Lawn Care for the Spring Season
Each year, as winter loosens it’s grip and the landscape starts to show small signs of life once again, we turn our thoughts to our lawns and how we can finally get that lush green grass we’ve always wanted.
However, most of us fight year after year without success, and sometimes it seems that the more effort we put into our lawns, the worse they look. This is most likely caused not by doing the wrong things, but by doing the right things at the wrong time and hurting our chances of getting a great looking lawn.
Having a lawn that is the envy of the neighborhood isn’t something that happens just because we water a little in the spring. Lawn maintenance is something we should be aware of all year, but springtime is where the real action happens.
Remember that the exact time to perform these specific lawn maintenance tasks is determined by your geographic location. However, a good rule of thumb is to start when the snow season is over where you live.
This doesn’t mean waiting until the temperature has risen to the point that there’s no chance of snow at all, just that it’s risen to the point that you’re pretty sure there won’t be any more snow.
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First Things First: Raking, Raking, Raking
Most homeowners shudder at the idea of raking in the spring. After all, the heavy raking we all did in the Fall was supposed to be the end of it for the year, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Raking in the spring is intended to control the unwelcome buildup of thatch. It also helps to identify any clumped areas of grass where snow mold has caused the blades to stick together, which will be a problem when we seed the lawn.
Raking in the fall is done primarily to clean up the leaves falling from the trees, but it also helps to rake deep enough to remove thatch as well. By raking well in the fall, it will actually make the spring raking easier.
Moss Plants: A Bad Sign of Heavy Traffic
Once the raking is out of the way, check your lawn for compaction, especially if you have heavy traffic areas of the lawn. Compaction is when the soil has become dense and roots have a hard time taking hold. This can be alleviated normally by aeration. Although most people don’t do aeration in the spring, if you have specific areas that need attention, you may want to consider at least covering those areas.
Time to Lime
Adding lime to your lawn is intended to cure problems with the pH balance in your yard and lower the acidity levels.
One common myth that many homeowners swear by is ‘you can never add too much lime’, but this is completely wrong, but it stems from the fact that lime is not a fast-acting cure to acidity.
Adding lime over a longer period of time will bring the pH back into balance, and you should have your soil checked yearly by sending a sample to your county agriculture extension. If you add too much lime, the soil with suffer from being too alkaline.
Overseed, Not Overfeed
If you intend to overseed your lawn to repair bare spots, you should do so with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.
Remember that you will get great results if you seed in the late fall, because weeds won’t be competing with the grass, and that, combined with hitting the bare areas in the spring, will quickly bring your lawn to a lush green.
About five weeks after overseeding, add a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer to really help the new grass get going.
In fact, go a little easier on the fertilizers in the spring because many times you are not only fueling the new grass, but fast-growing weeds as well. Do your heavier fertilizing in the fall.
Now, About Those Pesky Weeds…
A pre-emergent is not a weed killer as much as it is as ‘weed preventer’, designed to keep the seeds from being able to germinate, and giving your lawn a fighting chance. By putting down a pre-emergent, it creates a barrier against weed growth that can limit the sudden spring explosion of the pesky plants. Once you place down a pre-emergent, do not aerate, since this will allow breaks in the barrier that weeds can work through.
However, most pre-emergents can actually cause problems for your lawn as well, so pre-emergents should generally be used only in areas where you want no weeds or grass, such as around shrubs or trees. Your best bet for getting rid of the weeds in the lawn itself is fall aeration, fall seeding and spring overseeding. Overseeding simply won’t work with pre-emergents.
The more familiar weed killers are ‘post-emergents’, but those are usually serious herbicides that will decimate any plant matter they come in contact with. These are the types used to eliminate dandelions growing through the sidewalk. While there are post-emergents that claim to only kill the weeds, it’s often risky and many people dislike the idea of overuse of chemicals.
Pulling weeds can be effective, especially if you can pull the entire root. Dandelions often need this kind of attack because they come back yearly. Many people avoid pulling weeds because it can be hard labor and often needs to be done several times over the growing season. Weeds grow quickly and one day of weeding simply won’t be enough to keep them at bay.
By understanding the best times to seed, fertilize and kill weeds, you can actually make your yard much greener in less time. Most people only plant seed in the spring and add water, baffled by why they continue to lose their yard to dandelions and thistle. If you follow these guidelines, your yard will soon become the plush, green carpet you may have thought was impossible.