A green, healthy lawn that’s the envy of your neighborhood—it’s not outside of your reach, but to obtain it, you’ll need to spend a bit of time prepping and caring for your grass. And one of the prime seasons for lawn care is the spring. Winter’s chill is behind you, and the high heat of summer hasn’t hit yet. So if spring has sprung, get ready to follow these spring lawn care tips for a healthy, green, and lush lawn to make you proud the rest of the year.
Basic Spring Lawn Maintenance
Your early spring lawn care may consist mostly of evaluation. Don’t rush things; your grass needs time to wake up from its winter slumber, especially if you live in a climate with harsh winters. But once the danger of snow has passed and your grass is mostly green, it’s time to start your spring lawn maintenance.
One of the first steps in your spring yard care program should be raking and dethatching. Grass can become matted during the winter, which prevents the germination of grass seed and also encourages the growth of mold and other lawn diseases. Very thick thatch can even prevent water from reaching the grass’s roots. Use a stiff grass rake or a dethatching tool to break through any thick mats, and then remove the dead clippings.
After dethatching your lawn, the next task on the spring lawn maintenance list is aeration. This simply means breaking up compacted, hard soil so that water can easily reach thirsty roots. You can use aerating shoes or an aerating hand tool for small lawns, or rent an aerator if you have a large stretch of grass.
Spring Lawn Fertilizer
Just as you wake up hungry for breakfast after a good night’s sleep, your grass “wakes up” after winter’s sleep in need of feeding of spring fertilizer.
If you live in a northern area with rugged winters and have a lawn comprised of mostly cool-season grasses such as fescue, bluegrass, bentgrass andryegrasss, your spring lawn care schedule calls for a light helping of fertilizer, as the biggest feeding should have occurred in the fall.
If you’re in the transition zone or the South and have a warm-season lawn planted mostly with Bermuda grass, zoysia, St. Augustine, and carpet grass, then late spring is prime time to fertilize.
When choosing a spring grass fertilizer, look for one with a higher dose of nitrogen, which helps green up the grass quickly. The labels of most spring grass fertilizers will indicate this with phrases such as “quick green,” “starter fertilizer,” or “spring fertilizer.” Once you have your lawn fertilizer for spring, the soil is warming up, and the grass is showing signs of life, it’s time for application. If your lawn is small, you can use a handheld spreader, but larger lawns call for a push broadcast spreader.
Water your lawn thoroughly a day or two before you fertilize. Apply the fertilizer evenly, working your way across the grass in a crisscross pattern. Once you’ve applied the spring grass fertilizer, water the lawn once again to carry the nutrients deep into the grass’s roots.
Planting Grass in the Spring
It’s a common scenario; your lawn has bare patches, yellow or brown spots, or just an overall weak appearance. If so, it’s time for a spring grass seeding.
The best time to plant grass seed in the spring is late enough in the season to be past any danger of frost, yet early enough so the grass seed has time to germinate and develop strong roots before the heat of summer. The type of grass—cool-season or warm-season—also plays a part in determining your spring grass-seeding schedule. In general, cool-season grasses should have their heaviest overseeding in the fall, with spring grass seeding just to repair bare spots. When reseeding a warm-season lawn in the spring, go ahead and treat the entire lawn; the approach of warmer weather will stimulate thick, green growth.
Before starting to reseed your lawn in the spring, prepare the soil by breaking up hard or compacted soil, raking out clumps, removing weeds and other debris, and watering the soil thoroughly. Then spread the grass seed with a handheld spreader or a push broadcast spreader if you’re treating the entire lawn. Small brown or bare spots can be seeded by hand.
After your spring grass seeding, keep the area evenly moist—but not soggy—until the grass sprouts and becomes established.
Spring Lawn Treatments
You’ve taken care of the basics of spring lawn maintenance: dethatching, aerating, fertilizing, and reseeding. Now it’s time for the biggest spring grass treatment: weed prevention.
Just as spring brings your lawn back to life, it also stimulates the germination of the weed seeds that spent the winter waiting for their opportunity to grow. That’s why any spring lawn treatment schedule has to include weed prevention, preferably in the early spring.
Learning how to weed your garden isn’t as hard as it seems. You can start by pulling any obvious weeds, but for the most effective lawn treatment program, you’ll need to apply an herbicide.
There are two main types of herbicides for spring lawn treatment against weeds: pre-emergent herbicides, which prevent weed seeds from germinating, and post-emergent herbicides, which kill sprouted weeds. While pre-emergent herbicides greatly cut down on your lawn maintenance schedule later in the year, they will also prevent grass seed from sprouting, so if you reseeded your lawn this spring, you’ll either need to keep the pre-emergent herbicide away from the seeded area or stick with a post-emergent product.
Read the labels of any weed-killing products carefully before applying, and heed any warnings or cautions about treating new grass. And keep on plucking weeds as you spot them.
While your lawn may not require as much care in the winter as it does in spring, summer, and fall, you don’t want to ignore it completely. To ensure it will be in good shape come springtime, you’ll want to take the following steps.
Aerate & Fertilize
Just before your area’s first expected frost date, aerate your lawn. Aerating your lawn will give it a chance to breathe before the grass goes dormant, and help relieve any compaction that has built up during the warmer months.
