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Spring Lawn Prep and Maintenance

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Proper lawn care early in the year encourages a healthy, lush, and aesthetically pleasing lawn. Regular watering, mowing, and maintenance practices help maintain a vibrant green color, healthy thick turf, and a visually appealing lawn. Spring is the time to get back into your turf care routine. By implementing appropriate care practices, such as deep watering, proper mowing, and pest control, you can help your lawn withstand these stressors and remain resilient.

1) Rake or Dethatch Your Yard

a. Before your first mow of the new year, rake your yard thoroughly to release matted grass clumps caused by snow mold, which can smother new growth. A spring-tine rake is recommended for this project. This will help alleviate thatch*

b. Be sure not to rake when soil is muddy or soft, which makes it more likely to pull up healthy grass crowns.

c. Clean up any twigs, branches, trash, and other debris.

d. Rake out dead grass patches.

2) Aerate Soil

a. One way to reduce thatch and the effect of compacted soil is to use a core aerator, which removes plugs of soil to allow for more air, water, and nutrients to reach grassroots.

b. Cool Season: Aerate in early spring or fall

c. Warm Season: Aerate from late spring to summer

d. Clay Soils/High Traffic Areas: Aerate once per year

e. Core aeration should be done every 2-3 years

TIP: If you have an issue with weeds and are using a pre-emergent herbicide, skip aeration in the spring.

3) Kick Weeds to the Curb

a. In the Northern U.S. apply a pre-emergent herbicide to help prevent weeds.

b. In the Southern U.S. use a pre-emergent herbicide to help prevent weeds, or hand-pull/apply a post-emergent to tackle weeds that have popped through.

4) Fertilize Grass

a. Apply fertilizer about 3 weeks after the grass starts to green, or following the first 2-3 mowings. If you apply too early, you run the risk of feeding weeds and creating fertilizer runoff.

b. Water your lawn a few days before applying fertilizer to avoid burning your grassroots. Follow directions to avoid over-fertilizing.

c. Use a seed spreader to ensure you apply the right amount of fertilizer and distribute it evenly across your grass.

5) Seed and Lime as Needed

a. Reseed in areas where there are bare spots or patchiness.

b. Apply a slow-release fertilizer at this time to help with new germination.

c. Early spring and fall are most ideal times for reseeding.

d. Spring is a great time to test your yard’s pH to determine if your soil is too acidic. Most grasses prefer soil that is between 5.8-7.2 pH. When soil is too acidic, you may see signs of weeds, disease, pests, and moss.

e. Soil pH changes over time, so testing annually will help keep you on top of your soil pH levels. Once your pH is balanced, you can test every 3 or so years.

f. If you need to add lime, only do so if absolutely necessary. Spring and fall are the best times to add lime. Your soil test results will let you know how much to apply to reach your pH goals.

TIP: If you can wait until fall for seeding, do so. Spring seeding requires extra weeding, watering, and attention throughout the summer.

6) Water!

a. Generally speaking, your lawn needs about 1 inch of water per week. This can come from irrigation or rain.

b. During spring or summer, water early in the morning or late at night, to avoid evaporation.

c. Water less frequently, and more deeply. This will reduce water usage and encourage your grass to grow a deep root system.

TIP: Is it time to water? Step on your lawn. If the blades bounce back slowly or are wilted, curled, or dull in color, it may be time to water.

7) Mowing and Lawn Care Tips

a. Inspecting your lawn mower in the spring is a great habit to get into. This is the time to perform maintenance, change your oil, change spark plugs, sharpen blades, etc.

b. Set your mower to remove only the top 1/3 of your grass blades and avoid mowing too close to the ground. Grass cut too low will allow sunlight to reach the soil and encourage weed growth.

TIP: If it’s your first mow of the season, set your mower in the sun for an hour or so before starting up. This will help warm it up for an easier start.

c. Mow in the early evening when temperatures are cooling down and remember not to mow when your lawn is wet.

d. Change directions each time you mow. This will prevent ruts from forming and keep your grass blades even.

e. Mowing should be down as needed. Your lawn may need to be mowed more often in the spring and early summer, than at the end of the growing season.

TIP: REMOVE spark plugs before performing maintenance on your lawn mower.

8) Dispose of Lawn Clippings as Needed

You CAN leave your grass clippings behind. It can help add nutrients back into your soil, create a home for pollinators and wildlife, and help your soil retain more moisture. However, if it starts to create a thick thatch layer – it’s time to go! Remove your clippings and add them to your compost pile – if you don’t use chemicals on your lawn.


What is thatch?

Thatch is a layer of leaves, roots, and dead grass that builds up between soil and live grass. It can keep air and water from reaching your roots if it becomes too thick (1/2 inch or more). A thin layer can be beneficial in protecting your soil by retaining moisture and nutrients.

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