By Thumbtack Staff
Spring can be a busy season for homeowners who are ready to put their front or back yards to good use. Flowers bloom again, trees sprout new leaves — and the grass is greener no matter what side it’s on.
But you can’t expect your lawn to flourish on its own. If you want beautiful, lush grass, you need to tackle some critical landscaping tasks first. These handy lawn care tips will get you ready for springtime outdoor living in no time.
From the quality of your soil to the state of your lawn mower, there are several things you need to keep on top of this spring to ensure a healthy lawn. Many of these tasks you can complete on your own. And for those that require a bit more time or expertise, there are plenty of lawn care professionals who can help.
After walking around your property and taking note of the outdoor projects on your list, it’s time to start clearing. Target your plant beds, garden area and anywhere debris has accumulated. As you remove dead leaves, branches and other organic matter, consider hanging on to these materials to use as mulch throughout the season.
If you look around the yard and see dry, yellowed patches of grass, your lawn is probably suffering from winter damage. Common winter issues include snow mold, dryness and other seasonal burdens on healthy grass.
Once the coldest days of the season are behind you, look around for winter injuries (and other damage) your yard might have sustained during the colder months. You might discover:
If this is your first time caring for a lawn, figure out what type of grass you have before you do anything else. Warm-season and cool-season grasses each have their own maintenance needs, so it’s important to care for your grass type accordingly.
Here’s a quick look at the two different grass types:
Adapts to hotter and drier weather. They tend to thrive better in the South, and their peak growing season is in the summer.
Bermuda, centipedegrass and St. Augustine grass
Grows faster in the spring and fall. In the U.S., they're more common in the central and northern regions.
Kentucky bluegrass, annual ryegrass and tall fescue
Ask your lawn care professional to help you identify what kind of grass you have — and what special steps you should take to ensure it stays healthy throughout the spring.
Kick off your spring lawn care checklist with a soil test so you can determine whether it has the proper pH balance and mix of nutrients. If not, you might need to fertilize your lawn and address any ongoing issues, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).
During a soil pH test, your lawn care company will check for the following nutrients:
If your soil has an adequate amount of nutrients, your grass, trees, shrubs and other plants have the best shot at growing strong and resisting diseases.
Armed with your soil test results and the recommendation of what nutrients your soil desperately needs, you’re ready to fertilize your lawn.
When shopping for fertilizer, pay attention to the labels and numbers. Fertilizer comes with three numbers on the label, and they represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium found in the bag. You can think of the three numbers as a prescription of sorts.
How much fertilizer you should add to your lawn depends on its size and (of course) your soil’s condition. However, don’t overdo it. Applying too much fertilizer can damage your lawn and burn the grass. Plus, believe it or not, your grass can grow too fast. If possible, always opt for a fertilizer that has a “slow-release nitrogen” label.
Generally, it’s recommended that you fertilize your trees and shrubs in early or late spring. Some experts may recommend an early spring application followed by a few more later in the season. But if you’ve applied fertilizer in the fall, you may be able to hold off until late spring. It all depends on how your grass is holding up and the results from your soil pH test.
As you’re fertilizing your lawn, you may also be able to fertilize your shrubs, trees and other plants at the same time. Just read the labels first, and make sure the fertilizer doesn’t contain herbicides or insecticides. You should also consider fertilizing your trees and shrubs before you apply mulch.
Unsure of what to apply, how much and when? Offload this task to a lawn care company. They can apply the right amount of fertilizer to your lawn, trees and plants.
Mowing is an important part of maintaining a healthy lawn. Some experts recommend mowing your lawn every three to five days or once a week. But it all depends on how high your grass blades should be. For example, the NALP recommends that in the spring and fall, cool-season grasses should be 2 – 3½ inches high. A lawn mowing professional can advise you on how tall your grass should be.
If you plan to mow your lawn yourself, make sure your lawn mower is in good shape. For example, if the mower blades are blunted or dull, sharpen or replace them. You can also hire a lawn mower repair service to take a look at your mower if you suspect there's a bigger problem with it.
