How To Prepare Your Lawn For Spring In 5 Easy Steps
In the middle of winter, the last thing you might care about is lawn care. Yet even though your grass may not be growing when Old Man Winter is around, you still should be giving some thought to preparing your lawn for spring.
If a lawn is not properly prepared for spring, it can lead to poor health of the lawn and landscape, which can in turn cause problems such as weeds, or brown or thinning grass for years to come, says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Experts offer these five tips for ensuring your lawn is ready for the march into spring.
Mow And Rake Your Lawn
In winter, the wet and lack of sunlight affect the lawn, says Leigh Barnes, a garden specialist at Jacksons Fencing . As the leaves fall, rake them away regularly. You should complete a final mow, around the beginning of November, whenever it is dry.
Rather than compost fall leaves, consider using them as a natural mulch for your flower beds. ‘A blanket of fall leaves on any flower beds will provide a layer of protection against the inevitable harsh frosts and freezing snow associated with winter, Leigh adds.
Consider Aerating Your Lawn
Speak with a professional lawn care expert about core aeration. Most lawns should be aerated every 1-4 years depending on the amount of activity on the lawn. The more foot traffic or heavy objects on a lawn, the more compacted it will get and the more it will need to be aerated.
Aerate your lawn if it shows signs of compaction, such as moss. Moss can also indicate soil acidity . If you become aware of soil compaction during your spring lawn checkup, contact a professional for the best plan of action.
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Seed And Lime The Lawn As Needed
Plant grass seed in bare spots in your lawn or wherever growth is sparse. Consider seeding while applying a slow release nitrogen fertilizer. Early spring and fall are ideal times for reseeding.
- Spring is the best time to test your yards pH to determine if your soil is too acidic. Most grasses grow best when the soil pH is between 5.8 and 7.2. If your soil is too acidic, you can see an influx of moss, weeds, diseases and insect pests.
- Use a soil test kit to find your soil’s pH or ask a county extension agent if he or she can test for you.
- In many parts of the country, lime application can make the soil less acidic and help the grass better absorb fertilizers and nutrients from the soil.
- Soil pH changes over time, so retest yearly until your results are balanced. Afterwards, an established lawn can be tested every three years or so.
- Spring and fall are the best times to add lime to a lawn that needs it. Use soil test results to know how much lime to apply and follow the directions on the lime package.
Tip: Grass planted in spring may need extra watering, weeding and other attention during the summer. Fall seeding requires less fuss.
Tend To Brown Patches
Brown patches in green grass can look unsightly but can be prevented easily if the lawn is given time to breathe and recover over fall.
Ideally, anything that needs to be sitting on your lawn should be moved each day. If this isnt possible, take some time to use fertilizer to help it recover, suggests gardening expert, Laura Schwarze, from outdoor rattan furniture specialists, Luxury Rattan . To prevent brown patches on your lawn, place your outdoor furniture on a patio, decking, or artificial grass to help keep your lawn free. If this isnt an option, make sure to rotate your garden furniture regularly to help prevent damage to your lawn.
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Take Your Lawn Mower For A Spin
Your trusty cordless lawn mower has most likely been out of action over winter. But once spring arrives, it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and wheel it back out of the shed, ready for the first mow of the season. But, before you let it loose, there are a few top tricks to bear in mind.
According to the RHS , your first mow of the year should be done using the highest setting you can then gradually decrease this over time. The team at Homebase adds that a good rule-of-thumb is to never cut more than one-third of the length at a time. The RHS also says to never mow when it is frosty or damp. Doing so can compact the soil and damage the grass.
It’s also important to ensure your lawn mower has a sharp blade. This will also prevent damage to the turf and help the lawn’s uptake of nutrients and water.
After a bit more guidance? You can find lots of in-depth advice on how to mow a lawn in our dedicated feature.
Give your lawn its first cut of the year
Fall Fertilizer Vs Spring Fertilizer
Many of my favorite fall fertilizers are also appropriate for spring. In most cases, its fine to use fall fertilizer in the spring and vice-versa. However, there are some common differences.
Spring fertilizer tends to be higher in nitrogen than fall fertilizer. They also contain less phosphorus on average than their fall counterparts.
These differing formulas make sense if you consider each macronutrients role in grass development. In spring, grass needs lots of nitrogen to grow new blades. It also needs potassium to fight off disease, pests, and environmental stressors. But high quantities of phosphorus arent needed in the spring since root growth is not a priority.
Another thing to consider is whether or not your chosen fertilizer contains an herbicide. These chemicals are often designed to work during a specific time of year and wont be effective some may even cause harm when used contrary to the manufacturers guidelines.
