Summary: Spring lawn care maintenance is key to a great looking green yard in the summer. Applying lawn fertilizer, reseeding, watering, mowing, killing weeds and promoting optimum growing conditions pay off in the coming months. Get started today on your spring lawn care plan.
Question: To have a lush looking beautiful healthy lawn in tip-top shape what steps should we take in our Spring lawn care maintenance plan? Kendall, New Jersey
Answer: An attractive fertilized lawn, with a durable green carpet, healthy roots reaching down into the soil can not only increase your enjoyment of an outdoor living and dining area visually, but also help prevent weed seeds like crabgrass and dandelions taking hold.
Your Spring Lawn Care Prospects
No one likes to pull weeds or spray herbicides as a part of their lawn care program.
What are the prospects for your lawn this summer?
If they’re not too good, you still have time in spring to take steps that will give you a better lawn next summer. Here are a few tips on how to improve your present lawn or build a new one!
Advantages of Early Seeding
While cold weather lawn work is gaining in popularity, still most lawns receive no attention until sunshiny days arrive in early spring to coax the homeowner out of doors. That’s a good time to fix up the lawn and undoubtedly it is more enjoyable.
Use a suitable lawn seed mixture at the rate of 3 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. However, avoid any unnecessary delays in seeding. Although the ground is still cool it will soon warm up enough to germinate grass seed.
Grass Seed Tip: Seeding on Honeycombed Soil
The cracks and checks act like natural lawn aeration affording an ideal lodging place for the grass seeds and good Nature covers it in her own way by the subsequent action of the weather. This eliminates the need of raking in the seed.
Many early sowers prefer to plant on one of the last, thin snows. The white surface makes the grass seed more visible, aiding even distribution. This helps ensure uniform growth.
As the snow melts, the seed finds its way into the ground at the ideal depth for good germination. Don’t attempt planting on steep slopes where melting snow may wash away the seed.
After planting seed on honeycombed soil or thin snow, no further attention is required until the ground is free from frost and excess moisture.
Then it should be rolled. Even though the new grass has started, it will not be damaged if a light roller is used.
Improving Your Lawn’s Soil
Many soils could be improved by the addition of organic matter or topsoil. While these materials make the turf easier to maintain, they are not always an absolute essential.
Frequently their scarcity and cost or other factors do not justify their use. Heavy clay soils or very sandy soils may be improved by the addition of well-composted organic matter at the rate of one or two pounds per square foot.
One or two inches of heavy-textured topsoil will improve a very sandy soil by increasing its capacity to hold plant nutrients and water. But it is often futile to try to lighten heavy clay soils with sand, as many soils would require 3 to 4 inches of sand.
When preparing the seedbed, the contour of the lawn should slope gently away from the house. Try to avoid steep terraces, as these are hard to maintain. Also, make sure that any material such as lime – check soil pH first, fertilizer or organic matter is mixed thoroughly with the existing soil base.
The uncertainty of spring weather does not permit wasting time in preparing the seedbed. Rather than run the risk of late seeding, complete soil preparation and sow seed as soon as the soil is dry enough to work.
The “grass chores” will vary according to weather conditions, season, location, grass plants type (zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine grass maintenance, etc.) but most lawns will need some cleaning and lawn feeding.
Liming, weed control and reseeding may be necessary in some cases. It is important to do this work at the proper time. How much lawn seed will you need?
Plan your spring lawn care program well in advance of the grass-growing season. You enjoy better results with less effort required.
Begin by determining the material needs. What are the soil requirements for lime and fertilizer?
Soil testing is a smart place to start. Does your lawn mower blades need sharpening or adjusting?
Is it time for a new mower – an electric lawn mower maybe?
Next, set up a time schedule for liming if yard has acid soil, fertilizing and seeding.
Weather may not allow doing a task on any fixed day. But finish each job should during the most favorable period in the season.
Turf Tips For Spring Lawn Fertilizer and Grass Care: Feed Lawns Early Too
TIP: A good grass fertilizer in spring helps the turfs roots in the soil get off to a good start for the season after a long winter and before warm summer heat begins.
Cold weather is also a good time to feed the lawn. Turf is dormant then, so there is no need to water in the grass food. The same melting snow and the alternate freezing and thawing carry it down into the root zone.
There is no appreciable loss of nutrients during cold weather and no reduced efficiency of the grass food. Slow release fertilizers work well for early spring lawn care feeding.
