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As commercial landscapers, people often ask us how to treat a lawn in the spring, and our reply is not as much how, but when. Living in Columbus, Ohio, it could warm up to 70 degrees in February and snow as late as April, so it’s imperative to time it right and wait until your lawn is ready. Too early and you could crush or kill new grass. Too late and you’ll miss precious windows of time for certain lawn applications.

Find out how to treat your lawn in spring to have beautiful grass to enjoy year round.

When should you start doing spring yardwork?

Just because we have a few warm days in March, or even February, doesn’t mean you should pull on your gardening boots and grab your lawn tools. Make sure you wait until your lawn is mostly green before you go outside and start raking, aerating or mowing. On the other hand, don’t wait until it’s too late in spring to apply a weed control product or plant grass seed. With spring lawn care, it’s all about timing.

6 spring lawn care tips for a beautiful yard

Knowing these six yardwork steps will help you understand how to treat your lawn in spring. Depending on the condition and age of your turf you may not need to complete all of them, but here’s what it generally takes to have a gorgeous lawn.

Rake

Rake Thatch from Grass

Thatch consists of small pieces of dead grass. If too much builds up it can create a barrier blocking essential sunlight, air, and moisture from reaching your turf. Once the ground dries out, give your yard a deep raking to remove thatch, leaves and other debris that has accumulated over winter. This will help separate existing grass shoots and encourage new growth. If you plan on aerating your lawn, always rake to dethatch first for better results.

Aerate

If your yard has become compacted in high-traffic areas, new grass will have a difficult time taking root. An aerator removes small plugs of soil from your lawn, loosening the ground and allowing more air, water, and nutrients into the soil. How often should you aerate your lawn? Aerating does not have to be done every year. Depending on the amount of thatch and soil compaction you may need to aerate once every 3 to 5 years.

Test Soil

Pick up a DIY soil testing kit at your local lawn and garden store to determine the pH level of your soil. If it’s too acidic you may need to spread a layer of lime over your lawn to neutralize the acidity. Why is acidic soil bad? Weeds and moss thrive in acidic soil, and fertilizers don’t work as well. Since the pH scale runs from 0 to 14, a neutral level would be a 7. Different types of grass tolerate different pH levels. Here is a chart on soil pH based on grass type.

Fertilize

Spring feeding should be much lighter than fertilization in the fall. Remember, you’re working with tender new grass shoots that are just starting out so don’t overwhelm them right away. Once your lawn is green and the grass is actively growing (usually April or May) treat with a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer. The three main nutrients in fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (your soil test will determine the nutrients your grass needs). Applying a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer encourages growth, optimizes health, and reduces the risk of turf burn and fungus.

Control Weeds

Pre-emergent weed control prevents weed seeds from germinating, that’s why timing is everything. If you wait too long and weeds are already growing, it’s too late. A good rule of nature is to apply a pre-emergent just as the forsythia bushes finish blooming. Use a spreader for even, thorough coverage. The pre-emergent chemical is activated by water and once it soaks into the ground will remain effective for several weeks. Here’s more information about protecting your yard from weeds.

Manually operated seeder filled with grass seeds.Reseed

Bare or brown areas of your lawn need to be reseeded. After you test your soil condition and correct the pH level (if needed), and you aerate to loosen compacted ground, your lawn is now ready for grass seed. A broadcast spreader makes the job easier when seeding large areas, but smaller spots can be seeded by hand. Don’t seed it and leave it! After you spread grass seed, you need to water and fertilize on a regular basis for consistency.

Can I use a pre-emergent on my lawn if I want to grow new grass?

No. You need to decide between weeding and seeding for the season. Why? If you plant grass seed you can’t apply a pre-emergent because, along with preventing weeds, it will also stop any new grass from growing. You can, however, fill in bare spots after applying pre-emergent, but you must wait 12 weeks for the weed treatment to run its course.

Maintaining your yard through spring, summer, and fall

After you treat your lawn for weeds, plant grass seed or apply a fertilizer, your grass will begin to grow. Make sure you keep your grass cut to the proper height throughout the warmer months to keep your yard looking good until next winter.

How short should I cut my grass?

Some people think that cutting their grass shorter is better because they won’t have to mow as often. The problem is, cutting off more than one-third of the grass’s height is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. In fact, the more often you mow, because you aren’t cutting much off, results in a thicker, healthier lawn.

What happens if I cut my grass too short?

Known as “scalping,” when you cut off more than one-third of the grass’s height, your lawn could go into a state of physiological shock, resulting in brown or bare spots. Why? When you cut grass too short, you are depleting your lawn of essential energy reserves which can weaken or kill the turf. If it’s too late and the damage is done, don’t think you can fix everything with a quick dose of fertilizer. Applying fertilizer will only make matters worse, possibly burning the already vulnerable grass.

Spring is an important time of year for lawn care and landscaping. The calendar tells us that spring begins on March 21st but if you live in Columbus, Ohio, you know this may not be the case. This article outlined various ways to treat your yard in spring and the importance of timing lawn treatments just right. If you have questions, contact Five Seasons Landscape Management, your local commercial lawn care provider.