By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Keeping your lawn green and healthy during the hot days of summer begins with properly caring for lawns in spring. Read on to learn about spring lawn maintenance and how to care for spring lawns.
It may not be a lot of fun, but spring lawn maintenance requires a few hours of spring lawn cleanup. It’s tempting to get started on the first sunny day, but it’s critical to wait until the ground is dry or you may compact the soil and damage the tender roots. Once the lawn is dry, you can gently rake away dead grass, leaves, twigs, and other debris.
With a few spring lawn care tips, you can have the yard you’ve always dreamed of.
Watering– Don’t be tempted to water your lawn in early spring. Wait until the grass shows signs of wilt, which may not happen until late spring or early summer– or maybe even later. Watering too early only encourages shallow root growth, which will be unable to withstand hot, dry summer weather and may result in a brown, dry lawn by picnic season. When you start watering, water deeply then let the grass wilt slightly before watering again. Typically, about an inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week is enough.
Fertilizing– Similarly, spring isn’t a good time for fertilizing the lawn because the tender, new growth is likely to be scorched when the weather turns hot in summer. This is especially important if you live in a climate affected by drought. If your lawn isn’t healthy, you can apply a light application of a balanced slow-released lawn fertilizer, but withhold heavier fertilization until autumn. The exception is if your lawn consists of St. Augustine or another warm season grass. If this is the case, fertilize as soon as the grass greens up and shows active growth in mid to late spring.
Mowing– You can mow your lawn as soon as it needs it, but be sure the ground is dry so you don’t compact the soil. Never scalp your lawn and don’t remove more than one-third the height of the grass at any mowing. If the grass is shaggy in spring, give it a light trim for the season’s first mowing, then get back on schedule and follow the one-third rule for the remainder of the season (be sure to sharpen mower blades before you begin).
Aerating– If your lawn needs aeration, which involves poking small holes in the lawn so water, nutrients, and air can reach the roots, midspring is a good time. However, wait until fall to remove thatch.
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Springtime is when you might start dreaming of your green lawn and colorful flower beds. You could plot out your vegetable garden beds. Understanding steps for spring lawn care is important, especially if you want those green lawns that neighbors envy.
Winter is over, and you have to give your lawn extra attention to help it recover and prepare the grass for the hot summer weather ahead. Here are some basic spring lawn care tips that will make your lawn shine. Here are six spring lawn care steps for Chicago, IL homeowners.
The first step is to clean it up! Rake up your lawn to remove any leaves or debris that accumulated throughout the winter. The snow covers a lot! You don’t want to rake too hard because you might pull out chunks of your yard. However, raking also gets air flowing into your turf.
Hopefully, you overseeded in the fall, but you can also reseed your lawn in the spring. If you notice bare patches in your lawn, that means you have to apply grass seed. Doing this is an important step because bare patches invite weeds to take over those areas in your lawn.
Make sure you pick the right type of grass for your lawn. A blend of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass does great in yards with full sun in Chicago. If you have a shaded lawn, fine fescue is a good choice. Most of the time, you want a blend. If you don’t know what type of grass to use, speak to a professional to get a suggestion.
Is your lawnmower ready to get started again? Make sure it is running appropriately, and sharpen the blades. Dull mower blades tear your grass rather than cutting it.
Now is a good time to set your blade height. As the temperatures increase, you want to raise your blades. You don’t want to cut your grass too short, especially if it is the first cut of the year. You don’t want to remove more than 1/3 of the grass during the first cut.
Raise the blades every one to two weeks until you reach 2.5 to 3 inches high. Cutting at this height protects the vital root system, allowing the grass to retain moisture during the hot, dry summer days.
You can apply fertilizer this spring to your lawn. In early spring, you can use a slow-release, high nitrogen, granular fertilizer. Granular is a great choice because it releases the nutrients slowly, which prevents over fertilization. Also, granular fertilizers are safe for pets and humans without any drying time.
May is a great time for fertilization. Use one pound of the high nitrogen fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet of grass.
Spring is the best time to attack those weeds on the edges of your property that want to overtake your lawn. Apply a pre-emergent weed control that stops those annual weeds, such as crabgrass that grows well in Chicago lawns, from taking root.
You also should use postemergence broadleaf weed control that kills weeds such as dandelions that take root throughout the spring. Battling weeds can take several weeds to have success. Make sure you don’t use weed control when the temperatures are above 85 F!