After you’ve opened up your lawn, it’s a good time to fertilize. Fertilizing your lawn gives your grass the essential nutrients it needs as it prepares for winter. The grassroots absorb and store the nutrients during the winter months. Then, in the spring, your lawn taps into those stored nutrients giving it a head start, making it green and lush. By having a properly cared-for lawn, you’ll also help prevent weeds, pests, and diseases from moving in once it warms up.
Keep Your Lawn Clean
There’s a good chance that leaves have piled up on your lawn during fall and because of that, your lawn could suffocate before winter. Leaves that are left on the lawn could also become too wet, which can invite disease. If the leaves are not too thick or wet, mulch the leaves with your mower into dime-sized pieces to recycle the nutrients back into your lawn. If the leaves are too thick, wet, or matted down, rake them up and remove them.
Also, be sure to remove lawn furniture and debris from your lawn, as well as any spare logs from next to the fire pit.
Avoid Too Much Lawn Traffic
When your lawn is frosted or dormant, try to avoid walking on it too much. Even strong grass can become weak if the same path is walked over too many times.
Most of us begin the New Year armed with plans, projects, and resolutions. The January lawn & garden provides a stark contrast as it hunkers down to wait out the winter, but there’s still plenty to do when the weather cooperates.
The month of January takes its name from Janus—the Roman god of Gateways and Journeys—who is often pictured looking both backward and forward at the same time. New Year’s resolutions spring from this tradition, and your January gardening can follow suit.
This is a great month for evaluating and planning. It’s also a good time to work on plants during dormancy, so they can begin their spring growing season with an advantage.
Here are some lawn & gardening chores to tackle during January.
Trees and Shrubs
In January, you can continue these chores from December:
- In warmer zones, protect tender trees and shrubs from surprise frosts by covering them with burlap draped over a simple wooden frame or plant stakes.
- Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees, to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
- Stake leggy plants to protect from wind or ice breakage.
- Leave snow in place as an insulator – remove (gently!) only if the weight of the snow threatens to break the plant. Do not attempt to remove ice.
You can also:
- Prune dormant trees and shrubs now, including fruit trees. In warmer zones with winter-flowering shrubs, wait until just after they bloom.
- Hold off on pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
- Inspect your winterized roses – make sure they are still firmly tied and/or covered.
- Apply anti-desiccants to newly planted evergreens.
- Bring spring-flowering branches indoors for forcing. Good choices are forsythia, pussy willow, jasmine, and flowering quince.
Zones 7 and warmer can:
- Begin planting roses.
- Plant bare-root, balled-and-burlapped, and container-grown trees and shrubs. It can be hard to identify plants when dormant, so hopefully, you’ve made some notes during the growing season!
Perennials and Bulbs
Continue these tasks from previous months:
- Protect evergreen perennials from freeze damage. Use boughs from your recycled Christmas greenery as an extra mulch layer.
- Check your stored tender bulbs every couple of weeks. Discard any rotten ones. If they look withered or dried out, mist the packing medium very lightly with water.
- Brighten up cold, gray days by bringing out your chilled bulbs for forcing indoors. Also plant bulbs that don’t require chilling, such as paperwhite narcissus.
- Sow seeds in indoor flats for spring planting.
Also, you can:
- Clip faded blossoms from gift amaryllis.
- Take a tour of your garden to see if any of your plants have been uprooted by frost heaving. If so, add extra mulch.
- Zones 7 and warmer can plant summer and fall flowering bulbs.
- Frost-free zones (11 and warmer) can plant spring annuals outdoors.
Annuals and Containers
- Continue to protect tender container plants from freezing temperatures.
- Keep watering containers.
- Feed winter-blooming pansies with a bloom-boosting fertilizer.
- Start seeds indoors for summer annuals.
- Remember not to walk or drive on frozen grass.
- Apply post-emergence weed control to actively growing broadleaf weeds.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Inspect stored fruits and vegetables (such as apples and potatoes) for decay. Throw away any that look spoiled, and increase air circulation to reduce further damage.
- If your winter vegetables are looking yellow, add some nitrogen fertilizer
- Prune dormant fruit trees and grape vines.
- Continue applying dormant spray to fruit trees. Don’t spray during wind, rain, or freezing temperatures.
- Sow seeds indoors for spring vegetable planting.
Continue these chores from previous months:
- Keep houseplants out of drafts and in the brightest spot possible.
- Increase humidity around tropical plants.
- Reduce fertilization, but continue watering (may water less often, but the same amount). Make sure your water is room temperature.
- Address any insect and disease problems.
- Give extra protection on chilly nights by closing drapes and making sure plants don’t touch the cold glass.
- Cover or wrap new houseplants when transporting to keep them from freezing on the trip home.
Cleanup and Maintenance
Continue these chores from previous months:
- If the ground isn’t frozen, install French drains, bury downspouts and drainage pipes, and watch for drainage problems in the garden.
- Have your soil tested to determine if supplements are needed.
- Till workable soil and work in amendments. This gives you the added benefit of exposing buried insect eggs and larvae to hungry birds.
- Don’t forget to feed the birds!
- Clean, oil, and repair garden tools.
- Take in your lawn mower in for blade sharpening or repairs – the repair shops are much less busy this time of year.
- Keep plants clean by gently wiping or rinsing.