Spring Lawn Care
All the snow is finally gone! Now we are left with brown everything
Many of our plants bulbs and perennials will rise from the ground of their own accord. Soon the shrubs and trees will burst with green with no assistance. But our lawns don't always bounce back from a harsh winter very well, and certainly not quickly. Especially for those of us who forego or at least take it easy on the chemicals and fertilizer. Most of what we can do to help the lawn get healthy in spring is manual anyway, and most of us are so anxious to get out there and enjoy the spring weather the work is not bothersome in the least. So, where to start?
First and foremost, wait until the soil is thawed and the ground has dried. Stomping around on a mushy lawn compacts the soil, making it difficult for roots to access oxygen, nutrients and moisture. It all gets squeezed out.
Soil is critical to the heath of your lawn. If it was doing poorly last season, and looks even worse this spring, You might want to do a soil test either with your local University Extension Department, or with a simple kit from the local nursery. But there are a few other things to look for. Is it wet most of the time? Good drainage is essential for all plant life, even the grass. Low areas may need to be filled in. Clay soil that retains moisture may need to be aerated or amended if possible. Is it dry all the time? You may simply need to water certain areas deeply. Large trees will quickly drain moisture from large areas. Moisture may run off quickly from higher ground, requiring a very slow deep soak. Sandy regions may need moisture retaining amendments if possible.
Rake! Yes, in the spring! A light raking will stimulate grass by loosening the matted grass, allowing air circulation and moisture absorption, and also reduce or stop the growth of fungus. Matted grass can also inhibit new young grass from breaking through. Raking will also remove excess thatch if you did not do a good job of that last fall while raking leaves. If you see a white or pinkish film over the matted grass, you have snow mold. Rake those areas vigorously to remove the fungus.
If you have a serious problem with crabgrass you may want to use a pre-emergent. Crabgrass seed begins to germinate when the soil temperature reaches about 50 degrees, about the time
Seed sparse areas and bare patches. Wait for the soil temperature to reach at least 55 degrees or it won't germinate anyway. And if you applied a pre-emergent, that will prevent if from germinating.
If you do fertilize, remember that your grass can NOT take in a heavy dose of high nitrogen fertilizer all at once. There will be a LOT of excess that will be leached into the ground water, rivers and lakes with heavy rain. A light dose frequently is plenty to keep your lawn fed only when it is hungry and growing strong and healthy. If you mulch your grass clippings your lawn should need little or no fertilizer. Compost is also an excellent source of lawn nutrients.
Once the lawn has greened up and is starting to look healthy you need to continue taking good care of the turf. When you water, water deeply early in the day. Keep your mower blade good and sharp so it doesn't damage every single blade of grass, stressing the turf. Mow when the grass is dry and not in the heat of the day to minimize stress to the lawn. Remove no more than one third of the grass length when you mow. You should be mowing regularly but not too frequent either. And when it gets hot or dry, let the grass get long! The long grass shades itself and you avoid further stressing the grass by cutting it.