Spring Lawns – Waking Old and Building New Lawns


When waking old lawns after the winter season, unless the seed has been sown earlier on frozen ground or a light snow, all leaves, twigs and other debris should first be raked off.

Provided there is an available supply of good, weedfree soil, a light topdressing will do much to improve your lawn. It trues up the surface, encourages the old grass to spread out and gives the new seeding a quicker start.

Use at least one-half cubic yard of screened topsoil per 1000 square feet or one bushel of soil per 100 square feet. Distribute this material over the surface, applying it a little heavier in the low spots, and work it down around the base of the grass with the back of a garden rake.

Provide Proper Food

Always apply a good quality grass fertilizer before seeding. Then the new planting will have adequate nourishment for its early growth and the old grass will be benefited as well.

Grass food can be mixed with the topdressing material and both applied in one operation. However, if a mechanical fertilizer distributor is available it is easier to put on the topdressing first, then apply the grass food over the surface.

Follow lawn fertilization with seeding. There are special seeds for shaded areas receiving less than half a day of sunshine. Unless the lawn is so thin as to require complete rebuilding, 3 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet will thicken up an old lawn in either sun or shade. Bare spots should be gone over twice to insure ample seeding.

Purpose of Rolling

Spring is the only time necessary to roll established lawns. Rolling has but one object: to press grass roots gently back into the soil from which frost has raised them.

It is imperative to choose the right soil condition, otherwise rolling will do more harm than good. The ground should be entirely free of frost, but not sticky. The surface must be only partially dry—damp but not wet.

Lawns on sandy soil can be rolled without injury while the ground is wet, but most other soils, particularly clay, will be badly compacted. When dry they become hard as rock, halting the development of the grass roots.

Regardless of the soil, a heavy roller is injurious to the turf. A water ballast roller, either empty or not over one-third full, is sufficiently heavy. Trying to iron out the high spots with a heavy roller is especially damaging. Any low areas in the surface should be filled with topdressing.

Building New Lawns

Constructing a new lawn involves working of the soil, In the spring, clay soils cannot safely be worked until they have dried out enough to prevent caking. Although this may delay cultivation, it is better to defer planting than to sow on a poorly prepared seed bed.

After the surface has been loosened by spading, a hand-pushed garden cultivator is convenient for breaking up the clods. Hand raking afterwards makes the surface soil fine enough for seeding. On larger areas this is done by plowing, discing and harrowing.

At this point some thought ought to be given to the drainage. A slope of about one inch in every ten feet will ordinarily provide sufficient drainage and at the same time produce a pleasing appearance.

Just before the seed is sown, plentiful supplies of grass food should be dis tributed and raked into the top two inches of soil. This produces stronger and faster growing plants, an advantage of prime importance in the race with weeds and drought.

Sowing the Seed

Four to six pounds of high quality seed is enough to produce a solid turf on each 1000 square feet. A mechanical seeder does the planting more evenly than hand broadcasting. Whatever method is used, divide the seed into two parts, sowing one portion lengthwise of the area, the other crosswise.

It is best, of course, to sow on a calm day so the wind does not blow the seed and distribute it unevenly.

Showers frequently fall with sufficient force to wash some seed away and it is a worthwhile precaution to rake it in so that it is lightly covered by about 1/8 inch of soil. Rolling will then hold it firmly in place. More complete details about building new lawns may be found in Good Lawns, described on the back page of this bulletin.

As the days get warmer, once-lazy weeds begin to show signs of activity. This is the time to keep a sharp cye on them. It is much easier to eliminate weeds as they appear, than to wait until they have taken possession of the lawn.

First Mowing

Wait until the grass is 2 or 3 inches high before the first mowing, but do not let it get long enough to topple over. Set the mower to cut about 2 inches high.

Deferred Planting

While early feeding and seeding pay greater dividends in healthy lawns, seeding later in the spring does not necessarily doom a lawn to failure. It is much better to plant seed on a thin area or bare spot even in midsummer than to leave it wide open for the invasion of troublesome weeds.

Late spring and early summer plantings do make successful lawns, but they require more weeding and careful watering. The disadvantage of unfavorable weather can be offset with intelligent care.

Spring Tree Feeding

On most lawns trees play an important part. Their strong competition with the grass beneath them is recompensed by the cooling shade they afford in midsummer. That trees may continue to provide enjoyment year after year, experts recommend they be fertilized each spring.

Related Reading: 21 Trees You Should Never Plant In Your Yard

This practice is wholly approved by turf experts, too, for they know a well fed tree does not rob grass into starvation. Much of the problem of keeping good lawns in the shade is solved by keeping the trees well fed.

The correct fertilizer for trees is the same as the correct one for grass. It is therefore convenient as well as important to include tree feeding in your spring lawn program.