With spring finally here, it’s the perfect time to focus on your greenery. Gone are the dreary days of fall and winter when your plants were dormant - it's time to prepare for bright, bountiful spring growth.
As the days get warmer and longer, spring is the quintessential time for lawn care. Whether you’re tending to seeds you planted in the fall or adding some new buds to your outdoor space, we’ll detail exactly what needs to be done so that your yard can truly blossom!
Since it’s the official growing season, there’s quite a few things to add to your to-do list to ensure your yard’s receiving the right care. As long as you follow the proper steps, you’ll have a thriving spring lawn, and what’s better than that? Keep reading for our top spring lawn care tips!
Prepping Springtime Care for Your Yard
Aerating your lawn is an important step to keeping it healthy and maintained. Lawn aeration helps to prevent soil compaction, which isn’t conducive to growing or planting new greenery. It helps to remove plugs of soil so more air, water, and nutrients can reach the grassroots and promote healthy growth.
Though spring is not typically the best time to aerate your lawn, it may be required given its condition. However, certain grasses do well with aeration in the spring, so that the lawn can recover quickly and begin growing new foliage in no time!
Where to begin? When aerating, make sure that it’s done after weeds have started growing but before they go to seed. This helps to keep weeds from overtaking your yard and allowing the plants you want to prosper will have a chance to do so.
Whether you have your own aerator or need to rent one, this is the most effective tool for the process. Since this is something that only needs to be done every few years for a thriving lawn, renting may be your best bet. Aerating should be done before fertilizing, so that the fertilizer is working its hardest to feed the roots.
Don’t need to aerate your lawn? If there are still matted patches in your grass, raking is a helpful alternative. Plus, it’s not as invasive or intensive as aerating, and it only requires a flexible leaf rake.
Raking helps to get rid of matted patches of grass and thatch, also known as the layer of mainly dead turfgrass tissue lying between the green vegetation of the grass above and the root system and soil below. Thatch that is too thick can make it difficult for new grass to permeate. For raking, this is unlike your autumn leaf raking and is focused more on breaking up any remnants of turfgrass from the previous growing season.
You should wait until your lawn begins to green up, since turf grasses are somewhat tender and vulnerable in the early spring. Raking when the grass blades are firmly rooted and the plants are actively growing is when it’s most effective. With your flexible leaf rake, rake deeply and thoroughly along your lawn to remove thatch.
This process is also helpful for determining any issues or concerns with your grass. If you notice the grass blades are all stuck together upon careful inspection, it could be due to a lawn disease called snow mold. When spring-cleaning your lawn with a gentle rake, you’re not only more aware of any potential problems, but you’re helping to encourage healthier growth in the long-run.
Up next in your spring lawn care (after aerating or raking) is fertilizing! You won’t want to skip this important step. Fertilizing is monumental in having a healthy yard, and in spring, a lighter feeding is recommended. If you’ve already fertilized in late fall with a heavier feeding, your lawn could still have fertilizer to feed on in spring.
If you’ve not fertilized in the months prior, don’t fret. All you need to do is apply a starter fertilizer, preferably one with a nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio of 24-0-10. Other organic options include topdressing with compost, or using a mulching mower to chop lawn clippings into a nourishing source of nitrogen. Be mindful not to over-fertilize though, as this can cause disease and weed problems.
Uh oh! Have you noticed some patchy areas in your grass? Whether that’s from dog spots or areas with heavy traffic, seeding should be your next step. Simply put, it’s the process of sowing seed over your existing grass. This will help to fill in those patches and allow your lawn to thrive.
Though spring isn’t the ideal time to seed, it may be needed if your lawn isn’t in the best shape. You can buy or rent a power seeder, which is a great method for evenly distributing your seeds in the lawn. After fertilizing, keep the new seed moist until it has sprouted and is actively growing. Then, you can begin a normal fertilization routine using quick-release nitrogen fertilizer five weeks after the grass germinates and sprouts.
If you’d like to seed the entire lawn, this is great to introduce new varieties or grass seed and ensure the lawn remains thick and healthy. However, just focusing on the visible bare patches is acceptable, as well, and requires less time and effort.
Maintaining Your Lawn in Spring
Though April showers bring May flowers, it’s still important to ensure you’re not strictly relying on the spring rainstorms for watering your greenery. One way to monitor if your lawn is receiving the right amount of moisture is with a rain gauge. If the rainfall itself is not providing enough for your lawn to thrive, this is where you should step in and water as needed.
With new grass seed especially, making sure that your lawn is watered just right is key. Before planting, check the dampness of the soil. If it’s down to 6-8 inches, that’s ideal. Throughout the upcoming weeks, water your lawn consistently so that the moisture remains a few inches down from the top layer.
At the same time, be mindful that overwatering doesn’t occur. When there’s steady rainfall, cut back on how often you water your lawn. Give your lawn adequate time to dry between waterings. In spring, no more than three days a week of watering is recommended.
Nothing is more frustrating than those pesky weeds that crop up. Weed prevention is a part of maintaining a healthy yard, and once you narrow down which type of weeds you need to block, the process is fairly straightforward.
For perennial weeds, use a post-emergent herbicide. For annuals, use a pre-emergent herbicide. However, crabgrass is its own special beast, needing both types to fully eradicate it. Determining which type of herbicide you’ll need is part of the battle. Here’s how to prevent and eliminate weeds.
One thing to keep in mind is that most “weed-and-feed” products are not the most effective, especially since fertilizing should be done separately to be most effective. Another thing to note is that if you’re doing core aeration, this will decrease the weed killer’s effectiveness. Over-seeding is also less effective with pre-emergent herbicides. Time these processes out accordingly.
The best way to apply chemical herbicides is to spot-spray, rather than cover the whole yard. Begin early in spring, before the first mowing and continue after each mowing for your lawn’s best care. If there are already deep-rooted weeds, such as dandelions, ensure that you’re spraying a post-emergent herbicide or using a weed-popper tool to snap off their flower stems or dig them up by the roots.
Your grass may be finally growing at an impressive rate, so it’s time to mow! Before your first mowing of the season, it’s always good practice to give your lawn mower a check. If it needs a tune up, you’ll want to find that out before mowing, not when your lawn is halfway cut! Sometimes, it’s as simple as needing to sharpen the blade or change the air filter, which can be done yourself.
Another tip: Mowing and spring showers don’t mix. Always wait for your grass to dry before mowing, as the moisture from the wet grass will weigh down the blades and create an uneven cut. Whether you use a reel mower, cordless electric mower, or gas-powered mower, ensure that you’re using one best suited to your yard’s needs and size. And don’t pick a time of day when the spring sun is too harsh!
Make Your Yard Stand Out This Spring
Spring is the perfect time to go outdoors and focus on some lawn maintenance. The most important thing is to evaluate what your yard needs and go from there. Plus, you can spruce up your yard even further by planting some trees and flowers and making your home feel positively springlike!
Check out some of our other spring posts to make your yard shine this season:
- Planning Your Spring Garden? See Our Top 5 Picks!
- Ask a Master Gardener: Spring Flowering Favorites
- How to Plant Grass Seed
- Tips and Tricks for Planting Your Spring Garden