Your Comprehensive Spring Lawn Care Guide
There is nothing like the launch of the spring season and the rush of colorful foliage it brings with it. After months of dormant grass, the warmer months ahead will reawaken your lawn, slowly transforming it back into the green and vibrant landscape you love.
Spring lawn care can create one of the busiest times of the year for your landscape. The grass and soil in your lawn all require a helping hand after the winter months toughened the earth and cut off crucial nutrients.
Follow these simple steps to leap back into lawn care to set your landscape up for beautiful success throughout the entire season ahead.
Spring Lawn Care Timeline
Depending on the hardiness zone of your region, spring lawn care should begin after the final frost is safely behind you. Spending too much time walking and disrupting your grass when the ground is too frozen can cause more harm than good.
If you’re enthusiastic to get started, focus on prepping tools and materials to treat your lawn before the warm days arrive.
Take this early moment to prepare everything you’ll need for the busy spring lawn care season. Machinery, fertilizer, and hand tools can wear down over the winter, especially if you were already facing issues in the fall. Follow this March checklist for an easy start to spring lawn season.
1. Spruce Up Your Mower
Take your lawnmower over to a professional nursery or landscape professional for a tuneup before the start of spring. They should sharpen the blades, check the wiring, and refuel your tank.
Sharp blades are particularly important for the health of your grass. By cleaning and snipping off the tops of the grass blades, you avoid ripping or tearing your grass, ensuring it remains at peak health.
2. Gather Your Tools
In addition to a traditional mower, there are a few spring lawn care tasks that require special equipment depending on your type of grass. For example, we recommend owning:
- Dethatching rake
- Core aerator or handheld aerator
- Seed spreader
- Garden gloves
- Trowel for de-weeding
Be sure to check if any of your tools have rusted over the winter or require cleaning.
3. Run Diagnostics
Now that the ground has thawed, you can check out how it fared in the winter season. Just a small core of soil, roots, and lawn can tell you so much about the health of your landscape.
For example, test the pH sample of your soil at your local nursery, with a home pH soil kit, or by speaking with your landscape team at TruGreen. If your soil’s pH is too high or too low, this will indicate the right type of fertilizer to purchase for the season.
Next, measure the layer of thatch between the soil and the blades of grass. This layer will look like a collection of tangled organic material such as dead grass and roots. We’ll explain how to handle high levels of thatch below.
You’ll know when the spring days have finally arrived based on those early flowering trees and bushes that mark the start of the season. Forsythias, cherry blossoms, and hydrangea are a good sign that your lawn is ready to burst into a lush landscape yet again.
During this first warm month, give your lawn a helping hand by ensuring the damage from the winter is cleared away and the ground is ready to take in as many nutrients as it needs.
Here are some April tasks to care for your lawn.
1. Clean Up Your Lawn
Even if you meticulously raked up the leaves and branches in the fall, there is bound to be a thin layer of debris putting extra pressure on the grass. Removing any remaining leaves, loose grass, and other materials will ensure your lawn gets plenty of sunlight and water during the warm and rainy season.
2. Start Your Watering Schedule
Spring watering is not as intense as the summer due to the ongoing rain typical of the season. In many cases, you will not need to consistently water your spring grass unless you’ve just reseeded the area.
However, your type of grass has a lot to do with how much water it needs throughout the year. Cool-season grasses across most of the country like to be watered throughout the high season, including spring and fall.
Depending on the variety, it’s recommended to stick with between one and two inches of water each week on cool-season varieties. Warm-season grass will range between a quarter and a half an inch. Adjust these numbers based on how much rain you’ve gotten throughout each week.
Some experts recommend checking the water level of your grass by delicately walking across your landscape. Check to see if your grass is able to bounce back up after your steps. If not, it probably needs extra water.
Between the soil and your grass, a natural layer of organic material known as thatch forms over time. Thatch is completely natural—and helpful—to your lawn when kept under control.
However, a moisture imbalance can throw off the natural microbes that breakdown thatch over time, leading to overgrowth. If the thatch layer grows thicker than half an inch, water, sun, and nutrients cannot react to your grassroots.
We recommend using either an electric or handheld dethatcher—such as a dethatching rake, or even a regular rake in a pinch—to cut down on your thatch later early in the spring season. If your thatch is not overgrown, lightly opening up this later prepares the soil for new seeds and fertilizer.
You only need to opt for a dethatching machine, known as a vertical mower, if you have a particularly dense layer of thatch causing significant problems.
