The Basics of Spring Lawn Care
As the weather starts to break and your lawn begins to respond to nature’s wake-up call, a few basics of spring lawn care helps your lawn defend itself against weeds, flooding, and diseases. Tame your weedy, patchy, thin grass and become the envy of your neighborhood.
Spring lawn care isn’t difficult, and you also get a dose of sunshine, some fresh air, and some exercise. If you neglect your lawn in the spring, the rest of the year can be an uphill battle. Each yard has unique circumstances, so you may not need to implement every tip.
Remember, though, skipping out on spring lawn care could mean spending your weekends making up for your oversights. Acting now ensures an easily maintained, healthy, and beautiful lawn. If you are in need of any help with your spring lawn care, our Little Rock landscaping experts would love to help!
9 DIY Spring Lawn Care Tips
Below are nine spring lawn care steps you can take to ensure a lush and thriving yard.
The first thing you should do for your spring lawn care is spending time cleaning your lawn. Walk your yard and pick up any twigs and debris that gathered over the winter. This debris can get stuck in your mower, dull your blades, and will block other materials and fertilizers from being absorbed by your lawn.
As you’re walking your yard, prune any damaged or dead branches from bushes and trees, and look for any plants that didn’t survive.
Raking your lawn in the spring removes any fall leaves and grass blades that didn’t survive the winter. If you don’t rake, the dead blades will add to your yard’s thatch layer. The deeper you rake in the fall, the easier your spring raking will be. Raking will also loosen any matted grass clumps caused by snow — called snow mold — which will smother new growth.
Dethatching a lawn refers to the mechanical removal of the layer of dead turfgrass tissue. This is an essential part of your spring lawn care.
As you rake your yard, check your lawn’s thatch. Dead grass clippings and leaves accumulate and get matted down into thatch. Thatch will prevent the germination of new grass seed and it also promotes pest infestation and fungus growth. The easiest way to dethatch is to press the rake deeply into the grass as you rake in the fall or early spring. A dethatching rake is better than a regular leaf rake, but any rake is better than nothing.
Core aeration may be necessary for dethatching your lawns properly. A truly healthy lawn requires aeration of compacted soil.
How often you should aerate depends on the use and soil type of your lawn. The ideal time to aerate is late spring to early summer for warm-season grasses, but cool-season grasses perform better aerating in the fall. The average homeowner can rent a core aerator or hiring a lawn service is cost-effective.
Aerating helps your lawn because roots need air, water, and nutrients to grow thicker, deeper, and stronger roots. If the soil is compacted—even slightly—will inhibit the flow of essentials that support a thick, healthy lawn. If your soil is hard to touch, your grass looks stressed, or notice rainwater puddling on the surface, you may have a compaction problem.
There are three common types of aerating equipment used:
- Slicing aerators use rotating blades to cut or slice through grass and thatch down into the soil. Slicing aerators leave the soil in the ground but create pathways for air, water, and nutrients.
- Spike aerators simply poke a hole down into the soil with a spike-like tine. You’ve probably seen aerator shoes used to aerate as you work on your lawn. These can help on a small scale but can cause compaction by pressing soil together around the spike holes.
- Core or plug aerators are preferred by lawn care specialists and use rows of hollow tines that remove plugs of soil from your lawn. The size of the plug depends on the machine used.
If you use a core or plug aerator, leave the plugs or extra soil dry where they fall. The rain will break them down and they will disintegrate next time you mow—adding beneficial organic matter to your lawn.
If you’re struggling with crabgrass, applying a pre-emergent herbicide can keep weed seeds that dropped last summer from germinating. This step is timing-critical. The best defense is a good offense, so regularly overseed your lawn to encourage a dense root system that keeps crabgrass from growing.
The most common lawn weeds include:
- Nut Sedge
- White Clover
- Creeping Charlie
- Broadleaf Plantain
As the name suggests, a pre-emergent herbicide is a proactive weed control—not after you already have a weed problem.
If you know you have a problem with annual weeds like crabgrass, fertilization in the spring will go hand in hand with applying pre-emergent herbicides. They work by creating a “shield” that inhibits unwanted seed germination. Do not apply pre-emergent herbicides until after you’ve aerated your yard, if your lawn needs it.
If your lawn is a magnet for dandelions, a postemergent herbicide can help. First, you’ll want to snap off the flower stems before they produce seeds. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could dig them out by the roots. Spray dandelions with a postemergent herbicide is most effective in fall, but if you need to spray in the spring, select an herbicide for broadleaf weeds.
If you want a weed-free lawn, spring lawn care is about preventing weeds as much as it is about fostering healthy lawn growth. Your lawn can be fertilized organically using compost or a mulching mower.
A light feeding in spring and a heavier feeding in the fall is recommended for cool-season grasses. Fall fertilizers are slow-release, so using too much in the spring can result in weed problems or disease.
Overseeding your lawn is recommended in the fall for cool-season grass, but spot-seeding small areas in the spring in colder regions can produce great results. Overseeding applies a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. After you overseed, apply a quick-release nitrogen feed five weeks later. This will treat any bare spots in your lawn.
In the late spring, you can thicken your yard with overseeding, but it is recommended to overseed in the fall because a preemergent herbicide works against grass seed as well. If you overseed in the fall, your grass seed will have no competition from crabgrass because fall frosts kill off crabgrass.
Watering your lawn depends on your region. In the North, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest typically get enough moisture in the spring. Avoid watering only once the rains are scarce or your lawn shows signs of dehydration.
If you live in an area that gets too much water, and your lawn floods, then you need to consider building a french drain.
If you live in a mountain or arid desert area, continue watering your lawns as you have through winter. You can increase your irrigation frequency as the temperatures climb.
8.) Service Your Mower
Cutting the grass throughout the summer can be exhausting. Spending some time in the spring to give your mower a tune-up keeps you from having to fight to start or keep your mower running.
Regular maintenance on your mower saves you from headaches down the line — it isn’t fun stopping in the middle of cutting to fix your mower.
A few things you could service:
- Oil filter
- Air filter
- Spark plug
- Remove dirt and grass clippings from the deck
- Sharpen blade
- Drain old gas
9.) Mow High
Mowing early, mowing often, and mowing high ensures your grass’ roots reproduce properly. When you let the grass get too high and then cut it, it stunts your lawn’s growth. Try mowing your lawn every five days on the highest setting for the first six weeks of spring to get a thicker, fuller lawn.
Your lawn becomes fuller due to the roots going deeper and finding moisture. Mowing high is the surest way to encourage healthy roots, so mow as high as you can for your certain type of grass. Sharpen your mower blades at least once a season so you can ensure a clean cut — reducing moisture loss.
Later in the fall, lower your mower height by one to two inches than normal. In areas where you have leaves falling, the shorter grass prevents leaves from matting down the grass. In areas that are snow-prone, a final fall mowing will help prevent snow mold.
Apply other tips in this article to have the best lawn on your street.
10.) Edge Your Beds
Soft soil in the early spring makes edging your beds easier. You can edge with a sharp garden spade or a half-moon edger and cut a two to three-inch deep, V-shaped trench along your beds to keep the grass out. You can maintain this edge with a string trimmer throughout the season, and you’ll only need to re-cut if needed.
Wait for the soil to warm up before you refresh your mulch. A good, heavy mulch will last longer and look better.
Wrapping It Up
Spring lawn care isn’t hard, but the work pays off. Don’t start your spring lawn care early — let your lawn wake up gradually. Working on your lawn before it is fully green, you run the risk of compacting the grass or killing new shoots before they mature.