If you don't have the time — or energy — to mow your lawn yourself every week or so, find a professional who can do this for you at a reasonable price.
You might be tempted to apply grass seeds to your lawn, but spring isn't actually the best time to do this. Surprisingly, it's the second-best time. Ideally, you should seed your lawn in late summer or early fall, states the NALP.
However, if your lawn sustained heavy damage during the winter, your lawn care professional might recommend seeding in the spring. Also, find out if you should aerate or dethatch your lawn before seeding or overseeding.
Everything about plant health truly starts with the soil, which is why aerating your lawn is a common step many homeowners take during the spring season (though you can also aerate your lawn in the fall).
Compacted soil and lawn thatch can make it difficult for your grass to grow and thrive. Fortunately, aeration can loosen the dirt, ensuring that water, air and nutrients have access to your grass roots. The process allows plants to absorb more critical nutrients, gives roots ample room to grow strong and prevents diseases from attacking your lawn.
You can aerate your lawn yourself if you have an aerator or if you can rent one from a retailer). If not, talk to your lawn care professional about scheduling this service. Request a cost estimate for lawn aeration early in the spring season, and beat the rush.
All throughout your lawn, you probably have dead grass, stems, roots, stolons and rhizomes. While thatch can be good in moderation, too much can suffocate your grass, lead to insect infestations and attract lawn diseases. For this reason, you might need to take extra steps to dethatch your lawn in the spring.
Aim to dethatch your cool-season grasses in the early spring (and early fall) so your grass can heal before the critical growing season begins. The Spruce, in fact, states that spring is the best time to dethatch both cool-season and warm-season grasses. Check with your lawn care service if you're unsure if your particular grass should be dethatched in the spring.
You can use a dethatcher or a rake to pull away thatch, but don’t overdo it. Some thatch (a layer of ½ inch) is beneficial to keep because it acts as mulch.
For lawns with a heavy accumulation of thatch, a professional can utilize a specialized power rake to properly dethatch the area — and they can help you pinpoint the right time to dethatch your lawn. As the NALP points out, dethatching may release weed seeds into the open, which can cause more weeds to grow, so consult with an expert for more information about your lawn.
The best way to prevent weeds (such as crabgrass and dandelions) from invading your lawn is to stay on top of maintenance and follow basic tips. For example, when mowing, don’t cut your grass too short. Use mulch to smother weed seeds, and consider implementing pre-emergent herbicides and other weed killers into your weed-control strategy.
When in doubt, contact a weed control service near you. These pros can help you address weeds early on and recommend the best course of action for your particular lawn.
Keeping your lawn green is easiest when you utilize some sort of irrigation or sprinkler system. In fact, a sprinkler system can actually save you money on water costs — as long as it operates more efficiently than your traditional garden hose.
To ensure your irrigation system is working properly, test it out in early spring before the weather gets too hot and the sun wreaks havoc on your grass and plants. But also make sure the weather is warm enough to run water through your system.
Did you hire a professional to do your sprinkler blow-out in the fall? The odds are good they’ll be happy to come back out and turn your system on. A lawn sprinkler company can help test all your lines so you can address any issues before the warmer season is fully in swing.
During the spring, you’ll likely start to notice unwanted pests taking up residence in your lawn, garden and even inside your home. The NALP says that billbugs and white grubs can become more active in the spring. Billbugs will start to lay eggs, and white grubs will feast on your grass roots.
Have a pest control service inspect your lawn for white grubs, billbugs and other pests. They can help you determine the right treatment, chemicals or pesticide, depending on the specific insect that’s invaded your lawn and garden. You should also take some preventive measures. For example, remove dead branches and plants (where insects love to hide and lay eggs), and eliminate standing water sources and puddles (which can attract mosquitos).
By implementing these spring lawn care tips, you can create a beautiful outdoor living space that you’ll be proud of all summer. Use Thumbtack to search for local lawn care services and other home improvement professionals.
Get free cost estimates for lawn services in your area, set up a consultation or schedule an appointment with a pro today so you can give your lawn its best chance at success this spring.
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