Get Your Lawn Spring Ready

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If you want a beautiful lawn come summer, you need to be ready the moment it turns to spring.

As with most landscaping projects, success is dependent on getting a head start before the growing season is in full swing. So if you’d like to grow a healthy, green lawn this summer, then you must start preparing in the spring.

(This article was written for an American audience, so any tips or suggestions may differ to Australian audiences)

Step 1 – Tune Up

Photo by Phil Roeder

Be sure your lawnmower is ready by performing an early-spring tune-up: replace the spark plug, change the oil, grease the fittings, install a new air filter, clean the carburetor, scrape clean the underside of the mowing deck, and sharpen the blades. Tune-up your string trimmer, too, and be sure to have plenty of cutting string on hand for the upcoming summer.

Step 2 – Clean Up

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Winter can make a real mess of your lawn, so start in early spring by cleaning up all the debris scattered across the yard, including twigs, acorns, stones, branches, litter, thatch and dead leaves. Use a leaf rake to gather the debris into piles, then rake the piles onto a large tarp. The tarp makes it easy to carry or drag the debris off the lawn. Just be sure to wait until the ground dries out a little before cleaning up the yard. Tromping around on a soggy lawn can compact the soil and damage tender grass shoots.

Step 3 – Thwart Weed Growth

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To prevent weeds from taking over your lawn this summer, apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring. It’s a way of feeding your lawn. Think of it giving the lawn antibiotics. This type of weed controller is formulated to prevent weed seeds from germinating, which will greatly reduce the number of crabgrass, dandelions and other weeds.

Most pre-emergent herbicides are effective for about three months, so you’ll need to reapply it again during the summer.

Step 4 – Fertilize

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What you treat your lawn with is very important. To get your lawn off to a healthy start, apply fertilizer in the spring. And for best results, use a slow-release fertilizer. Its vital nutrients break down over an extended period of time, so you won’t have to reapply the fertilizer so often; in most cases you can wait six to eight weeks between applications.

Most lawns do well with a 20-5-10 fertilizer, meaning it contains 20 percent nitrogen, 5 percent phosphate, and 10 percent potassium.

Step 5 – Fill in Bare Spots

Photo by Mary-Frances Main

If your lawn has any bare or balding spots, treat these areas with grass seed during the spring to ensure that they fill in with grass by summer. Scratch and loosen the soil with a garden rake, then broadcast an even layer of seed over the area. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil, water well, and loosely cover with hay to discourage foraging birds and prevent rain from washing away the seeds. You should start to see little grass spouts in two to three weeks, depending on the weather.

It’s worth noting that you can treat bare spots with regular grass seed, but most seed manufacturers make specially formulated mixes that are specifically designed for quickly growing grass on bald, bare lawns. They’re sold under various names, such as Patch-and-Repair Mix or Lawn Repair Seed Mix.

Step 6 – Take a Little Off the Top

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Raise the mowing deck to its highest setting. That will typically trim the grass about 3 or 4 inches high. Cutting grass too short, especially initially can weaken early-spring grass plants, causing stunted growth and dull colour.

And for all subsequent mowings throughout the rest of the spring and summer, remember this general rule: Never trim off more than one-third of the grass-blade height at a time.

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