Spring Lawn Care
Here are some things to consider when thinking about Spring lawn care.
First off let’s talk about what your lawn needs and why.
The soil is where the true focus of your efforts should be. It holds the water, air, and food that the grass plant gets its strength and density from.
Most homeowners will fertilize the grass in the Spring without really knowing why, they just know that it makes the grass grow. What they are doing is giving the grass a quick boost that does nothing for the soil itself. It actually makes the grass dependent on the fertilizer.
Unless it is a slow-release organic fertilizer. Slow release organic fertilizers will get into the soil and feed the root structure of the grass plant over a longer period of time, whereas the synthetic common fertilizers just feed the grass plant that is on top of the soil without much long term benefits.
Fertilize in the Spring, Midsummer (If it’s not too hot)and again in the fall for a well-fed lawn. Milorganite is a great organic fertilizer that is made in Wisconsin.
What the grass plant loves are living organisms that thrive in fresh healthy soil. The organisms come in many forms but most help support life by eating and pooping, creating fresh food for the plant.
You should add a ¼ to ½ inch of composted soil to your lawn once or twice a year. This can be found at local landscape garden centers. You can put it in a wheelbarrow and use a shovel to spread it evenly throughout the lawn.
Normally the PH of your soil will not be too far off but the target is between 6.5 and 7. This is a range that is neutral any lower and the soil will be too acidic and higher will be too alkaline.
To figure out what your soil is you can have it tested or you can dig up a sample and send it to the lab via your local extension office for a small fee. Once you know what range it is you can easily fix it by adding lime for lower ph readings and if it is high then by fertilizing with iron sulfate will cure it.
Grass plants die and reproduce constantly throughout the year and the dead grass that builds up on top of the soil can stop vital water and light to get through. This can prevent the living organisms in the soil to thrive and hurt the health of the grass plant.
Using a special machine that you can rent called a dethatcher will bring up all the loose dead thatch so you can rake it up and haul away. You can also do it the old fashioned way with a fine-toothed metal rake.
Another way to help the soil is to use an aerator that will punch holes in the soil while pulling a soil plug that will lay on the soil until it naturally breaks down with time and environmental conditions. You can help with soil compaction by doing this as well.
This helps the soil to receive air, water, and light deep to the roots. This should be done once or twice each year. It also is a good idea to spread new seed while the holes are open for even more benefits to the soil.
This is the process of spreading new grass seed that the lawn can use to strengthen and reinvigorate itself. If you choose a well-rounded mix of different seed types it will be able to withstand disease and elemental stresses that may affect some of the grass types but not others.
Do this once or twice a year and you will see a difference in time. You can use a broadcast spreader for more even control rather than a drop spreader that needs to be adjusted correctly. Follow directions on the bag or ask your local landscape supply dealer.
If you have an uneven lawn then you should use a roller that will help flatten it. Best done in the Spring when your lawn is usually saturated from the snowmelt and soft. You can pull a roller behind your lawn tractor or you may need to hire someone to do it for you.
The only downside can be a compaction of the soil. When the soil gets compacted it is hard for water or air to penetrate. If you aerate after you roll then you can fix this problem. Don’t be afraid to roll even if you don’t aerate after because it makes mowing your lawn easier and also your lawn looks better. The water will also be able to drain more evenly if you don’t have places for it to pool.
Good lawn care starts with proper watering techniques. You want to water deep and infrequently. That way the water will penetrate deeply to the bottom of the root system and it can dry out between waterings so the roots will grow downward to get more water.
Water your lawn a couple of times a week unless it rains and then you can water less. Impulse sprinklers are best but anyway you can works. Early morning waterings are best so it can dry out during the day. Do not water in the evening if possible because the water will just sit there all night and that could cause problems.
In our area, we start mowing around the 3rd week in April. Make sure that you have sharpened your mower blade. It could cause problems if your grass is not cut cleanly, it would be like an open wound where diseases could slip into.
You want to try to mow as high as 4 inches or as high as you can stand to look at. That height of cut is healthier for the grass because the roots will be longer and it shades out weeds. It will also stay greener through periods of drought because of the root lengths. Leave the grass clippings because they are made up of 80% water and are good for the soil.