When spring fever hits many homeowners flock to the garden center in a rush to load up on the top lawn fertilizer brands and colorful plants to put a smile on the landscape after a long winter. Before rushing to the garden center to buy lawn food – remember:
Spring turf care is the last chance for applying fertilizer on your yard and get the turf in good condition before warm weather arrives.
The amount and type of fertilizer required may vary with the soil conditions. Usually an application of 20 pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer or 10 pounds of a 10-6-4 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet will give sufficient stimulation.
Usually turf becomes “poorer” as the summer season progresses. Once hot weather arrives, further improvement must wait for cooler days in the fall.
Take full advantage of favorable spring weather for a future green lawn by applying the needed fertilizer at the start of the growing season. In the vicinity of northern New Jersey and New York City this date is approximately April 1.
Lawn Fertilizer Tip: Dry Grass Before Fertilizing
Be sure the grass and soil surface are dry before applying the turf fertilizer. If they are wet, severe grass injury may occur unless an immediate and thorough watering or lawn irrigation cycle is given to wash the fertilizer into the soil.
Uneven application of fertilizer can also injure the grass. A broadcast spreader will aid in distributing granular fertilizer uniformly. If none is available satisfactory work can be done by careful hand application.
Spreading half of the fertilizer in one direction and the other half at right angles to this will aid distribution. More on lawn and grass fertilizing here. Also, some gardeners prefer to put half the required amount on at ten-day to two-week intervals.
Bare spaces may still exist in the lawn at the time of fertilization. Any spots or rings 6 to 8 inches in diameter or larger should be seeded.
Loosen soil compaction and prepare the soil with a steel rake, hoe or spade and apply the desired grass seed. Then rake the soil surface very lightly. Early completion of this job is also important.
Grass must always run a race against weeds and drought. How your grass “starts the season” will greatly determine whether it comes out victor or vanquished. Fortunately, most annual weeds start slowly and grass can keep ahead of them if planted early.
An early start for the lawn is also important to give it a safe lead on hot, dry weather. Grasses which produce permanent lawns develop slower. Allow them ample time to send their roots deep into the soil, out of danger from a scorching summer heat.
Related: Tips for Late Summer Lawn Care
Wherever trees shade the grass and ground, an early feeding and seeding affords still another advantage. The grass gets a chance to become firmly entrenched before leaves appear on the trees.
Being well established, it can better thrive in the shade and meet the competition of the tree roots. Each day’s start in advance of the shade means added strength to new grass.
Dandelions, buckhorn and broad-leaved plantain need no longer make your lawn unattractive, since these weeds can be killed readily herbicides and other weed killers containing 2,4-D.
This chemical must be used with caution to avoid injury to flowers, shrubs or trees. The best time to use it is approximately April 15, just before the dandelions start to blossom. Follow the directions on the label and you will be amazed at the results.
Check The Lawn Mower
Finally, it’s time to check the lawn mower. Be ready to start the season with a smooth-cutting, sharp machine in proper adjustment – the mower blade should not be set lower than 1-1/2 inches for most lawn grass.
The weather will determine the start of the first outdoor work, which is the removal of any excess accumulation of leaves, litter or dead grass.
This will prevent smothering the grass that lies underneath. Newly sown lawns are especially susceptible to this type of injury.
The soil may need lime to encourage the best and optimum grass growth, this is true for the garden as well. If fall application was not possible, apply this in early spring.
Many soils require 50 to 75 pounds of ground limestone per 1,000 square feet every two or three years.
10 Tips On Solving Spring Lawn Problems
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 Bermuda 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 long 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 Control & Nimblewill
If these weeds were troublesome last year they will return unless something is done about them. Early pre-emergent herbicide 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 killer, and dog damage; also, buried debris, infertile spots or 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. Check Out Tomcat Mole Killer Here
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.
Do Not Forget Fall For Lawn Building
Good lawns can be made in the spring, yet it should be remembered that better results can be obtained with less effort if a lawn is planted in Autumn – late August or early September.
Related Reading: Fall Fertilizer For Lawns Produces Spring Results
If a choice exists, wait until next August. If it is absolutely necessary to seed the lawn in spring, complete the job at the earliest date.
Seeding after mid-April is a big gamble; so much so that if the soil is infested with crabgrass seed, or if the cost of seed is important, it is better to plant a temporary lawn of rye grass or redtop and make the permanent seeding in August.
Spring weather does not offer many extended periods suitable for making a new lawn. In order to capitalize on all good weather, plan the work and have the necessary materials available: