Lawns often need a little help to recover from the effects of winter. In fact, many of the problems that plague lawns later in the year—bare patches, weed invasions, and disease, for example—can be reduced by taking a few steps first thing in the spring to give your grass a boost. Not all of the following tasks need to be done every spring (it depends on the state of your lawn) but each has a role to play in maintaining thick and healthy turf, year after year.
Most homeowners are surprised to hear that their lawn needs raking. The reason is that dead blades of grass, called thatch, build up on the surface of the soil, choking off airflow at the base of the turf and preventing the exchange of carbon dioxide that is critical to healthy root growth. A quick rake in early spring removes the thatch and is one easy way to spruce up your lawn. For large lawns, it's best to rent a power rake.
The soil beneath your lawn naturally becomes compacted over time, even if you don't walk on it. To counteract that problem it's important to aerate your lawn every few years, or more often if it receives heavy foot traffic. Aeration is any means of putting small holes into the lawn so that water, air and nutrients can penetrate more deeply into the ground. Aeration allows grass to grow longer roots and results in a sturdier, healthier lawn. Gas-powered aerators are the easiest way to go, but pitch forks are also commonly used. As the machine runs over the surface of the lawn, little spikes are pushed into the soil, pulling out tiny “plugs" of earth which give the roots space to breathe.
Pro-Tip: Aerating helps with thatch problems too, so you can usually skip raking if you're going to aerate in the spring.
If your lawn was looking a little sparse at the end of last year, you can make it thicker and more lush by spreading a bit of seed this spring. Mix the seed with planting soil in a wheelbarrow or spreader (following the instructions on the bag for how much to use based on the square footage of your lawn), and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the surface of the grass. Then rake the mixture down into the turf so there is good contact between the seed and the soil. Keep the surface of the lawn moist, but not saturated, until the seeds sprout and the new seedlings reach three or four inches in height.
NourishmentA sparse lawn can be a sign of nutrient deficiencies or a pH imbalance. Early spring is a great time to spread lime over your lawn to lower the pH, but it's important to have your soil tested first to know if this is necessary, and if so, how much lime to apply. Early spring is a good time to apply compost, which can be scattered over the surface and raked into the turf, as well as fertilizers that are low in nitrogen, but high in phosphorus and potassium, such as 5-10-10.
Pro-Tip: Don't apply high nitrogen fertilizers until late spring when the ground has fully warmed.
Tell us in the comments your Pro-Tips for greening up your lawn every year!