At the tail end of the winter season, homeowners face the sometimes daunting but always exciting prospect of readying the lawn for the warmer months ahead. From cleaning to mowing to seeding, proper spring lawn care encompasses a range of responsibilities. All are important. Remember that cutting corners now could mean that at the peak of summer, you'll be spending your weekends making up for spring lawn care oversights. In other words, it's in your best interest to act now. Stay on top of the game to ensure healthy and beautiful grass that demands no more of your time than is strictly necessary.
Dead grass and lawn clippings accumulate and get matted down into thatch, which not only prevents the germination of new grass seed, but also promotes fungus growth and pest infestation. Dethatch the lawn by giving it a good once-over, using either a lawn rake with stiff tines or a special dethatching rake.
To grow grass successfully, you need the right soil. Most varieties thrive in conditions that are neither acidic nor alkaline. Methods exist to raise or lower soil pH, but you've got to know what you're dealing with. Purchase a soil test kit for around $10 from your neighborhood garden store, or send a soil sample to your local extension office.
Part of spring lawn care involves clearing away the ravages of winter. Equipped with your rake and pruning shears, take an exploratory stroll around the property. Look closely for any plants that didn't survive. Prune damaged or dead branches from trees and bushes, and remove twigs or leaves you find lingering on the grass.
In high-traffic areas, the soil beneath grass gradually becomes compacted and inhospitable to grass roots. Manual or mechanical aeration reverses the damage done. Here, wine cork-size plugs are drawn out of the lawn surface, giving roots room to spread and allowing air, nutrients, and moisture to penetrate the soil.
5. WEED TREATMENT
Weed control ranks high among spring lawn-care priorities: If you don't act against weeds now, before they emerge, you'll spend the summer battling them-and it's not a fight you're liable to win. Prevent weeds from even sprouting by applying a pre-emergent herbicide. For an alternative treatment free of harmful chemicals, try cornmeal.
On any bare patches of ground, skip the herbicide and opt instead for grass seed. Be aware, however, that if you're planting grass in the spring, it's going to need lots of TLC during the hot summer months-that is, consistent watering and regular weeding-and you'll most likely have to seed again in the fall.
7. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE
Before the lawn season gets into full swing, inspect all your outdoor tools, including the mower. If necessary, take the machine in for service or give it a tune-up yourself: change the oil, install new spark plugs, and replace the air filter. Also, make sure to have fuel on hand in preparation for the first grass-cutting of the year.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: The old adage applies as directly to spring lawn care as it does to so many other pursuits. Indeed, setting off on the right course in spring can help ensure that your grass thrives right through to fall, bolstering that curb appeal you count on it to provide.