter, so your lawn will be fairly sensitive and tender in spring. It’s best to treat your lawn with some TLC—and we’ll show you how.
Follow these 10 spring lawn care tips to get your lawn thriving all year long. If you don’t have all the time to commit to fertilizing, aerating, and more, you can consider hiring a professional lawn care company to tackle this lengthy to-do list for you.
Below, you’ll find This Old House’s top tips for sprucing up your lawn in the spring. Some of these tips may not work in tandem—overseeding and applying herbicides at the same time can be counterproductive, for example—but we’ve outlined them all so you can take your pick of the tips that work best for your lawn.
Tune Up Your Mower
By spring, it’s definitely time for a tune-up. There’s nothing more frustrating than pulling out your lawn mower in the summer and struggling to get it to start up. Tuning up your mower goes beyond merely sharpening the blade—or potentially replacing it, if it’s nicked too badly. You’ll need to change the oil, spark plug, and filter, and finally, fill the fuel tank.
Next, it’s all about getting a clean slate. If you thought raking was just for fall, you have another thing coming. You’ll need to rake up any fallen leaves, general debris, and any grass that may have died during winter. Be sure to only rake when your soil is dry. If it’s too moist, you may pull up healthy grass.
This one is more of an as-needed chore, but if you need to take care of it, it’s important you do so as soon as you can. If the thatch—a layer of organic matter, made up of primarily dead grass, that sits between the top of your grass and its root system—is more than ½ inch thick, it’s time to remove it.
Thatch creates a barrier, stopping your grass roots from getting the water, air, and nutrients they need to grow strong. If your thatch layer is too thick, it also makes your grass more vulnerable to disease, and may inspire insects to set up shop.
You can use a special dethatching rake to remove thatch if it’s too dense for your regular rake. Early spring is the ideal time to dethatch cool season grasses, while you should wait for late spring if you’re caring for a warm season lawn.
If your lawn’s soil has become compacted, it’s time to break it up and give it room to breathe. Soil can become compacted from heavy foot traffic, making it too dense for water, air, and nutrients to reach your grass roots. In general, it’s best to aerate in the fall, but when push comes to shove, you may have to do it in spring. If your soil is clay-heavy, it’s more likely to become compacted.
When you aerate your lawn, you introduce thousands of tiny holes into your soil, allowing water, air, and nutrients into your grass roots. You’ve got multiple options when it comes to aeration machines. Spike aerators use solid tines to perforate the ground. Plug aerators pull out a plug, or core, of grass and soil. A plus of plug aerators—you can let the core decompose on top of the grass, giving it more nutrients.
You can rent these machines or buy them, but purchasing them can be quite expensive. Professional lawn care companies, like TruGreen, have sophisticated equipment at the ready.
Test Your Soil
Lawns thrive when it has the proper soil pH for optimum growth. The ideal soil pH level for most plants ranges from 6.0 to 7.0. If you find moss on your lawn after winter, that’s a pretty strong indicator that your soil is too acidic. The solution? A lime amendment.
First, you’ve got to confirm your fears. You can purchase a soil test kit and send your samples to a company or university for analysis. If it turns out your soil is too acidic, you can apply lime with a fertilizer spreader. Be sure not to overdo it, since overly-alkaline soil can introduce its own issues.
During this season, try to not take any shortcuts—instead, go high. Most lawns do their best at a grass height of 3 to 4 inches, so cut only ⅓ of the blade’s length. You should adjust your mower to cut at the highest setting for your grass type.
Short grass translates to shallow roots, making drought stress more likely. If you cut your grass too short, that lets too much sunlight in, making your lawn the perfect home for weeds. Tall grass, on the other hand, means deeper roots, which can compete with weeds.
If winter has left your lawn with bare patches, get ready to overseed. Try to wait until fall since new seeds won’t have to compete with as many weeds.
Overseeding can thicken up your grass and return your lawn to its former, lush glory. The turf builder you choose will have a blend of seed and fertilizer. Different types are suited to cool season grass and warm season grass, so be sure to check out the specific type when purchasing your blend. Use a hand spreader to distribute the seed.
After overseeding, it’s essential to nurture your newly seeded grass for the first few weeks. Take extra care. Apply a slow-release fertilizer to help it grow hardy and healthy. It’s okay to be a helicopter plant parent, watering the area every day for the first two weeks.
Kill Lawn Weeds
Spring weed control calls for pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides. That is, if you don’t overseed. Overseeding and applying pre-emergent herbicide conflict with one another, since herbicide will halt the germination of new grass seeds.
If you decide against overseeding, put pre-emergent herbicides on the offensive, preventing future weeds that could crop up.
If you’ve spotted weeds like dandelions on your springtime lawn, you can either pull them out by hand—an often tedious and not all that effective task—or apply a post-emergent herbicide. This type’s on the defensive, wiping out weeds that have already taken root.
Like overseeding, don’t fertilize your lawn if you’ve applied herbicides. If you haven’t, then slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizers are your lawn’s best friend. A top-quality fertilizer will nourish your lawn and help shield it against drought and heat.
Choose your fertilizer carefully, looking into the product’s NPK value, or the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen stimulates growth, while phosphorus encourages root growth, and potassium promotes flowering in plants. Conducting your soil test will help you determine the best fertilizer for your grass type.
You’ve done all the heavy-lifting, so what’s left? You should check for grubs. These pesky pests—pale, white, ravenous beetle larvae—feast on grass roots during spring. You can combat grubs in a variety of ways.
First, you can opt for traditional insecticides, which use chemicals to kill off these unwanted insects. If you’d like to go green, consider an organic alternative. Applying products with milky spore powder or neem oil, or introducing beneficial nematodes, should do the trick.
Milky spore powder is a deadly snack for grubs. After a grub munches on milky spore, a naturally occurring bacteria, the spore reproduces inside of it, killing it from the inside out within three weeks. Neem oil is an organic pesticide that repels grubs and stops mature beetles from feeding and laying eggs.
You can also introduce beneficial nematodes to get rid of the grubs. These roundworms are a grub’s worst nightmare. Their gut contains a beneficial bacteria that can kill off a grub within one to two days. Keep in mind these organic measures cost more than their chemical-laden counterparts. Professional Lawn Care
Now you’ve got a good idea of all that goes into spring lawn care. If the idea of toiling away in the yard doesn’t excite you—or you simply don’t have the time—consider reaching out to College, a leader with decades of experience.
College Lawn Care offers three core annual packages that tackle the nitty gritty of fertilization, aeration, weed control, and more. With these plans, a certified, highly trained College Lawn Care specialist will visit your lawn every four to six weeks to make sure it’s thriving. If you aren’t satisfied, your specialist will come back as many times as needed between scheduled visits.