Wake Up Your Yard with Spring Lawn Care
Early spring is the perfect time to get your lawn ready for the hot weather ahead. Here's what you need to do for a healthy, green, springtime lawn.
A green, healthy lawn that's the envy of your neighborhood—it's not outside of your reach, but to obtain it, you'll need to spend a bit of time prepping and caring for your grass. And one of the prime seasons for lawn care is the spring. Winter's chill is behind you, and the high heat of summer hasn't hit yet. So if spring has sprung, get ready to follow these spring lawn care tips for a healthy, green, and lush lawn to make you proud through the rest of the year.
Basic Spring Lawn Maintenance
Your early spring lawn care may consist mostly of evaluation. Don't rush things; your grass needs time to wake up from its winter slumber, especially if you live in a severe-winter climate. But once the danger of snow is past, and your grass is mostly green, it's time to start your spring lawn maintenance.
One of the first steps in your spring yard care program should be raking and dethatching. Grass can become matted during the winter, which prevents the germination of grass seed and also encourages the growth of mold and other lawn diseases. Very thick thatch can even prevent water from reaching the grass's roots. Use a stiff grass rake or a dethatching tool to break through any thick mats, and then remove the dead clippings.
After dethatching your lawn, the next task on the spring lawn maintenance list is aeration. This simply means breaking up compacted, hard soil so that water can easily reach thirsty roots. You can use aerating shoes or an aerating hand tool for small lawns, or rent an aerator if you have a large stretch of grass.
Spring Lawn Fertilizer
Just as you wake up hungry for breakfast after a good night's sleep, your grass "wakes up" after winter's sleep in need of a feeding of spring fertilizer.
If you live in a northern area with rugged winters and have a lawn comprised of mostly cool-season grasses such as fescue, bluegrass, bentgrass and rye grass, your spring lawn care schedule calls for a light helping of fertilizer, as the biggest feeding should have occurred in the fall.
If you're in the transition zone or the South and have a warm-season lawn planted mostly with Bermuda grass, zoysia, St. Augustine, and carpet grass, then late spring is prime time to fertilize.
When choosing a spring grass fertilizer, look for one with a higher dose of nitrogen, which helps green up the grass quickly. The labels of most spring grass fertilizers will indicate this with phrases such as "quick green," "starter fertilizer," or "spring fertilizer." Once you have your lawn fertilizer for spring, the soil is warming up, and the grass is showing signs of life, it's time for application. If your lawn is small, you can use a handheld spreader, but larger lawns call for a push broadcast spreader.
Water your lawn thoroughly a day or two before you fertilize. Apply the fertilizer evenly, working your way across the grass in a crisscross pattern. Once you've applied the spring grass fertilizer, water the lawn once again to carry the nutrients deep into the grass's roots.
Planting Grass in the Spring
It's a common scenario; your lawn has bare patches, yellow or brown spots, or just an overall weak appearance. If so, it's time for a spring grass seeding.
The best time to plant grass seed in the spring is late enough in the season to be past any danger of frost, yet early enough so the grass seed has time to germinate and develop strong roots before the heat of summer. The type of grass—cool-season or warm-season—also plays a part in determining your spring grass-seeding schedule. In general, cool-season grasses should have their heaviest overseeding in the fall, with spring grass seeding just to repair bare spots. When reseeding a warm-season lawn in the spring, go ahead and treat the entire lawn; the approach of warmer weather will stimulate thick, green growth.
Before starting to reseed your lawn in the spring, prepare the soil by breaking up hard or compacted soil, raking out clumps, removing weeds and other debris, and watering the soil thoroughly. Then spread the grass seed with a handheld spreader or a push broadcast spreader if you're treating the entire lawn. Small brown or bare spots can be seeded by hand.
After your spring grass seeding, keep the area evenly moist—but not soggy—until the grass sprouts and becomes established.
Spring Lawn Treatments
You've taken care of the basics of spring lawn maintenance: dethatching, aerating, fertilizing, and reseeding. Now it's time for the biggest spring grass treatment: weed prevention.
Just as spring brings your lawn back to life, it also stimulates the germination of the weed seeds that spent the winter waiting for their opportunity to grow. That's why any spring lawn treatment schedule has to include weed prevention, preferably in the early spring.
Learning how to weed your garden isn't as hard as it seems. You can start by pulling any obvious weeds, but for the most effective lawn treatment program, you'll need to apply an herbicide.
There are two main types of herbicides for spring lawn treatment against weeds: pre-emergent herbicides, which prevent weed seeds from germinating, and post-emergent herbicides, which kill sprouted weeds. While pre-emergent herbicides greatly cut down on your lawn maintenance schedule later in the year, they will also prevent grass seed from sprouting, so if you reseeded your lawn this spring, you'll either need to keep the pre-emergent herbicide away from the seeded area, or stick with a post-emergent product.
Read the labels of any weed-killing products carefully before applying, and heed any warnings or cautions about treating new grass. And keep on plucking weeds as you spot them.