Spring Lawn Care Tips

spring lawn care tipsIf you own a home, chances are you have a lawn, even if it’s just a small patch. Some time spent paying attention to spring lawn care will pay off later during the summer months.

Spring lawn preparation tasks can be dependent on which type of grass is planted. In the Washington D.C. metro area, the logical choices are tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, fine leaf fescues, and perennial rye grass.

These are what is known as “cool season grasses”, which means they hold up through cold winters. Getting this type of grass in shape to withstand the heat of summer should be your primary goal during the spring.

For the best results, follow these tips to get started:

  • Wait until things dry out. Working on soggy soil can compact it or damage tender sprouting grass.
  • Clean up remaining debris, as pest and disease may still be lurking. Pick up rocks, twigs and branches.
  • Rake vigorously with a wide plastic rake to dethatch. Thatch is matted dead grass that is trapped between live blades.
  • Rent an aerator if the lawn is particularly thatched or compacted.
  • Cut out any dead patches, reseed and then rake topsoil into those areas. Your garden center or hardware store can recommend the best type of seed mix for this purpose.
  • Order a soil test.
  • Then fertilize following the soil test recommendations for any needed amendments. If areas were reseeded, apply a starter weed and feed product. Keep the new seed moist but not soggy.
  • Mow. Keeping grass mowed foils ticks, which stand on grass blades hoping to hitch a ride. Wait a few weeks if you planted new seed.
  • Wait until the fall for overseeding of entire cool season grass lawns.

Problem Areas

Brown patches caused by use of winter salt should be thoroughly rinsed with a hose and water. Matted gray or pink circular patches were most likely caused by snow mold. This cold weather fungus is caused by a heavy blanket of snow smothering the grass. To repair, gently rake the matted grass to loosen it and let it dry to encourage growth. Reseed and/or aerate if necessary.

There is no cure for snow mold, so prevention is a better solution. In the fall, clean debris, mow before the first snow and apply a preventative fungicide in problem areas.

Lawn is a four-letter word

If your idea of a great weekend does not involve cutting, watering or fertilizing a lawn, below are some grass alternatives. This approach works better for smaller yards.

  • Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) - This member of the boxwood family will grow and bloom under trees in deep shade.
  • Liriope (Liriope muscari variegata) - Choose a variegated variety of this tough, easy care grass and avoid a hostile takeover.
  • Algerian Ivy (Hedera canariensis) - This evergreen is easy to establish and is a better choice than its English cousin.
  • Shore Juniper (Juniperus conferta) -  This native to Japan creates a dense mat but is slow growing.
  • Wildflower Patch - In sunnier locations, this choice provides food and nectar sources for butterflies and pollinators.
  • Mulch - While this lawn alternative is less interesting than others, its neutral color can highlight bedding plants and flowers.
  • Artificial Turf - The latest offerings are made from polyethylene sustainably sourced from sugarcane and cost from $10 to $20 per square foot.
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