Lawns need to be watered, so create a watering schedule now. The best time to water is in the morning before the sun is rising. Less water evaporates during this time. Use this time to install a watering system on a timer, making your life a whole lot easier.
Need help managing your spring lawn care? Visit our Chicago lawn care page for more information!
By walking around doing yard work too early, you risk compacting the grass and soil or destroying regrowth before it’s had time to mature. Watering can also do more damage than good if the soil hasn’t yet soaked up the excess winter moisture. Give the sun and soil a few weeks do their job helping the lawn bounce back from the harsh winter season first.
Weather varies from year to year and depends greatly on where you live. So, there is no certain day on the calendar which we can say is the best time to start spring grass maintenance. But there are some signs that you can look for to help decide when to start.
In the spring, the regrowth should be noticeably longer and a bright, healthy green color. When it has reached about 2 to 3 inches in length, the grass is ready for the first mow of the season. Waiting until this point to start lawn care will help protect the delicate, new grass shoots from damage and safeguard the grass roots from trampling and infection. Grass roots will also grow deeper if they need to reach for moisture we recommend watering once the weather gets hot and dry later in the spring.
It’s great to get out to the garden in spring. Birds are singing, flowers are coming into bloom, and the soft, sparkling light makes the world look fresh and new. After you admire the season’s first daffodils, it’s time to start tending to your lawn in preparation for a season of lush growth.
It’s important to start the new gardening season with the right tools, and a sturdy hose is the most important of all. Gilmour’s Flexogen Super Duty Hose has a patented eight-layer construction which makes it light and durable at the same time. It hardly kinks and can be dragged around without getting beat up. The outer layer also resists UV damage, which gives you peace of mind when the hose is left outside throughout the season. Brass couplings with rubber washers screw snugly to spigots and watering tools.
When you’re shopping for a hose, make sure you buy a hose long enough to water the whole lawn and reach all of the flower beds. Flexogen hoses come in several lengths, from 25 to 100 feet. (See the “Hose Shopping 101” article on Gilmour.com for a complete hose shopping guide.)
Water the right way
The best time to water your lawn is when it needs it. In the beginning of the season you don’t have to rush. When grass starts growing, it’s the roots that grow first. If the ground is a little dry, they grow deep into the soil. These deep roots help grass survive drought. So holding off on watering at first is actually good for your grass.
However, if you walk across the lawn and the blades of grass do not spring back in your footsteps, it’s time to water. Gilmour’s Pattern Master Circular Sprinkler can be customized so the spray pattern matches the shape and size of your lawn. You won’t waste a drop on the sidewalk. And with the Quick-Connect set with Auto Shut-off, you can switch from the sprinkler to other watering tools without getting wet or having to turn the water off at the spigot.
Fill in the blanks (with seed or sod)
Don’t leave bare patches in the lawn unattended because weeds will find them. Fill in bare spots with grass seed or with a sod patch. Whichever you choose, first prepare the soil. Weed if necessary, and loosen the surface of the soil with a rake.
If you’re planting grass seed, first, sow the seeds, then cover lightly with a few handfuls of fresh topsoil and tamp the soil down. For sod, cut the patch to fit and press it firmly into the soil. Good soil contact is important for both seeds and sod.
Now water well. Seeds must be kept moist until they germinate. You may need to water daily or even more often in hot weather. Use Gilmour’s Thumb Control Watering Nozzle or a small stationary sprinkler to get the job done. Sod should also be kept moist, but not soggy.
Keep weeds under control
A healthy lawn resists weeds, but a few interlopers are inevitable. It only takes a few minutes to grub out dandelions or pull chickweed from the lawn. If hand weeding is not an option, look for an appropriate organic herbicide. Take a weed to your local garden shop and ask the experts for advice. Use the recommended organic herbicide only in the areas where weeds are a problem. Make sure to follow label directions as more is not always better.
Weeds compete with grass so pull them in spring before they spread or go to seed. This will eliminate the competition and help get your lawn off to a good start.
Get your lawn mower ready for the season.
A lawn mower works hard during the gardening season. Before it’s time to start mowing, have your mower serviced. Technicians will check the starter, air filter, belts, spark plug, and battery. They’ll also make sure the blade is sharp. Dull mower blades rip grass instead of cutting it, leaving a ragged cut that is vulnerable to diseases. Keep your mower clean through the season with a concentrated spray from a cleaning nozzle.
