When spring is in the air, the first crocuses and daffodils appear to mark the coming of the season. These early signs also tell to you that it’s time to get your lawn ready.
The exact timing of lawn care tasks depends upon the climate in your region. If you get snow in your area, start when you are confident the snow has stopped. Or, start your yard work when the local forsythia plants begin blooming or lilac bushes begin to flower.
For homeowners in most regions, there are certain tasks you should complete in the spring to foster a healthy lawn the rest of the year. Make a checklist of these steps, and you’ll be off to a green start.
Spring Lawn Care Steps
Raking is the first thing you need to do to prepare your lawn for new growth. You may still have a few fallen leaves on the ground, however early spring raking is done primarily to remove thatch that is deeper than 1/2 inch.
Think of this as a spring-cleaning for your lawn. Turfgrasses are somewhat tender and vulnerable in the early spring, however, so it’s best to wait until the lawn begins to green up, which signifies the grass blades are firmly rooted and the plants are actively growing.
Using a flexible leaf rake, rake thoroughly but gently to help break up deep thatch. If you notice lots of grass blades stuck together, a lawn disease called snow mold may be to blame. New grass may have difficulty penetrating these matted patches, and raking can solve the problem.
Aerate if Necessary
If your lawn gets heavy traffic, such as lots of running and playing in the same spot, this can cause soil compaction.
A lawn aerator creates openings in lawn turf that allows water and air to penetrate the soil and reach the grassroots. You can rent a lawn aerator at a big box hardware store, or, if you have a small lawn, use a hand aerator to do it.
Spring is not the ideal time to aerate the lawn, but circumstances may require it. If soil is compacted to the point that existing grass can’t grow, it may be necessary to aerate in the spring.
Generally, though, spring aerating is discouraged because the aeration holes provide a perfect spot for weed seeds to germinate. Lawn weeds (especially crabgrass) are the first seeds to germinate in the spring, and aerating the lawn stirs them up and gives them an ideal home.
If you must aerate in the spring, consider doing it around Memorial Day, after weeds have started growing but before they go to seed.
Assess the Soil
Moss coating the ground can also be a sign of acidic soil. The acidity or alkalinity of soil is measured by the pH scale, with 7 representing perfectly neutral soil. Acidic soils have pH levels below 7, while alkaline soils measure higher than 7.
Grass likes a neutral pH, and, if your soil is well outside this range it can be subject to moss growth. A variety of soil amendments can be used to nudge the pH back to an optimal level for growing grass. Adding ground limestone, for example, is a common method for lifting the pH of acidic soils. However, this is not a quick fix, as the liming takes hold gradually.
Before you add soil amendments, send a soil sample to your local cooperative extension office to determine your soil’s acidity. The cooperative extension office is a free educational resource offering scientific-based assistance in agriculture, horticulture, and other areas of expertise. All you have to do is call, check on their website, or visit your local extension office, and they can advise you on how much lime per square foot you’ll need. You will need a fertilizer drop spreader to apply the lime.
Soil that is too alkaline can also cause lawn problems. Your extension office may recommend a top-dressing of compost or elemental sulfur to lower the pH of extremely alkaline soils.