The long winter is finally coming to a close and spring is officially upon the Northern hemisphere. That means that now is the time to take a look at your yard and lawn. After all, when it comes time for backyard barbecues or pulling cartwheels in the front yard, you don’t want a brown and barren field. Here are some tips to make sure that your yard will be lush, green, and comfortable when the time comes.
First, you need to be patient. While you might want to get out there and start raking and dropping seed and fertilizer all over everything, you want to wait until the soil has dried out a little. Working on your lawn when it’s still wet from winter melt off can damage the new grass shoots that are trying to make their way up.
Raking and Aerating
After things have settled down, the first thing you want to do is clean up. Pick up winter branches and leaves that have fallen. Then give your lawn a good once over with a rake. Raking your lawn will remove the layer of dead grass that has been matted down. If this thatch isn’t removed, it can block moisture and nutrients from making it to the roots of your grass.
While you’re raking, pay attention to how it feels and looks. Raking will also expose a lot of trouble spots, such as bare spots or places where the soil is compacted. When the soil becomes densely packed from heavy foot traffic, the grass will have a hard time taking root. Instead, you’ll get weeds that flourish in the hard packed areas. The way to prevent this is to aerate the soil.
The easiest way to aerate your soil is of course, to use an aerator. An aerator is a machine that creates tiny holes in your lawn. There are two types: spike, and plug aerators. Spike aerators just poke holes in the ground, while plug aerator actually removes a small plug of grass and dirt from your lawn. A spike aerator is less effective because it compacts the dirt immediately around the hole.
Seeding & Fertilizing, OR Weed Control
The next step is to figure out whether you need to plant new seed or if you need to focus on weed control. Weed control at this point uses pre-emergent herbicides, and those will also prevent new grass seed from sprouting. The weed control also lasts for 3 months, so you can see why you can’t do both in the springtime. The upside to doing this type of weed control is that if applied properly, it eliminates any weeding you need to do that year. So if your lawn is already well seeded with no bare spots, this could be your option.
If you choose to apply a pre-emergent, make sure you get one that will deal with the types of weeds you have. Different types affect different weeds, so don’t hope for the best, get one that works for you. Additionally, ensure you follow the application instructions. Most pre-emergents require that you water for a specific amount of time over a set period.
If you plan to seed, you have a choice of what type of seed you will use. If you’re using a cool-season seed like bluegrass or fescue, then you want to plant early to take advantage of the spring growth. Patch the bare spots as soon as soil temperature hits above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Be prepared to water liberally during the hot summer months, however. When you fertilize this type of seed, use a slow-release fertilizer. The last thing you want is a ton of new growth when summer hits. Cool-season seed likes to be fed in the fall, so wait to fertilize until then.
On the other hand, a warm-season seed like Bermuda or Zoysia should be planted when soil temperature hits above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderate watering is all that’s needed, as these varieties thrive in the heat of summer. As soon as you see new shoots, go ahead and lay down fertilizer to help your grass get healthy.
To keep your lawn healthy through the year, you only need to do a couple of things. First, you need to water it. On average, you want your lawn to get about an inch of water per week. That works out to roughly 62 gallons of water for every 10-foot square.
The other thing you need to do is mow it regularly. But before you set your mower to the lowest height and run rampant over your lawn, take a step back. Short grass may reduce the frequency of your mowing, but it’s not good if you want a lush green lawn free of weeds. Your lawn will benefit if you let certain types of grass reach up to 4 inches before you cut it. And when you do cut it, only remove the top third of the grass blade.
Make sure that your mower is also ready for the year. If you followed our guide on putting your mower away for the winter, getting it ready for spring will be a snap. Make sure to use fresh gas, check the spark plugs, and put in a fresh air filter.
With these tips, your lawn should be in perfect condition for your outdoor adventures as the weather continues to warm.
P.S. Did we mention we also have a guide for preparing your pool for warmer weather? Check it out here!