Rake your lawn to remove any leaves or twigs. The first time you mow, set the mowing height about ½ inch lower than normal, to break up light debris. After that, set the mowing height back up to prevent injuring your lawn and leaving an opening for crabgrass and other weeds to settle in.
Don’t bag it
Grass clippings are a great source of nutrients for the lawn. They are full of nitrogen, which lawns need, and decompose quickly, becoming free fertilizer. Instead of bagging clippings, let your mower do the job of chopping and recycling them back into the soil.
If you prefer not to leave clippings on the lawn, catch them and toss into the compost pile. The added nitrogen from the clippings will heat up the pile, speeding the decomposition process. You can also use them as mulch under shrubs and around plants in flowerbeds. Spread the clippings lightly around plants to a depth of about one inch. If they’re wet, allow time to for them to dry before use.
Wait to fertilize
The shelves at garden shops are stacked high with lawn fertilizers. However, no matter what type of grass you grow, spring is not the time to fertilize. Giving your lawn a dose of fertilizer in early spring will encourage rapid growth, which means you’ll have to mow sooner and more frequently. It also gives a boost to weeds.
Cool-season lawns that remain green through the winter (bluegrass, rye) are best fertilized in fall (after Labor Day). Warm-season lawns, which become dormant in winter (zoysia, bermudagrass) should not be fertilized until they emerge from dormancy.
It’s a good idea to wait until the fourth mowing to apply fertilizer to warm-season lawns.
When the time comes to fertilize, buy a product designed for your climate and for the type of grass in your lawn. Follow the directions on the label and do not over-fertilize. Clean up any fertilizer on sidewalks, so it doesn’t wash off into streams, rivers, and water well.
Using these tips during spring will help grow a healthy, green lawn you’ll enjoy all season.
AMES, Iowa – Adam Thoms, assistant professor in horticulture and turgrass extension specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, offers the following tips on how to get your lawn off to a good start this spring.
First, remove any twigs or debris from your lawn so that they don’t get stuck in the mower or dull the mower’s blade. If your grass is matted down and has a fungus on it, it is likely caused by Gray Snow Mold. The large amounts of snow Iowans received over the winter months can cause this issue.
Thoms said the first step to reviving your lawn from the mold is to rake the grass until it stands up. Fertilizer and warm weather usually do the rest. It is too late in the season for a fungicide application.
A spring fertilizer is a great way to green up the yard quickly. Typically, apply three-fourths of a pound per 1,000 square feet of nitrogen using a “slow-release” fertilizer. The slow release will help avoid burning and other injuries to the lawn.
Lingering drought conditions from last year may delay the release of your fertilizer and the lawn may take longer to grow. If you seeded your lawn last fall, it will likely need to be reseeded this spring. The fall drought may have dried out the seedlings.
If you are seeding this spring, avoid applying a crabgrass preventer. Although effective at preventing crabgrass, this product will also keep the regular grass seed from germinating.
Once the lawn starts to green up and the ground is firm, then it is time to take the mower out. If your mower still needs to be serviced, consider the lawn mower service days being offered by the Ag Systems Technology Club at Iowa State. The club offers options for both push and riding mowers, and can pick your mower up at your home for an additional fee.
Here is my recipe for a great looking lawn. Please note that a green, healthy, weed-free lawn occurs after about two years of stewardship over it. The upside is that this process produces a great looking lawn for the long haul.
An early application of quality lawn fertilizer (and another application in early summer) helps to reduce your work later on by thickening the lawn. A thick lawn shades out lawn weeds before they germinate and put down an aggressive root. The answer to the question, “how do I kill lawn weeds?” is best answered with “You don’t. You prevent them by growing strong, healthy grass.”
4. Overseed your lawn. Thicken your lawn with a 3 cm layer of lawn soil or triple mix (equal parts peat/loam/compost) and spread quality grass seed over the triple mix at the rate of one kg per 100 sq. meters.
Overseeding your lawn is an important part of your weed control tool box. Thickening your lawn today is the equivalent of pulling the weed bar over your lawn a generation ago. Both exercises are done to eliminate weeds. The weed bar killed them the new grass seed will squeeze them out before they germinate.