Spring is approaching, snow and ice are melting. This is a good time to start thinking about spring lawn cleanup. In order to look its best, your lawn may need a little TLC. By performing certain lawn care tasks in the spring, your grass will have a great start at becoming a beautiful summer lawn. The following steps are recommended for a thorough spring clean up.
Inspection of your lawn and equipment
Start with a walk around your lawn, observing it’s overall condition. Pick up sticks, branches and debris that may have accumulated over the winter months. Make note of areas of weakness, disease, bare spots and turf damage. Check or service your lawn equipment. Change the oil, clean the filter and sharpen the blades on your mowing equipment. Use fresh fuel and start your mower, trimmers and edgers to ensure functionality when you go to use them.
Remove dead grass, excessive thatch, leaves, and debris from your lawn with a hand or power rake. For best results rake your lawn aggressively, twice in directions that are at right angles to each other. In areas where the heavy snow and ice have caused the blades of grass to lie over, you will want to get them standing to achieve good air circulation. This would include areas infected with snow mold.
Whether it’s due to disease or dog urine, bare patches look awful in a nice lawn. Pull and discard the dead looking grass revealing the soil. Scratch the soil up a little, sprinkle some grass seed, then cover with a thin layer of topsoil, peat or screened compost. Pat down the newly planted area with your hand or foot to ensure good seed to soil contact. Keep the area moist until the new grass is established. It’s important to note that pre-emergent herbicides used for crabgrass prevention should not be applied to recently seeded areas since they block the germination of your recently planted grass seeds.
Spring aeration is not always required for the average lawn because melting snow and rain soften the soil to some extent. However if compaction is significant, then removing plugs of sod (aerating) loosens the soil and lets water, air and fertilizer to get down to the grass roots. For smaller yards, or for concentrated trouble spots, consider using a manual aerating tool turf hound. For a larger lawn, consider renting a power aerator. It is important to note that Aeration must be done before crabgrass preventers are applied to avoid disturbing the herbicide barrier.
Crabgrass pre-emergence chemicals can be applied in the early spring. Crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature has been 55 degrees or warmer for 7 to 10 consecutive days. When the yellow forsythia is in bloom is a good time to apply crabgrass preventers. Crabgrass needs light, air and open space to germinate. Look for thin areas in the lawn and apply the crabgrass preventer there and in areas of known crabgrass infestation. Do not apply pre-emergent herbicides (with the exception of siduron) in areas where planted grass seed is expected germinate and grow. Avoid applying it in thick, healthy stands of turf where it’s not needed. Avoid crabgrass-fertilizer combinations. These combination products stimulate excessive top-growth at the expense of the root system. There are straight crabgrass preventers without fertilizer available at lawn centers. Please note that thick, healthy turf lawns may not need herbicides to prevent crabgrass. The occasional weed plant in an otherwise healthy lawn can simply be pulled out or spot treated with a post emergent herbicide.
Late summer or fall is the optimum time for over-seeding most cool season grasses. If you choose to seed in the spring then you should avoid use of pre-emergent herbicides except for Tupersan, common name Siduron. Scott’s has a starter fertilizer containing siduron which is suitable to fertilize and to block crabgrass when seeding.
If you applied fertilizer in the fall then an early spring application is neither necessary nor particularly beneficial since early spring fertilizing produces excessive top growth instead of substantial root production. A deeper and denser root system means better draught resistance and overall performance in hotter, drier summer months. Just let the grass wake up and start growing naturally. Apply your first application of fertilizer when the top-growth begins to slow. That may be around the first of June. Apply earlier if using grains or organic fertilizers as I do.
For most broadleaf weeds, Autumn is the best time of year to apply broadleaf weed killer. Spring is second best. Spot spraying with a pump up sprayer is recommended. Pay close attention to the labeled instructions for chemical herbicides. Read twice, apply once. Combination products (weed and feed) are not recommended. Weed and feed products are not that effective as weed killers and the feed is frequently applied at the wrong time for best results. Cultivating a healthy lawn is the best way to crowd out weeds. For the occasional weed, simply pulling them is an environmentally friendly approach. The weed hound is an excellent tool for removing many weeds including young crabgrass plants. Place the tool over the weed, step firmly on the footrest, and pull the weed up, root and all.
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