4. Consider Aeration
Aeration is not always necessary in the spring, but if your lawn had a particularly hard month, this process can be very beneficial. When the soil becomes too dense from pressure, high clay content, or extreme winter weather, it can be difficult for nutrients to penetrate to the bottom of the grassroots.
Much like dethatching, aeration opens up the top layer of soil for all the necessary nutrients to get in. The process is a bit more extreme than dethatching, as it removes a small cored of grass, roots, and soil, leaving the lawn open for new seeds and fertilizer.
Aeration requires either an electric core aerator, a manual aerator for small lawns, or aeration shoe attachments. Each tool punctures small holes in the ground, bringing small cores to the surface. Be sure to leave these cores on your lawn without raking them away. The cores will break down and naturally incorporate back into your soil.
5. Apply a Pre-Emergent Weed Killer
Catching those pesky weeds before they take over your lawn is all about timing with the weather. Ideally, you want to apply your pre-emergent weed treatment before the soil is ideal for weeds to flourish.
Depending on the type of weed treatment you purchase, it is typically applied when your soil has reached between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s also important to note that most experts do not recommend aeration or thatching immediately after applying the pre-emergent. Aerating before the application is generally fine, but waiting until after could disrupt the distribution of the weed treatment.
The height of the spring’s weather can be just as unpredictable as the start of the season. Still, since April showers bring May flowers, this is when your grass—and weeds—-will truly start to take off.
1. Get Into a Mowing Schedule
Your first mow of the seasons may arrive as early as late March depending on how early true spring temperatures arrive on any given year. Generally, wait until the final frost is at least two weeks behind you and your soil reaches a consistent 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
As always, only mow a dry law that has reached a certain height worthy of being mowed. This magic number purely depends on the type of grass on your lawn. Cool-season grasses should typically be mowed when they reach between three and four inches, and it’s important to only remove the top third of the blade.
Set your mower blades high for the spring and summer in order to allow the grass to take root and discourage weeds from taking up space.
Reseeding is only necessary if the winter took a real toll on your lawn during the winter and early spring. Patchy grass from compacted soil or fungus growth could leave your grass less lush than you’d hope.
Depending on your type of grass, be sure to wait for the ideal growth temperature before applying the seeds. For example, cool-season grasses grow at an average of 60 degrees while warm-season grasses prefer between 70 and 80.
Reseeding should also only take place after the other work above has been completed, such as clearing, dethatching, and aerating. This encourages the seeds to properly take root in a healthy soil ready to take in water and sunlight during the delicate growth period.
Increase your watering schedule significantly if you choose to reseed during the spring. You want to ensure that your grass never dries out during this period. Depending on precipitation, this could mean watering 2-5 times a day depending on the germination period.
3. Fertilize Your Lawn
Fertilization is another tricky task that depends on this year’s spring weather. Fertilize your lawn after the soil has consistently reached 55 degrees, or whatever your specific fertilizer dictates.
Each variety of fertilizer is customized to what your lawn and type of grass craves. Specifically, every bag will include three numbers in a row to indicate the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium—or N, P, and K. We recommend having your soil tested to determine the best balance of each element.
You will also have the option to choose between slow and quick-release fertilizers. In most circumstances, slow-release is your best bet. A healthy lawn needs nutrients throughout the start of the season, something slow-release will provide.
Quick-release on the other hand is ideal for new lawns or those that just underwent significant reseeding. These should be used with caution, however, since too much fertilizer can damage and even burn the grass.
By this time in the late spring, any weeds that held on past your pre-emergent have burst through your grass and are standing out among the rest. Lone weeds can be delicately dug or pulled up by their roots, just be sure to get every last part of the plant to avoid regrowth.
As for persistent weeds, a healthy and balanced lawn is your best defense against weed overgrowth in the summer. When your grassroots take up enough space to choose out the weeds, they are less likely to spread and cause damage to your lawn.
Post-emergent weed treatments should be saved for severe weed infestations that are keeping precious nutrients from the rest of your lawn. A small number of weeds such as dandelions and crabgrass, however, can be helpful in controlling unwanted pests and attracting pollinators.
TruGreen Spring Lawn Care
Handling these many tasks throughout the spring can feel daunting when you have a busy schedule, especially if you’re new to managing a large lawn on your own. TruGreen aims to take the guesswork out of lawn care, especially in crucial times throughout the high season like the spring.
With locations across the US, homeowners can collaborate with their local TruGreen specialists for eco-conscious and expert lawn care services. Both the standalone services and pre-packaged plans focus on maintaining, revitalizing, and adjusting your unique landscape to ensure it remains at peak health from winter to summer and every month in between.