As with most landscaping projects, success is dependent on getting a head start before the growing season is in full swing. So if you’d like to grow a healthy, green lawn this summer, then you must start preparing in the spring.
Here are six simple steps you can take to prep your lawn this spring in order to ensure a lush lawn all summer long. (Note: These general guidelines are appropriate for most climates, but for advice that’s specific to your region, contact a local landscaping contractor or university extension office.)
Step 1 – Tune-Up
Be sure your lawnmower is ready for the summer grass-cutting season by performing an early-spring tune-up: replace the spark plug, change the oil, grease the fittings, install a new air filter, clean the carburetor, scrape clean the underside of the mowing deck, and sharpen the blades. Tune-up your string trimmer, too, and be sure to have plenty of cutting the string on hand for the upcoming summer.
Step 2 – Clean Up
Step 3 – Thwart Weed Growth
To prevent weeds from taking over your lawn this summer, apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring. It’s a way of feeding your lawn. Think of it giving the lawn antibiotics. This type of weed controller is formulated to prevent weed seeds from germinating, which will greatly reduce the number of crabgrass, dandelions and other weeds.
Most pre-emergent herbicides are effective for about three months, so you’ll need to reapply it again during the summer. By the way, regardless of whether you live in the north or south, both cool-season and warm-season grasses will benefit from a springtime application of a pre-emergent weed controller.
Step 4 – Fertilize
What you treat your lawn with is very important. To get your lawn off to a healthy start, apply fertilizer in the spring. And for best results, use a slow-release fertilizer. Its vital nutrients break down over an extended period of time, so you won’t have to reapply the fertilizer so often; in most cases, you can wait six to eight weeks between applications.
You can check with a local nursery for the most appropriate type of lawn fertilizer for your region, but most lawns do well with a 20-5-10 fertilizer, meaning it contains 20 percent nitrogen, 5 percent phosphate, and 10 percent potassium.
Step 5 – Fill in Bare Spots
If your lawn has any bare or balding spots, treat these areas with grass seed during the spring to ensure that they fill in with grass by summer. Scratch and loosen the soil with a garden rake, then broadcast an even layer of seed over the area. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil, water well, and loosely cover with hay to discourage foraging birds and prevent rain from washing away the seeds. You should start to see little grass spouts in two to three weeks, depending on the weather.
It’s worth noting that you can treat bare spots with regular grass seed, but most seed manufacturers make specially formulated mixes that are specifically designed for quickly growing grass on bald, bare lawns. They’re sold under various names, such as Patch-and-Repair Mix or Lawn Repair Seed Mix.
Step 6 – Take a Little Off the Top
When it comes time to mow your lawn for the first time of the year—mid- to late-spring in most regions—raise the mowing deck to its highest setting. That will typically trim the grass about 3 or 4 inches high. Cutting grass too short, especially initially can weaken early-spring grass plants, causing stunted growth and dull color.
And for all subsequent mowings throughout the rest of the spring and summer, remember this general rule: Never trim off more than one-third of the grass-blade height at a time.