Spring Lawn Care
Spring lawn care is an especially important season for your grasses. What you do or don’t do in the Spring can affects how your lawn looks year round. Essentially, spring maintenance is setting the foundation for a good growing season. There are basically eight steps you should take in the Spring. Taking these steps insure that you will have set a good foundation for your lawn to prosper into the summer and fall.
I quite often see this as one of the last steps in a spring lawn prep program. Its a good idea to get all your equipment in shape before you start using it. If you haven’t done it in the fall, now is a good time to sharpen the blades on your mower. Do an oil change. I typically do a few over the course of the year..
Check your rake and straighten out the tines if necessary. Have you ever used a rake that had bent times and gone over the same spot a dozen times without getting the debris you were trying too? Check you Fertilizer and Seed broadcaster (spreader) oil if necessary, add air to the wheels and make sure they are free and clear of old chemicals. Same for your sprayer if you have one, clean out any old water or chemicals test to make sure it works and replace any seals or gaskets that may have deteriorated.
Now is the time to get rid of twigs, leaves etc. A thorough raking of the lawn is in order. It isn’t necessary to dig in with the rake but it is important to get rid of the debris. This gives your fertilizers and amendments as well as water a chance to reach the soil.
You could of course be tempted to mow over all the winter debris but I wouldn’t advise it. A nice mowing, preferably on the high side for your grass type is a fundamental start to all the next steps you’ll be taking. Check out the section on mowing for mowing tips.
I am a huge fan of aerating lawns. This is a key factor in your Spring Lawn prep. Aerating De-Compacts the soil, therefore giving it room to open up. This allows the fertilizers to work their way into the soil. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things you can do for a lawn.
Whether you buy a pull behind core aerator or rent a power aerator, make sure it is a core or plug type aerator. The holes left behind will quickly fill in and the plugs will disappear back into the lawn bed over the next few weeks. Your lawn will love you for it! Here is a section, Aeration and De-Thatching, dedicated to that will be helpful.
I’m not a big fan of de-thatching. I prefer to aerate and let the action of the aeration break into the thatch and help it along in decomposition. Many lawn experts highly recommend thatching so I have to believe there are circumstance where thatching is appropriate. I believe that this is chiefly with grasses that grow in clumps such as fescue’s. Grasses that grow via rhizomes and develop a mat of interlaced “runners” can benefit as well.
My only caveat is that I would hire someone with a power de-thatcher rather then use a pull behind detatcher with the steel tines on it. A power de-thatcher will cut and pull the thatch up. A pull behind de-thatcher will tear apart the network of rhizomes, you lawn will recover but wont look very pretty after your done.
Fertilize & Add Amendments
Now is the time to fertilize, giving your grass the nutrients they need promote healthy growth. As a rule I dislike fertilizing in the summer. The warm season grasses tend to tolerate summer fertilization well but cold season grasses such as fescue will not do well with high nitrogen application, especially when the temperature is over 90F.
Your grass will benefit from other amendments as well. Lime is the most common amendment and should be added if your soil alkalinity is to low, in most cases it is ok to add lime to almost any grass type without testing. Don’t Lime Centipede or Carpetgrass though unless you have had your soil tested and the alkalinity is extremely low. Centipede and Carpetgrass prefer acid soils and lime will generally create an environment that Centipede and Carpetgrass will not thrive in.
Iron is another amendment that should be added at this time. Most experts agree that iron should not be added if the temperature is over 90F. Some fertilizers already have an iron amendment in them, if yours does not then products such as Ironite, chelated iron, or ferrous sulfate can be added at this time to prevent iron chlorosis. Plants require iron to manufacture chlorophyll, High PH as well as other environmental conditions can deplete your lawn of iron, resulting in yellowing or browning of the grass.
Here is a link to a page on this site dedicated to fertilization.
Herbicides, Pre-emergent’s, Insecticide
A well kept and healthy lawn should have little problem with weeds as the dense turf and frequent mowing should keep out any weeds. However, since this is reality we are all occasionally plagued with weeds, crabgrass and other noxious plants. A pre-emergent is probably the best solution, applied in the spring this will help keep the weeds down and allow the lawn to develop a dense turf to further control weeds.
One consideration to take into account now is whether you will be overseeding, if you are the use of a pre-emergent or herbicide is NOT recommended.
Since we keep a number of pets I generally apply Insecticide to my lawn several times a year. I usually don’t start applying until late spring and continue every four weeks until late fall. There are a number of insecticides suitable for use on lawns, most are broad spectrum so will work on fleas and ticks (Which is as a pet owner is one of my concerns). I prefer a liquid application as it is more economical. However, a granular application tends to last longer.I don’t think there is really any difference in overall effectiveness between the two.
Overseed and Top Dress
If you have any bare spots in the lawn that you did not overseed in the fall then you should tackle those spots now, in the early spring for the cool season grasses and in the late spring or even early summer for the warm season grasses. Preparation is much the same as if you were seeding a new lawn, just on a much smaller scale. Loosen the first several inches of soil, remove debris and rocks, rake in the seed to the desired depth for the grass variety you are planting and put a thin layer of mulch such as wheat straw over it. If you have access to a roller it is a good idea to roll the seed in as well.
Water daily for the first several weeks and gradually space out the watering until your seedlings have matured and have at least three or more leave per plant.One exception to this is centipede, I like to wait until later in the spring season, even early summer before overseeding. Even then I use a nurse crop such as carpetgrass since centipede is a very slow grower and wont germinate until the soil is consistently warm.
Top dressing is an option at this time of the year. For those of you that have poor soil condition top dressing with peat moss or screened topsoil may be a good idea to help your lawn along in the summer.