If your spring lawn looks in need of some help check out these 10 Tips for spring lawn problems. Fertilizer, and some weed killers alone will not do the job.
1. Thin Grass
If your lawn is thin and soil shows through, the reason may be that annual grasses present last spring or fall have died over winter. Here is what to do to thicken it up. In the North and Upper South sow 1-2 pounds per 1000 square feet of a seed mixture, mostly Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue, as early in spring as possible. Seeding on ground that freezes nights is permissible. Freezing-thawing action works the seed into the soil, although it won’t sprout until warmer weather comes. If some debris has collected, rake it up first so the seed can reach the soil.
In the South bolster thin Bermuda lawns with a pound of seed per 1000 square feet (hull-less Bermuda sprouts most rapidly). Fertilize before or at time of seeding.
2. Clumps Of Coarse Grass
Clumps of tall fescue are unsightly and difficult to eliminate. Often these have been introduced in cheap seed mixtures. Hand dig existing clumps or spot kill with general weed killers such as Round-Up. Check instructions to find out how lomg to wait before reseeding. Then scratch the soil and reseed the bare spots (early, as in Item 1). Check seed before buying to be sure it does not contain coarse or hay grasses. Demand fine-textured perennials, such as Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue varieties, mentioned above, with no nurse grass (ryegrass, redtop, etc.). The latter are no longer included in the best lawn seed mixtures.
3. Crabgrass & Nimblewill
If these weeds were troublesome last year they will return unless something is done about them. Early pre-emergent chemical treatment kills crabgrass as it sprouts, without damage to the turf. Follow directions, making certain to apply before warm weather as most chemicals won’t check crabgrass after it is up. As for nimblewill, control more often has to be pulling and spot killing as outlined above.
4. Bare Spots
Possible causes include spilled chemicals or gasoline, overdose of fertilizers or weed killers, and dog damage; also, buried debris, infertile spots in the lawn, disease, such as snow mold, which can wipe out bentgrass patches during winter, and so on. Replace the soil if necessary. Reseed (as in Item 1) or replace with sod from another part of the lawn.
5. Spring Weeds
Some common weeds actually flourish during the cold weather of fall, winter, and early spring, seriously blemishing the spring lawn. Chickweed, tresses, dock, and henbit are well-known examples, with dandelions (in spring) not far behind A 2.4-D weed killer applied on a warm day usually gets rid of most of these weeds. If not, a second application a few weeks later will usually do the trick. The stubborn chickweed, however, may require more attention to control.
6. Delayed Sprouting
New seedlings may make slow progress. For rapid growth they require warmth as well as moisture, and spring soils are usually cold. Have patience, the grass will appear. But to speed up sprouting, cover new seeding with clear polyethylene film, tacking it to the soil with wire wickets or large nails. Watch the temperature. Should it go above 100° F., lift the plastic during the heat of the day. Remove entirely when the grass is plainly visible.
7. Winter Heaving
Winter freezing may work seedlings loose and cause unevenness in the surface. Usually, soil and grass settle sufficiently as the weather warms. But where there are hills and hollows, fill in low spots with a top-dressing of weed-free soil, not more than 1/2-inch deep. This is far better than mashing down high spots with a roller, as rolling a wet soil compacts it and undoes winter’s beneficial loosening. Also, pushing grass back down into the mud is not effective. Grass will sprout from parts still in the ground, and young plants which have been heaved too far out of the soil are undoubtedly already dried out.
Lawns must be mowed frequently. Get a sturdy mower and one the right size to do the job quickly and easily. Set the mower low (about 1 inch high) for the first spring mowing, to remove foliage browned by winter. Then set it higher for the rest of the year, up to 2 or 3 inches for bluegrass-fescue lawns where summers are hot. If the lawn was well fed in autumn, it may not need feeding until late spring, after the spring growth surge is entirely past.
Mole runs disfigure lawns, as these animals search for grubs and similar food in the grass root zone. Poisoned peanuts dropped into runs, traps, and fumigants yield varying degrees of success. For best results, the most practical method is elimination of soil grubs and insects on which moles live. Insecticides, are sprinkled over the lawn and watered in. One application is usually effective for several seasons.
10. Tree Interference
Lawns under trees are at a disadvantage because of reduced light, competition for food and water, smothering from unraked leaves. Remove debris, reseed, and fertilize twice as frequently as in the open, to provide nutrients both for trees and grass. Mowing high during summer also helps maintain a good turf under trees, if the shade is not too dense.