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When To Apply Lawn Fertilizer In Fall
For cool-season lawns, I recommend fertilizing between August and November. In most regions, September is the ideal month to fertilize. You want to avoid fertilizing when daytime temperatures are too hot but before the soil is frozen. If you fertilized in the summer, you should plan your fall application at least 6 weeks later.
While cool-season grasses accomplish most of their growth during spring and fall, warm-season varieties are the most active in summer. To get the most out of your fall fertilizer application, I recommend feeding earlier in the season. Fertilizing 6 to 8 weeks before your areas first frost date is ideal for these grasses.
Regional Climate and Grass Dormancy
To get the best results from your fall fertilizer application, you need to know your areas first frost date. This date can vary by days or even weeks depending on your location.
Knowing your regions first frost date is important because its one of the best indicators of when the grass will enter winter dormancy. As a rule, the colder your local climate the earlier in the year you will need to fertilize and vice-versa. Its not safe to assume that everyone who grows a certain type of grass will need to fertilize at the exact same time.
When Is It Too Late to Fertilize in Fall
If your area experiences an early frost theres no need to panic. You may still have time to fertilize your cool-season lawn as long as the soil temperature remains above freezing.
Apply The Right Fertilizer
Just before spring begins and after doing the above things, apply a suitable lawn fertilizer. You can go for an organic fertilizer because they are very and potent. A good advice is to combine the fertilizer with the above-discussed pre emergent and herbicide. Most lawn-care brands tend to offer this combination in order to make lawn management easy and reduce the cost.
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Best Lawn Fertilizers For Fall Reviews
Most experts agree that fall is the prime time to fertilize most turf grasses. To get the most out of each application, you want to ensure youre using a formula that will repair summer damage while simultaneously preparing the lawn for winter.
While I believe there are many high-quality fertilizers on the market today, theres no denying that some are better than others. Based on my own research and experience, I recommend investing in one of these 5 formulas for your own fall lawn maintenance.
- Helps grass recover from summer stressors
- Ideal for all grass types
- High nitrogen ratio is not ideal for young lawns
Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard promises to do exactly what you want from a fall lawn fertilizer. Its formula prioritizes quick recovery and deep root development to prepare the grass for winter weather.
This fertilizer is a great option for nearly all lawns and can be applied to all popular turf grasses. However, you may want to use a more balanced fertilizer if your lawn was planted within the last year.
Although this fertilizer is advertised for use at any time in the fall, I personally recommend using it earlier rather than later. You want to avoid the high nitrogen triggering unseasonable growth when the years first frost is just around the corner.
How To Use: Apply evenly to wet or dry grass using a calibrated broadcast spreader. Water the area lightly to activate granules and work nutrients into the soil.
- Not appropriate for all grass types
Fertilizing Grass In Fall
Fall is regarded as the best time to apply fertilizer to grass for a number of reasons. If you only plan to fertilize your lawn once per year, fall is the ideal time to do it.
If you have a cool-season lawn, then fall is when your grass is at its most active. Applying fertilizer at this time ensures that the grass has access to key nutrients so it can grow as much as possible before winter.
In terms of health throughout the year, fall fertilizer applications fulfill multiple roles:
- Applying fertilizer at this time helps the grass recover from summer stressors like heat and drought.
- Fall fertilizer prepares turf grass for winter dormancy.
- According to Purdue University, nitrogen applied in late fall improves spring color, growth, and disease resistance.
Keep in mind that fall fertilizers are not always intended to encourage blade growth and color. With the exception of applications in late summer and early fall, fall fertilizer should instead prioritize deep-root development that will protect the grass throughout winter.
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Stop Your Lawn Going Bald
Looking in the mirror and seeing that youre going bald is almost as bad as looking out the window and seeing that your lawn is going bald. But unlike with your hair, filling in any bald spots on your lawn doesnt require a £20,000 hair transplant sold to you by some ex-cricketer in the back of a magazine.
You just need to sprinkle on some grass seed, and the best way to do this is to scratch the soil with a rake to loosen it a bit, and then sprinkle an even layer of seed over said area. Once youve done that, pick up your rake again and lightly rake the seeds into the soil, give it a good watering, and then ask your nearest farmer if you can have a sack of straw to cover it up with not for aesthetic reasons, but to stop any birds filling their bellies and any overdue rain from washing away the seeds.
Choosing Fall Fertilizers For Grass
Knowing when and how to fertilize your lawn in fall requires first knowing what kind of grass you have. Turf grass is typically categorized as either warm- or cool-season, and this seemingly small distinction plays a big role in general maintenance and nutrition timing.
Regardless of grass type, the role of fall fertilizer is to repair summer damage and build strength for winter. A rich source of nitrogen, as well as phosphorus and/or potassium, is the best way to achieve this.
