Tips for how to prepare your lawn or yard for spring
The sun is out and staying up later; the trees are in bloom; the grass is growing greener and lusher by the day. There is no doubt that spring is in the air.
With that in mind, and speaking of grass, how can you assure that your lawn or yard is ready for the warmer months ahead and set for a healthy beginning to the growing season?
Well let’s take a look with our tips for how to prepare your lawn or yard for spring.
First of all, understand that it is not easy to maintain a great lawn. It takes fairly constant attention and a knowledge of what to do in certain situations. At Hughes Turf Management, we have spent years honing this understanding to a fine art, and we are glad to share that information with you. So, let’s get started…
Grab a rake
We know this sounds backward. After all, raking is usually reserved for fall when the leaves are falling from the trees. As of now, your lawn should be relatively leaf-free – but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t do with a good raking anyway.
Why is that? Well, raking helps get rid of the dead grass that builds up over the top of the greening root structure and the surface of your lawn. It’s called thatch, and it can make it harder for the living grass beneath to find the sun and space it needs to properly thrive. That is why you should do at least one good raking session in the spring – whether there’s a single dead leaf in sight or not.
Raking will also help get rid of any matted patches on your lawn and make it generally look better as well as pave the way for its growth.
If you notice any bald patches on your lawn in these early spring days, it’s a good idea to go ahead and add a grass seed application. The bare spots could be due to any number of factors, including heavy traffic, dog spots or inattention over fall/winter months, but an application of grass seed and, later, fertilizer can revitalize any weak spots.
Make sure you re-seed with the same type of grass already in place on your lawn – you should be able to find the right match at a home improvement store or plant nursery. Then all you have to do is sow the seed over existing grass – either with a spreader or by hand. Five weeks afterward, apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer to aid in the seeds’ growth.
It is true that fall is a better time to overseed, but it is fine to do so again in the spring if you have any bare patches. Beware, however, that the nitrogen/fertilizer application may also encourage any crab grass that is present on your lawn.
Even if you do not overseed, it is a good idea to fertilize your lawn anyway. Just do not over-fertilize! This is because other emerging plants, including weeds will also feed on the fertilizer, so you do not want to encourage those plants too much in spring. That is why fall is a better time for a heavy dose of fertilizer. In fact, if you provided a heavy dose in fall, you may not need to do a spring application at all. But if you want to provide one, make sure it is light.
Be sure to follow the measurement instructions on whatever brand of fertilizer you do purchase.
Also, you do not have to utilize a chemical fertilizer to get the job done. In fact, compost and mulching mowers can provide a natural fertilizer that promotes verdancy and growth.
If you have done your own lawncare for any amount of time, you will have heard of pre-emergent, but for those of you new to lawn care, pre-emergent is a preventative agent that targets non-grasses (weeds). So, if you are trying to keep a weed-free lawn, pre-emergent is a type of herbicide that will help get the job done.
The thing is, some weeds are perennials, so you will also need to use a post-emergent this spring in order to complete the job (more on that later). Crabgrass, for instance, requires constant vigilance and treatment.
Pre-emergents get to work on weeds before their seedlings emerge by forming a chemical barrier on the top layer of soil. This substance coats the seeds of the weed and prevents it from growing roots and shoots.
The thing to remember and know is that pre-emergents can also work against grass seeds too, so, if you have to overseed your lawn, you may not get any results if you both overseed and utilize pre-emergent. If you have to do both, look for pre-emergents designed to not work against grasses.
Also of note, do not use pre-emergents and then aerate (more on this practice later), as aeration will poke through the shield barrier provided by the pre-emergent and negate its use.
It is also possible to both fertilize and use a pre-emergent at the same time. In fact, it is a formula that works well in preventing crabgrass and you can find combination formulas in home improvement stores.
Apply post-emergent — or pull weeds by hand
It is an old-fashioned and tried and true method: the best way to get rid of weeds is to get down and dirty and yank them up by hand. Make sure to try and get all of their root structures to prevent re-growth. You can simply snap some weeds off by the head – such as dandelion BEFORE it transitions from flower to seed pod – but getting the root early and often will ensure it does not return in that same spot.
For those of you who prefer – or do not have the time for constant tending – you may use a post-emergent herbicide. However, know that many of these post-emergents work better in the fall.
Aerate if needed
Aeration opens up space in your lawn’s soil, allowing water to penetrate to your grasses’ root system. If your lawn is heavily trafficked – and we mean HEAVILY trafficked – the soil can get impacted, making it harder for grass to grow. Tight soil also encourages moss growth, which will take over from your grass.
So, if your kids are constantly at play on your lawn (and, who doesn’t want their kids doing that?), aeration may be the perfect idea for you. However, this is not something we recommend you do with a stick or poker from the fireplace. Go to your local home improvement store and buy a hand aerator. If you have a large lawn, you can rent a rolling lawn aerator.
Note: Spring is not the best time to aerate (we prefer fall), as it may encourage weed seeds (which are heavily in the air/ground in spring to also take root. But if your soil is highly impacted, it might be your best option. That said, wait as late as you can to aerate in order to help discourage weed growth. For instance, it would be fine to do so in late May.
If the thought of all of this do-it-yourself lawncare sounds overwhelming, you are not alone. As we said earlier, creating the perfect, lush lawn is not easy. It requires constant attention and care, but it can be done if you commit yourself – even amongst north Georgia weather extremes and the troubles presented by our native red clay soils.
That said, if you want help, Hughes Turf Management has spent years honing lawn management to a fine art, and we are always ready to provide you with the knowledge and assistance to create that perfect lawn right here in north Georgia. So, whether you’ve tried and been defeated by weeds, are just getting started in lawn care or don’t have the time to handle it on your own, please give us a call and let us land a hand today. Contact us at 678-617-1962 and we’ll get started right away.