Now that the weather is starting to warm up, it’s time to get your lawn ready for spring and summer. First clean up fallen leaves and branches and rake any debris that has collected over the winter. You may need to dethatch and aerate your lawn. Thatch is a tightly intermingled organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots that accumulate just above the soil surface. Thatch accumulation is due to either over-fertilization, over-watering, and/or soil compaction. A small amount of thatch is desirable because it moderates soil temperature fluctuations and provides a cushion on the soil surface. Too much, however, reduces the lawn’s ability to absorb water and fertilizer, and increases disease and insect activity. Eventually, roots may start growing in the thatch, and since it does not hold much water, the turf then becomes very susceptible to drought stress.
Thatch can be removed by using a dethatching machine. The need for aerating a lawn generally stems from soil compaction from heavy use, such as foot traffic or vehicles. Typically, the more clay you have in your soil, the more susceptible your lawn is to compaction. Aerating is done with a special machine (core aerator) that removes plugs of soil from your lawn. It is usually followed by overseeding.
If you had crabgrass in your lawn last year, you can be sure it will be back this year. Now is the time to treat your lawn with a pre-emergent herbicide to kill crabgrass and other lawn weeds. Timing is critical to this process. Treat your lawn two weeks before the lawn weeds germinate. Here in our area, this is between the end of March and the end of April. Keep in mind that pre-emergent herbicides will also keep new grass seeds from germinating. Wait at least one month after using any herbicide before seeding your lawn.
Turf grass needs about an inch of water per week to grow strong and healthy. If we don’t get sufficient rainfall, you will need to water your lawn. Always water in the morning, if possible, to allow the grass blades to dry during the day and helps ward off fungal diseases. Watering deeply and less frequently will stimulate your lawn to grow a healthy root system.
Get your mower tuned and ready for mowing season. Make sure your blades are sharp and set to the proper height. Most grass seed mixtures for our area should be cut at 3 to 4 inches.
While it’s tempting to add fertilizer to your lawn in the spring to get that quick green-up, your lawn will actually be healthier if you wait and fertilize in the fall when most of the nutrients will be used for root production.