We know it’s tempting. As winter stretches on (and on) you want to shovel the remaining snow off your frozen lawn in desperation and start coaxing it back to green again.
It’s a good question, and we understand the excitement. But patience really is a virtue. When the time is right, we’re as happy as anybody to start nudging turf out of its winter slumber. If you start lawn care too early, you can actually do more harm than good.
Here’s a look at 5 early spring lawn care tips, and why timing is important:
Tip #1 Be Gentle Out There
Spring is a sensitive time for your yard. The soil is spongy, the plants are tender. Tread gently on your still-sleepy lawn. Avoid heavy yard work until the soil dries out. Foot traffic and vigorous raking can disturb soggy soil and damage tender, new grass shoots.
Speaking of new grass shoots, we know you’re anxious to get the fertilizer going. But several states, including New York, prohibit the use of lawn fertilizer before April 1. (More on this later.)
For other garden chores, your soil is a better guide than the calendar, as spring’s arrival can be finicky. Wait until the soil is dry before you start walking around on your lawn.
But when the time is right, here’s what you can do:
Tip #2 Raking
Yes, we know you already raked in the fall. And raked. And raked. But there are other reasons besides leaf removal to rake in the spring, once the soil is dry.
A good spring raking will encourage lawn growth and discourage pests and diseases.
It also removes thatch. Thatch is a loose, jumbled up layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots that develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface.
When your turf produces organic debris faster than it can be broken down, thatch forms. A thin layer of thatch — a half inch or so — can be good. It provides insulation and keeps the soil moist.
But a thick hatch buildup of more than an inch or so creates a barrier to moisture, keeps nutrients from sinking in and prevents good air circulation. Your grass roots can suffocate. Thick thatch can also harbor large populations of disease-causing organisms and insects. So rake it out.
As you rake, keep an eye out for any matted patches of lawn where the grass blades are stuck together. This could be a disease called “snow mold.” New grass will have trouble penetrating these patches, but a light raking will loosen things up.
Tip #3 Check Your Soil’s Health
Spring is a great time to check your soil’s overall health. Is it compacted? Aerating it will help. While experts typically recommend aerating in the fall, it’s OK to do it in spring if you neglected it earlier. The holes created by aerating allow air, water, and fertilizers to reach the roots.
This is also a good time to have your soil tested to see what kind of boost it might need. A pH test will let you know if your soil is too acidic and needs lime to raise the pH or “sweeten” it. Or it might need a dose of sulfur to lower the pH if it’s too alkaline.
All soils can benefit from the addition of organic matter, such as compost. Spreading a thin layer over your entire lawn will boost your soil’s ecosystem, which means great support for that healthy green grass.
Tip #4 Weed Control
Spring is the best time to prevent weeds by using pre-emergent weed control, which works by preventing weed seeds from germinating.
But don’t act too fast on this one. Your first application of a pre-emergent herbicide should happen just as the forsythia bushes finish blooming. The showy yellow flowers typically show up in mid-April. That timing should stop crabgrass and other weeds before they have a chance to grow.
Pre-emergent herbicides work for about three months, so plan on a second application during the summer.
Tip #5 Fertilizer
As we mentioned earlier, April 1 is the earliest date many states allow fertilizer application.
In New York, a law that aims to keep phosphorus in lawn fertilizers out of New York’s waterways went into effect January 1, 2012. The main provisions of the law prohibit application of all lawn fertilizers from December 1 to April 1, and restrict application of lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus to new plantings or when soil tests show that phosphorus is in short supply.
Phosphorus runoff from lawns can contribute to algae blooms and reduce levels of oxygen in water, killing fish.
Once it’s time, proper fertilizing is one of the best things you can do for your lawn in the spring. It sets up your turf with the nutrition it needs to get a great green start.
Neave Knows Lawn Care
Neave Lawn Care combines more than 40 years of experience with the highest level of training in the industry. We offer the most prepared and professional staff in the New York and Connecticut area. We go beyond the industry standard when it comes to fertilizing — we not only nourish plant life, but minimize environmental impact whenever possible.
Neave experts are equipped to give your lawn everything it needs in the spring to prepare for a healthy green turf season. Our services include lawn analysis and monitoring; aeration; weed control; fertilizing; insect and pest control and more.
Give Us A Call
If you’re in the Hudson Valley, call us at (845) 463-0592. If you’re in Westchester County, call (914) 271-7996; from Connecticut, dial (203) 212-4800. Or, fill out our simple web form, and we’ll contact you about setting up your free consultation.
Image: Grass close-up