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Four Things You Must Do For Your Lawn This Spring

Mar 11, 2008
Spring is fast approaching and if you live in the Midwest or points North, your lawn will soon begin to awaken from winter slumber.

This winter has been a long and especially harsh one, and your turf will need a little help if it's going to look lush and green in time for early Summer picnics and horseshoes.

Here are 4 "must-dos" in regards to your lawn this March:

I recommend every lawn be aerated in mid-March (assuming ground is thawed) to help manage thatch levels and loosen hardened and compacted soil. Thatch is the layer of dead grass, leaves and other organic material that collects just above the soil line.

Some thatch is necessary to keep turf root systems shaded and reduce soil erosion and water runoff. However, too much thatch (more than 1") can block water absorption and create shallow rooting in the lawn.

Aeration will manage the thatch layer properly without completely eliminating it like a power-raking or de-thatching would do. I DO NOT recommend power raking except in extreme cases.

You can rent an aerator for about $60 per day and I'd recommend running across your lawn twice. (north and south and then east and west) If this is a bit steep in price for you, consider getting your neighbors to pitch in and share the time. It's well worth the effort.

The Spring Cleanup
Your lawn probably has all kinds of garbage and litter strewed around after winter storms and winds. If you have big trees, you no doubt will have limbs and leaves scattered about.

Limbs have to be picked up by hand (don't hit them with your mower and ruin your blade!) but leaves can be mowed over and sucked up in the bag.

This initial cutting should have the height adjusted one setting lower than your normal cutting to help rejuvenate the turf. (normal cutting height is 2.5-3" ... initial cut should be between 2-2.5") Always bag the clippings on this intitial cutting.

Starter Fertilizer
One you've completed the above, it's time to hit the lawn with a nice dose of fertilizer to start the growing process off right.

If you're going to use synthetic fertilizer (like Scott's or K-grow) you need to grab the 20-20-10 or 20-10-10 (also know as 'starter fertilizer'). The first number represents nitrogen and should be the largest number of the 3.

If you want to use a more natural option this season, I'd recommend a hybrid formulation that contains 50% naturally derived products and 50% synthetic. Natural fertilizers break down slower in the soil unless temps are above 55 degrees. This does not happen much in March in the Midwest.

If you go with a hybrid blend, you will get some good release now, and some later.

Notice that we have not put down any weed control or crab grass preventor yet? That's because we'll address those problems in April.

Because of this, it's a great time to introduce some fresh cultivars of grass seed into the lawn. A general overseeding directly after the aeration is recommended to help the overall thickness of the turf.

A rate of 1-pound seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn is going to be plenty. Also, since we're in the Spring season, the rains will do the trick in keeping the seed moist.

In addition, don't buy cheap seed. Look at the label on the back and see the percentage of "noxious weed seed" or "inert material." Both of those together should be less than 3% of the total contents.

You'll be safe adding Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass to most lawns, however, I am a fan of turf-type-tall fescue blends as they tolerate drought better.

If you implement these 4 simple steps in early-to-mid March this year, you'll be off to a great start and be able to enjoy your lawn that much sooner.
About the Author
Al Haneson has 20 years experience in the Green Industry. He is author of a lawn care blog for homeowners and DIYers: Life and Lawns
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