Green-Up Your Lawn In Spring
When spring is in the air, you'll see the first crocuses or daffodils return, marking the coming of the
season. These signs should also signal to you that it is time to get your lawn ready for the growing
season. You'll want to start when you are pretty confident the snow season is over.
Another good indicator is about the time the local forsythia plants stop blooming, and the local lilac
bushes begin to flower. For most people, there are eight tasks you should do or think about as you
head into spring.
Here are 6 tasks to help get your lawn ready for spring!
Raking is the first thing you need to do when getting your lawn ready for new growth. You probably
think, "But, my trees had no leaves falling for months. Why?" Even if you did a phenomenal job of
raking leaves in the fall, you still have to contend with thatch. If you are unfamiliar with it, thatch is
the layer of mainly dead turfgrass tissue lying between the green vegetation of the grass above and
the root system and soil below. This layer, if it becomes too thick (1/2-inch or more), can be bad for
the health of your grass. Thatch is why you should rake deeply when raking leaves in the fall.
You still need to rake in the spring, no matter how good a job you did in the fall. You need to remove
the grass blades that died over the winter. You do not want that dead grass turning into thatch.
Another good reason for a spring raking is you can find matted patches of lawn. If you inspect
carefully and notice the grass blades are all 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 this problem.
It’s best to give the lawn time to warm up, dry out and start waking up from dormancy before
raking it. So wait until all the snow has melted, the ground has thawed, and your lawn begins
to turn green before you start to rake grass in spring.
You may want to review: Fertilizer Basics, a Wisconsin Pollinators reference guide.
If your lawn gets heavy traffic, such as lots of running and playing in the same spot, this
can cause soil compaction. If you see moss, which thrives on compacted soil, you can get
rid of it, but you need to look deeper into its root cause. In this case, it is your soil. It needs
aeration. A lawn aerator creates openings in lawn turf that allows water and air to penetrate
the soil and reach the grassroots.
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. 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 around Memorial Day after weeds have started
growing but before they go to seed.
The first step in going the organic route with an existing lawn is beefing up
weakened soil, which means starting with a soil test. That way you'll know which
nutrients are lacking and which organic amendments you'll need to incorporate.
For example, soil with a calcium deficiency can be top-dressed with gypsum; and
soil low in magnesium might need a healthy dose of the mineral langbeinite. You
will need to dig up samples from several different areas of your lawn (2 cups of
soil total), and mail them off to a lab to be analyzed.
In Wisconsin, you can contact the US Soil and Forage Lab to request a soil test. Their web
site contains instructions on how to collect and submit soil samples.
Once you know which amendments you need, you should prepare the lawn by
mowing the grass down to about 2 inches, pulling up weeds, removing thatch
(dead grass and roots that accumulate on the surface), and aerating (a power
aerator that pulls up plugs of soil can be found at most rental yards). This will
enable your soil to fully absorb any amendments you add.
A lawn riddled with bare patches due to dog spots, heavy traffic, or neglect may need an
application of grass seed to fill in those bare patches. Over-seeding is the process of sowing
seed over existing grass. Apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer when you over-seed. Five
weeks after the grass germinates, apply quick-release nitrogen fertilizer.
Fall is the preferred time to do your over-seeding, but if your grass is in dire need of help,
do it. You just might have to contend with some crabgrass cropping up and feeding off of
In spring, crabgrass starts germinating when soil temperatures warm to 55° F
for 4-5 days in a row. Do not plant new grass seed if you applied pre-emergent crabgrass killer
as it will kill germinating grass seed.
Lawns can be fertilized organically by using compost and mulching mowers. But for those who
prefer chemical fertilizers, the Scotts Miracle-Grow Company provides a widely accepted
schedule for fertilizing lawns. However, many experts recommend a lighter feeding in spring
and a heavier one in late fall for cool-season grasses.
Fertilize your lawn when it’s consistently in the 60s during the day — soil will be in the
50 — probably about mid to late May.
Too much fertilizer in spring can lead to disease and weed problems. And if you fertilized in
late fall, then your lawn still has fertilizer to feed on in spring.
Spring also means it's time to get out the lawnmower and give it a once over. Start it up.
Stubborn starts are a sign that it might be due for a tune-up. It is recommended you give
your mower a tune-up once a year. In three easy steps, you can get your mower back in
tip-top shape. If your lawnmower needs more than a tune-up, then consider getting a new one.
Remember: If you plan to take your lawn mower to a small engine repair shop, many
of your neighbors will also be doing the same thing. Think about getting your mower into
the shop sooner rather than later.
The Life Cycle of Plants: Fertilization
The Spruce: How to Make Your Own Fertilizer
Pollination and Fertilization
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