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Early Spring Lawn Care Tips

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If you haven’t fired up the lawnmower yet, it won’t be long now. In my area of the country folks have been mowing their lawns for a few weeks now. In other areas, you might need to wait just a bit longer for the snow to melt. Whatever region you live in, there are lawn care tasks you can be doing right now to ensure the smoothest transition into spring.


Watch Out For Snow Mold

As soon as possible, try to remove and break up the remaining snow piles on your lawn. This will help reduce the occurrence of snow mold. Snow molds are types of fungi that thrive in the dark, humid conditions found under snow cover. These snow molds wreak havoc on the ability of the grass to utilize carbohydrates, resulting in a weak metabolism, disease and eventually total death of the grass blade. Snow mold fungus starts life very small. It grows and expands from a central point to eventually form an almost perfect circular patch. Occasionally the center of the infected patch will begin to recover while the edges are still growing, resulting in interesting “eyes” all over your lawn. If you already have snow mold you’ll need to rake the infected patches vigorously. Raking snow mold patches will loosen matted grass and help the lawn recover quicker.


Check Your Thatch Layer

Depending on how thick your thatch layer is, now would be a good time to consider dethatching. The thatch layer is the area between the green grass blades and the soil surface. It contains dead and living organic matter such as stems, stolons, rhizomes and roots. The thatch layer is important for a strong, vigorous lawn and can help reduce weed germination and increase moisture retention in the soil. However, too much thatch can be a problem. A thatch layer is considered excessive when it’s more than ½ inch thick. A professional lawn care service will dethatch a lawn, or you can do it yourself by renting a vertical mower or power rake from an equipment rental center.


Core Aerate Your Warm-Season Grasses

While autumn is the best time of the year to aerate cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue, warm-season grasses should be aerated in the spring. Warm-season grasses include bermudagrass, zoysia, and buffalograss. Core aerating helps create open pore space as well as improving the drainage of a lawn. Prepare lawn for aeration by irrigating a day or two prior. This softens the ground and helps the aerator penetrate the soil, allowing plugs to be more easily removed. Do not aerate after prolonged rainfall. The soil should be moist but not wet. It’s also important to flag sprinkler heads and other hidden objects to ensure they are not damaged during aeration. If you feel comfortable handling a core aerator yourself, they’re available for rent at equipment rental centers and garden centers. Most homeowners choose to hire a professional lawn care service.


Spring Overseeding

Spring is also a great time for overseeding. While fall overseeding is more common, spring overseeding helps fill in thin and bare areas caused by snow mold and winter damage. It’s also recommended to overseed after dethatching. First, mow your current grass to a height of about two inches. Sow the seed using a broadcast spreader. For overseeding purposes, use only half the recommended seeding rate you’d use for a new lawn. For example, if the seeding rate is 5 lbs. / 1000 ft² for a new lawn, you only need to use 2.5 lbs. / 1000 ft² for overseeding. After applying the new seed, keep the area moist but not soaked. This is usually accomplished by watering two or three times a day for 10-15 minutes at a time.


Wait to Fertilize

One thing you don’t need to worry about in early spring is fertilizing. Applying fertilizer too early in the spring can result in lush top growth while sacrificing root growth. Root growth is more important in early spring as lawns prepare for the hot, dry summer ahead. Wait until at least Memorial Day before applying any fertilizer.

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