Applying a slow-release fertilizer in fall will provide a steady supply of nutrition throughout much of the dormant season without overwhelming the grass. You can also opt for a fertilizer containing an herbicide to control weeds during the cooler months.
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Trim Back Landscaping From Structure
Mulch, grass, and plants that are too close to the foundation can cause major moisture and pest problems. Try to maintain a minimum 2-foot clearance around the entire perimeter of your home. Trim back any trees, bushes or plants that are touching or coming close to the siding.
One other benefit of trimming back plants from your building is getting rid of potential hiding spots for would-be intruders. Many thieves look for large trees and bushes that block the view of their entry through a window or door. Speak to a professional for more landscaping tips to improve home safety and security.
In addition to trimming plants from your siding and foundation, its also important to look for any dead or excess growth in other areas of the yard. Pruning promotes healthy plants by eliminating dead or infected parts. It also helps you shape the growth of the tree or bush.
How To Prep Your Lawn For Spring
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Jonathan Green.
When we bought our house two years ago, I was really nervous about taking care of a yard. We were moving from a small condo to this big house with grass, bushes, and space! How would we manage it? Luckily, Finn told me he had it covered and hes been great about mowing every week during the summer.
But besides mowing, we really havent done much to our grass. Our lawn hasnt been the shaggiest on the block, but it certainly isnt the greenest or lushest. Weve never really figured out a good system for seeding or weeding and we were a bit overwhelmed with where to start. When do you seed? How do you fertilize? What products are best? It was a bit intimidating, so we didnt do anything.
However, this past winter was really rough on our grass. There were feet of snow piled up in our yard for months and once it finally melted, we were left with brown spots, weeds, and many dead areas of grass. Now that Rory is here and we plan to spend even more time outside playing in the grass, we knew it was finally time to figure out how the heck to maintain a healthy lawn.
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Keep Pest Prevention In Mind
While conducting your spring and summer landscaping prep, pay attention to any garden pests, such as aphids, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, wasps, termites, springtails, slugs and snails. These creatures may seem innocent enough, but they can destroy your garden and landscaping.
- Choose native, naturally resistant plants around the home.
- Research local pest problems so you can tell the difference between a harmful bug from a welcome one.
- If you have to worry about grazing animals such as rabbits and deer, consider plants that naturally repel these animals.
- Learn more spring pest prevention tips.
How To Apply Fall Lawn Fertilizer
The absolute best resource for determining how to apply a given fertilizer is always the product package. With that said, most lawn fertilizers can be applied using the following methods:
I recommend applying liquid fertilizer with a hose-end sprayer. My preferred sprayer is one with an adjustable nozzle that lets you easily control the rate of application. Apply the fertilizer evenly to a clean, recently cut lawn for the best results. Liquid fertilizer can typically be applied to damp grass but shouldnt be used when the soil is soaked.
A broadcast spreader is a must-have if you plan to use granular fertilizers on your lawn. While handheld spreaders are available, they produce hit-or-miss results on all but the smallest lawns. I recommend investing in a walk-behind spreader that can be easily calibrated.
Most granular formulas work best on dry grass. However, those containing herbicides often advise applying to damp grass for the best results. Again, check the product label of your chosen fertilizer before use.
Calculating How Much Fertilizer You Need to Apply
Recommended feeding rates are often prescribed based on total nitrogen weight. When calculating how much fertilizer you need, remember that N-P-K ratios show the percentage of nutrients in a formula.
As an example, a fertilizer labeled 25-10-15 is 25% nitrogen. If you wanted to apply 1 pound of nitrogen to your lawn, you would actually need to apply 4 pounds of this specific fertilizer to get the desired results.
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How To Keep Your Lawn Healthy In The Spring
When the first signs of spring start appearing, its time to start rejuvenating your lawn to make sure its green and nourished for the upcoming summer. To help your front and back yard grow to their fullest potential, follow these tips for healthy lawn care:
- Clear away any debris or leaves you might have overlooked during the winter, so your yard is clean. A clear lawn is more receptive to sunlight, water and nutrients in every corner.
- Test your soil to see if its in the healthy pH range, which is about 6.5. If your pH isnt in this neutral range, nourish your soil with the right nutrients to make sure its at its best.
- Trim the edges of your lawn and dethatch before you start mowing. Ridding your yard of excess growth makes sure it doesnt retain an unhealthy amount of moisture throughout the season.
- Use some friendly fertilizer to lend your lawn some extra nutrients just dont overdo it. If you use protective chemicals, make sure you administer them safely and according to specific procedures.
- Start up your sprinkler system carefully to avoid damage from sudden water pressure.