Many of us are starting to see the signs of spring all around. Blooming yellow daffodils or white pear tree blossoms providing those noticeable pops of color to mark the start of spring. These signs also alert us that it is time to get the lawn ready for its growing season.
For most homeowners, there are six chores that should be completed in spring to set your lawn up for success. An easy rule of thumb is to begin your spring chores once the local forsythia stops blooming.
1. Check Your Lawn for Thatch
It’s important to periodically check your lawn for thatch, a brown layer of mainly dead grass that accumulates in some lawns between the green grass blades and the soil surface. Thatch can easily go unnoticed, causing serious damage to a lawn before even realizing a problem exists.
A thin layer of thatch may actually have some benefit, helping regulate temperature and moisture, but once the layer reaches critical mass (more than ½ inch thick), it’s time to dethatch.
If you notice your lawn has a thatch problem, dethatching may be necessary. Dethatching promotes growth, so excessive lawn thatch should be removed during the growing season.
Healthy lawns may not ever require dethatching, and a simple spring raking may be sufficient.
2. Aerate (if needed)
Lawns that receive heavy traffic, such as a lot of running or playing in the same spots, can develop areas of compacted soil, filling in the tiny spaces where air and water usually flow. Clay in the soil, drought, and unusually heavy rains also contribute to compaction.
Once the soil is compacted, your grass gets less of what it needs to thrive. Aeration creates holes in your lawn to allow air pockets to so water, oxygen, and nutrients can flow more easily through the soil to the roots of your grass. If your lawn is struggling to green up this spring, it may be time to aerate.
3. Test Your Soil
In order to thrive, grass and other plants in your yard rely on fertile soil, rich in accessible nutrients. The acidity of the soil directly affects how much of the nutrients are available to your grass and other plants. Testing your soil will help ensure your lawn, shrubs, trees and garden get the balanced diet they need for top performance.
State extension services, such as those at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, offer soil testing for a small fee. You send in soil samples, and they send back results, giving you a clear picture of the minerals and nutrients in your lawn, flowerbeds or vegetable garden, along with recommendations for amendments.
4. Apply Pre-Emergent Herbicides
Controlling the weeds in your lawn with pre-emergent herbicides will help you stop weeds before you ever see them. Pre-emergents is a preventative weed control method that works by creating a chemical barrier on the top layer of soil that prevents roots from growing.
To eliminate warm season weeds like crabgrass and goosegrass, apply pre-emergents in late February or early March before soil temperatures reach 55°F.
Pre-emergents can severely damage newly seeded lawns. If you have a new or freshly over-seeded lawn, wait until the grass has been established a full year before applying.
5. Manually Pull Spring Weeds or Apply Post-Emergent Herbicides
Since there is no magic formula capable of eradicating the endless variety of weeds you are bound to notice at least a few in your lawn, even if you applied pre-emergent correctly. You will want to remove the weeds from your lawn as soon as possible before they produce seeds.
Pulling weeds by hand may be a bit old-fashioned but works wonders if you only have a few weeds in your lawn. Use a hand trowel or weed pulling tool to make sure you remove all the root system to prevent regrowth.
If your lawn if full of weeds, you may choose to spot-spray weeds with a post-emergent herbicide. Apply post-emergents in early to late spring when weeds are still small but actively growing, as they will more readily absorb weed killer.
6. Check Your Lawn Mower
Spring means it will soon be time to start mowing your lawn again. Get your lawn mower out and give it a once over before the first mow of the season. If your mower has a hard time starting, it may indicate the need for a tune-up.
While your mower will still operate with dull blades, it is important for the health of your lawn to make sure mower blades are always sharp. Dull blades will tear your grass instead of cut it. Usually there is no need to replace the blade, sharpening typically does the trick.
Also, be sure to check all the nuts and bolts and tighten them if necessary. Lawnmower vibrations often loosen them more than you would think.