As your garden finally starts to turn green again after winter, you need to be ready to take care of your lawn. Getting a head start before the growing season will ensure a lush and healthy lawn all summer long. During spring the lawn is budding with new growth, but it is also a sensitive time for your lawn that is characterized by unpredictable weather, tender plants, and spongy soil.
But this should not worry you. Spring lawn care is not difficult, but it plays a critical role in getting your grass back on track for a healthy growing season. The following 10 tasks will help your lawn bounce back from winter;
Raking your lawn for spring involves more than just removing leaves. Raking will be your first task of spring lawn care regardless of whether you are starting a new lawn or maintaining the existing one. It helps to control grass blades that have build up over the winter, waiting to become thatch. A thatch build-up of about 1/2″ is considered excessive, and it needs to be removed.
Raking will also allow you to survey your lawn to see it has any matted patches. These patches are usually in the form of grass blades that are stuck together, and often they result from a common lawn disease referred to as “snow mold“. Growing grass will have difficulty penetrating the grass blades. However, deep raking will help remove the patches. While raking, try and be gentle by using a light rake to avoid ripping up and weakening your grass.
2. Controlling the bad guys
As spring weather kicks in moles, earthworms and other pests emerge towards the higher soil levels in search of food and warmth. While doing so, they tend to damage and attach the root system posing a great threat to the lawn. The moles can be controlled by laying traps just before they build more tunnels. Other pests can be controlled by applying pesticides, but they are effectively managed in summer.
If your lawn has started to show signs of decline, probably it is because it is suffering from compacted soil. Aerating the soil is the remedy for compaction. Aeration is best done in fall, but it can be undertaken in spring if the soil is highly compacted.
Aerating the soil will allow oxygen, water, and nutrients to spread through the soil and to reach the roots easily. You can use a garden fork to aerate the soil or do it the easy way by using a soil conditioner. Soil conditioners are fortified with beneficial microorganisms that aerate the soil, encouraging the roots to grow deeper. You only need to attach the conditioner to your garden hose and spray, and the result is green and healthier lawn.
The presence of moss plants in the lawn signals an acidity pH (among other things). Grass thrives well in a neutral pH. Liming your soil will help solve this problem, but it is important to note that liming is not a quick fix as the effects will take time to show.
A soil sample should first be sent to the local extension officer to help determine the level of acidity in your soil. The officer will advise you on how much lime to apply and when to reapply. The lime application should be done using a fertilizer spreader.
However, this should only be done as a corrective measure and not a preventive measure. This means that if your soil is alkaline, don’t apply additional lime as this may work against the plants. Also, lime should not be used within three weeks of fertilizing as the two can react and become less active.
Although spring is not perfect for overseeding your lawn, it will serve as a remedy to those bare patches resulting from neglect or heavy traffic. Overseeding will ensure that any bare spots will be full by summer. You can use a garden rake to loosen then soil, and then apply an even layer of seed over the affected area.
The area should be watered regularly and loosely covered with hay to prevent rainwater from washing away the seeds. Depending on the weather, the grass will start to sprout in two or three weeks. It is important to note that you can use regular grass seed to treat the bare spots or specially formulated seed, designed explicitly for quick growing on bare lawns.
Depending on your soil and location, spring usually requires minimal watering other than natural rainfall. However, this is the best time to apply a minimalist approach to watering the lawn to encourage a healthier lawn, with deeper and stronger roots required for the extremes of summer. This way, you will train your lawn to be less dependent on being watered frequently. Watering once a week to two weeks is often enough. Use a garden fork to aid water penetration if the ground is tough and always ensure that it reaches a depth of about 10 cm.
7. Apply fertilizer
Mulching mowers and compost are often used to fertilize lawns organically. Chemical fertilizers are also preferred, but a lighter feeding is recommended in spring. Also, you’ll first be required to apply slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for better results. This is because the vital nutrients in the fertilizer break down over an extended period which means that you don’t have to reapply so often. You can then apply the quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after five to six weeks when the grass germinates.
Applying too much fertilizer in spring can lead to weed problems and lawn diseases. Further, it encourages rapid growth of tender plants that are not likely to survive the heat of summer. Heavier feedings are recommended in fall when the plants are at their peak growing season.
8. Apply Preemergent herbicides
Most lawns will have a problem with annual weed and crabgrass. Crabgrass is more common in spring, and it is in this period that it seeds germinates. Fertilization in spring should, therefore, go together with the application of preemergent herbicides. Preemergent herbicides as the name suggest control weed problem even before the grass emerges. These herbicides form a layer that inhibits the germination of weeds.
After applying preemergent herbicides, you should avoid undertaking any core aeration as this will destroy the layer, thereby reducing its effectiveness. Also, preemergent herbicides are only effective for three months, and as such, they should be closely followed by the application of Postemergent herbicides.
9. Apply Postemergent herbicides
Postemergent weed herbicides are applied to control the perennial weed in spring season known as dandelion. When dealing with this weed, you should choose an herbicide for weeds with broad leaves. You can opt to remove their flower stems before they start to produce seeds or you can pull them out by the roots.
10. Tune up your mower
You’ll need to ensure that your lawnmower is ready for the grass cutting season by subjecting it to an early-spring tune-up. Ensure to;
- Replace the spark plug
- Replace grease and fittings
- Change the oil
- Sharpen the blades
- Clean the carburetor
- Install a new air filter
- Scrape clean the mowing deck
And, when it comes to wowing your lawn for the first time in spring, ensure that the mowing deck is raised to its highest settings. This will ensure that you trim the grass about 3 inches tall to avoid weakening early spring grass resulting in stunted growth. Later on, you can use the one-third rule for your subsequent mowing.