If you want to have a lush, healthy lawn in July and August, you must put in the time and effort in the spring. As soon as your grass leaves its dormancy stage (timing depends on grass type), it’s time to start a springtime regimen that will ensure a healthy lawn all spring, summer, and fall.
Run Soil Tests
There are many factors that impact the pH balance of the soil. If a yard is exposed to pine trees and pine needles, it could become too acidic. If there is an abundance of lime or clay, it could prove to be deficient. The only way to determine a healthy soil is to test it. Do-it-yourself soil test kits are available from nurseries and home care stores. Test your lawn’s soil before proceeding with care and maintenance.
Weeds thrive as a lawn becomes strained. If weeds had taken hold by the end of the previous growing cycle, they would still be present. New weed growth is also capable of taking hold and establishing itself early in the spring even before the grass can become established and strong. A selective herbicide should be used to treat weeds fully in the spring. If weeds are not prevalent, a fertilizer with weed control should suffice. Weed-preventive fertilizers and treatments are referred to as “pre-emergent.” Keep in mind that if a lawn needs to be seeded, the herbicide will also prevent grass seed from germinating. Seeding has to wait 12 weeks after herbicidal application in order to allow the new grass seed to grow and take root.
Aerate and Thatch
Grass that has died over the winter is just waiting to become thatch (if it hasn’t already). This grass needs to be removed, along with any remaining thatch from the previous year, to allow both existing and emerging grass the room it needs to breathe and absorb both sunlight and water. While raking and removing thatch, you should check the lawn for compaction, which can occur from the weight of snow or ice and an overabundance of thatch. Compaction will also inhibit growth. A strong raking motion with a metal thatch rake should assist with both removing the thatch and breaking up compaction.
The next step in the springtime lawn cleanup and preparation is aeration. There is some debate about the best time to aerate a lawn. If done too early, it can damage emerging growth and weaken existing growth. Ideally, aeration should take place in the fall but, failing that, it can be done in the springtime when the lawn has had a chance to grow and strengthen a little.
There are several different approaches to repairing a lawn. Over-seeding is the process of applying a light layer of topsoil and a limited amount of grass seed over the top of an existing lawn. Over-seeding will allow the lawn to self-repair by filling in bare spots and growing strong. Patching a lawn is filling in bare spots with both topsoil and seed. Laying sod can be a final option if a lawn is damaged beyond repair, or the homeowner seeks a full lush lawn. Whichever option is chosen, a liberal amount of water should be supplied to the seed or lawn to allow it to take root and grow. Repair should take place early in the spring, once grass has begun to grow and there is no danger of a frost.
Fertilizer is food for a lawn. While it is important that to fertilize a lawn receive fertilizer , it can be overdone. It can also be applied unevenly and contribute to unused chemical runoff that might eventually make its way into the water supply. A soil test at the outset of spring is important for determining a lawn’s deficiencies. The ideal time to fertilize a lawn is in the fall. Fall fertilization allows for storage of necessary nutrients in the root system and will provide all that is needed for the following growing season. If you must fertilize in the spring, make sure it is evenly spread and applied with rain in the forecast. It is also best to use a time-release formula.
Cut and Water
Contrary to popular belief, watering the grass does not need to be a daily event. To create the strong, deep root system that characterizes a healthy lawn, watering deeply two times a week (or as needed to supplement rainfall) is sufficient. Daily, shallow watering makes the lawn dependent on the watering frequency and promotes shallow root growth, since the water doesn’t penetrate deep into the soil.
Another common misconception involves the ideal length of grass blades. Too many people cut their lawns short, often in an effort to reduce labor and increase the time needed between cuts. Dropping the mower blades too low puts undue strain on a lawn and opens the door for both burning and weed emergence. Refer to the suggested cutting height for the grass type and set the mower blades accordingly.
While the effort and amount of work needed in the springtime is significant, it will pay rewards all summer long.