The frost has melted and the sun is finally starting to warm your winter-chilled bones: spring is here, and with it, nascent buds and fresh seedlings that are ready to make your lawn look fresh and lush.
You don’t need to hire an expensive landscape artist or lawn company to achieve a thriving front lawn worthy of your neighbors’ envy – these basic lawn care tips will have you feeling like a pro on your own!
Take it slow
The first ray of sunshine may make you reach for your mower, but there’s much to be done beforehand. Before firing up the lawnmower, you’ll need to dethatch and aerate your lawn.
Thatch is the little pieces of dead grass you see between the soil and the green grass. Some is good, but too much will catch pests and prevent new seeds from their optimal growth. When the cold season is over, there’s usually excess build up that’s too much for natural processes to break it down. You can use a specialized thatch rake, but a regular rake will work just fine too.
Once dethatched, you’ll want to let your grass grow before aerating. You don’t want to aerate until you have a decent amount of green growth. If you aerate too early, you’ll be bringing weed seeds up to the surface, so the weeds will outgrow the grass.
Once you’ve got a decent amount of green, you’ll want to aerate your lawn so that the grass roots can “breathe” – aerating creates holes in the soil that prevents over-compaction in the soil and allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots, which is key to ensure optimal growth. Aerating is easier when the soil is somewhat moist, so it’s best to do after rainfall or irrigation the day prior.
If you’ve dethatched and aerated but the green grass just isn’t coming, try corn gluten: it acts as a placeholder until grass grows – it’s not a weed killer, but a weed preventer, so if weeds have already overtaken your lawn, you will need to look into weed killers instead.
Think you can start seeding? Think again! Wait at least 5 weeks until you start!
You’ve patiently waited, and now it’s time to seed. Use organic, rich top dressing, laid down at about 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch (it’s not as thick as you’d probably think!) – you want the seeds fed and insulated, but you don’t want them unable to get the nutrients and slivers of sunlight they need!
As far as soil goes, you’ll probably see that the organic soil has lower “numbers” than the synthetic ones, but that does not mean they’re less effective or that you need double (or triple) the amount of organic soil. Organic soil is actually more stable than the synthetic soil, so it lasts longer in feeding the seeds; chemically produced synthetic ones contain unstable compounds that evaporate into gases, making them pretty ineffective (the seeds need solid food, not gas!).
Seeds should be planted about 15 per square inch, tight, but not touching.
When it comes to watering, morning is best, because if the plants are overwatered, the sun will just dry the excess out. If that’s not possible for you, and a sprinkler system is out of the budget, that’s totally fine – you just need to be cautious not to over-water in the afternoon or evening.
Speaking of over-watering in the evening: do not ever water plants directly on their leaves – only at the ground! Since there’s no sun to evaporate any excess water, you’re basically just establishing a breeding ground for fungi and mold to fester in the night.
When do you know when it’s time to cut the grass? When the blades have reached 4 inches or more. You want to keep your grass at about 3 to 4 inches tall, so that you’re still giving it enough length to keep its roots cool.
Sharp cuts: you know that brownish tint that some lawns get? That’s from dull lawnmower blades. Think of it like split ends on your hair: when a lawnmower blade is dull, instead of slicing the grass cleanly, it essentially tears it, leaving it split, causing it to get those dingey brown edges. Nobody likes a dingey lawn – replace your blades every season or bring them to a local shop to sharpen. It’s a small investment for a world of difference!
If you’re laying sod (whether re-sodding an entire lawn or just sodding in certain trouble spots), be sure that the ground below is level and dry – you do not want to water beforehand. You’ll place starter fertilizer on the ground before laying the sod, and once you’re ready, lay the sod like bricks: stagger the seams, but knit them as closely together as possible.
If you’re hiring someone to lay the sod, it’s a good idea to double-check that they warranty their work – if they don’t lay the seams staggered and tightly enough, you will get patchy areas.