How to take care of your lawn in the springWhen the birds are singing and the trees begin to bud, it’s time for spring. During the winter your lawn may not be top of mind but come springtime there’s no better feeling than having a luscious green lawn. Say farewell to thin and patchy grass and get ready to have the best lawn in the neighborhood with these simple tips.
You’ve definitely seen it before but you’re probably still wondering, “what is thatch”? Thatch is a build-up of stems, leaves, roots and other living or dead material. While some thatch can help your lawn, having a large quantity of it can be harmful. A thick layer of thatch can prevent air, water and fertilizer from reaching the roots, thus restricting healthy growth for your grass.
How does thatch become a problem? Thatch builds up when new organic material grows quicker than material that is able to break down. If you have a lawn where your grass grows too quickly, you can get a thatch problem. To avoid this, refrain from watering the grass excessively and use fertilizer that contains nitrogen.
To de-thatch your lawn, use a lawn rake to remove any dead grass or other material. A lawn rake is preferred because a metal rake can cause damage to your lawn. When you notice the grass starting to turn green in the spring, this is your opportunity to de-thatch. At this time, you should also keep an eye out for any areas where your lawn is matted. A matted patch may be brown in color. Rake these matted patches to loosen the grass and remove any large piles.
Is Aeration Necessary in the Spring?
While raking, mowing and fertilization are great for your lawn, aeration should not be overlooked. Healthy soil is a vital component to having a green lawn. Over time soil can become compressed which prevents it from receiving the necessary nutrients. In such a case, aeration or loosening the soil is essential.
In short, spring is not the best time to aerate your lawn. The reason for this is because aerating in the spring creates space for weeds to grow. The best time to aerate your lawn is in early summer or early fall when grass is in the growing stage.
However, in some cases it may be necessary to aerate your lawn if the soil is heavily compact to the point where growth is not possible. Lawns that are heavily used by pets or children, or lawns that seem dry may need to be aerated.
If you do decide to aerate your lawn during the spring to help growth, there are a few different types of aeration tools you can consider. Some options include a plug aerator, spike aerator or simply a gardening fork. A spike aerator and garden fork are similar in that they are used to poke holes into the ground rather than remove material. A plug aerator on the other hand removes pieces of soil and grass from your lawn.
Identify Lawn Pests
A common problem that many encounter is dealing with lawn pests in the spring. Pests can take shelter and reproduce in grass which can be damaging. Some lawn pests include rodents like moles and voles that create holes in your lawn. Some common insects include chinch bugs, sod webworms, billbugs and white grubs.
To prevent pests, pest control products may help. Another option is to have a pest control professional use their knowledge to determine how to best handle the infestation.
The key to a green lawn is healthy soil. Soil that has a balanced pH, loose soil and decent microbial populations can be considered healthy. However, if your soil does not have these attributes, you may see weeds, moss and unhealthy grass. The best way to find out is by testing the soil.
Soil with a neutral pH of 7 is best for optimal grass growth. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 and any pH under 7 is considered acidic. A pH above 7 means that the soil has too much alkaline. Soil with too much acid or alkaline will have a difficult time taking in nutrients. One solution for dealing with soil that is highly acidic is adding ground limestone to balance the pH. For soil with heavy alkaline, adding sulphur is an option.
If you’re a beginner when it comes to lawn care or soil testing, your local extension office can help. Extension offices are backed by government funding with the purpose of helping communities by offering wisdom from experts about lawn care and gardening. Extension agents may live in your region which allows them to better assess specific concerns about soil in the area. Extension agents are knowledgeable about pests, gardening challenges and can provide soil testing kits.
Find an extension agent using the USDA’s interactive map.
Overseeding Dry Patches
Lawns may have dry patches for various reasons such as heavy usage, pet urine, or simply because lawn care can be difficult to keep up. Grass seed can assist in getting rid of these patches.
Overseeding is when you sow grass seed into your lawn to make it thicker. The additional grass seeds can fill in empty spaces to create a fuller look. When overseeding, place seeds only in areas where there are dry patches. However, you can choose to seed the entire lawn.
Generally, overseeding is done in the fall but seeding in the spring can be useful if you notice many dry spots.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Fertilizing the lawn in the spring helps to strengthen roots by providing essential nutrients. It is important to identify the fertilizer best suited for your lawn and understand how to apply it.
When shopping for fertilizer there are two types to consider, including mineral fertilizers and organic fertilizers. Mineral fertilizers are processed with chemicals to provide a good balance of nutrients. Organic fertilizers on the other hand are made from organic material such as plant residue and manure.
Each bag of fertilizer indicates the mix ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) on its label. Common mixes for lawn fertilization include 16-4-8, 12-4-8 and 18-24-6. A fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 16-4-8 means that it has 16% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus and 8% potassium.
Remember not to over-fertilize your lawn as it can cause weeds to grow.
Weed Control & Herbicide
Bright yellow dandelions start to appear during the spring and can get out of control if action isn’t taken. One method to get rid of weeds is by pulling them from the root to keep more from sprouting. To get the job done, use a weed popper tool. These tools have stainless steel claws capable of firmly grasping onto weeds with tough roots.
Another option is to use herbicides. However, a pre-emergent herbicide that attacks the seeds of the weed can be harmful to your lawn if you decide to aerate your lawn or use grass seeds during the spring. A post-emergent herbicide can be used to spot treat weeds. Always remember that a majority of herbicides contain toxic chemicals may pose a threat to the environment.
Finding the right weed killer can be difficult. Luckily, we’ve narrowed down our top picks to help you get your lawn under control.
Lawn Mowing Techniques
When it comes to mowing the lawn, choosing the right mower is the first critical step. There are so many options on the market from gas mowers, robotic lawn mowers, electric mowers to riding mowers. For those that wish to purchase a new mower, find out which one is right for your yard here.
If you already have a mower, ensure that the blades are sharpened. Mowing with dull blades will result in uneven cutting and a patchy lawn. Ideally, you should sharpen your mower at least once per year.
When it comes to determining the height at which you should mow your lawn, refrain from cutting it too short. By cutting your lawn too short you can create space for weeds to grow. Use the ⅓ rule, which means that you only cut one-third of the height any time you mow your lawn. However, this doesn’t mean that you should remove ⅓ every week. Only mow your lawn when it is necessary as mowing too often can strip the lawn of nutrients and create more thatch.
Remember to change up the pattern in which you cut your lawn for a luscious look. Mowing in the same pattern every time can make the grass blades lean to one side.