If you’ve started to emerge from hibernation in Louisville, you may be looking at your lawn and wondering whether you’ll ever get it back into tip-top shape. Winter can wreak havoc on your grass and landscape – but don’t panic. It’s easy to get your lawn looking lush and prepared for the warm summer ahead by following just a few simple steps.
1. Test Your Soil
Spring is the perfect time to test your soil, as winter’s harsh weather can deplete nutrients from your soil. Your lawn requires a balanced pH for it to produce healthy, beautiful growth. Know the specific pH required by your grass type, and have your soil’s pH tested by a professional or do it yourself with an easy DIY kit. While you’re at it, you should also check for vital nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
2. Aerate and Dethatch Your Lawn
These aren’t mandatory spring lawn care steps, but they can help if your lawn becomes compacted at all during the winter months. It’s easy to compact your soil by mindless actions like repeatedly walking across the lawn, allowing for repeated human or pet foot traffic, or even driving on sections of the grass. A compacted lawn is a definite no-no — it can prevent your grass from absorbing nutrients and water. Aeration can help loosen the soil for healthier growth and can be done in less than a day. Similarly, dethatching is essential if you have sections of your lawn that are exposed to thick layers of decaying plant material. For example, if you mowed one last time and left long clippings on the lawn. This is an excellent idea to help expose your soil to oxygen and water as well.
3. Promote Grass Growth by Removing Melting Snow
If you received a substantial amount of snow this winter, you might find yourself faced with uneven piles where the snowplow or snow blower pushed them onto your lawn. If you find yourself frustrated by these patchy, thawed areas on your lawn, you can help the snow melt faster by raking it into even piles.
4. Eliminate Weeds
Spring is an excellent time to get a jump start on those great Kentucky weeds. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to tackle stubborn weeds like crabgrass, and you will find yourself faced with significantly less weeding come July. The best time to apply herbicide is around Easter, but this is, of course, weather-dependent.
5. Begin to Mow
Mowing in early spring is important, as it will help remove the dead grass tops and encourage rapid growth. Cut the lawn short but not too short — scalping and damaging the crowns of the plant can cause some severely stunted growth later in the season. You can leave the clippings on your lawn to decompose naturally (make sure they aren’t so long that they will inhibit new growth) or rake them to compost.
6. Plan Ahead for Summer
You don’t usually need to start watering your lawn until Memorial Day, as you don’t need to start watering until the weather is warm and dry. It’s OK to even let your lawn start to show the first signs of drought stress before you begin a watering regimen.Now, however, is an excellent time to get all of your irrigation equipment in working order. The same goes for your lawn mower — make sure the blades are sharpened and also take the time to change the oil. You can’t start working on your lawn until the soil dries out (getting out there too soon can cause compaction), but you can take steps now to make sure you’re ready when it does.
7. Overseed and Fertilize
Wait until your entire lawn has recovered from winter’s wrath, and then consider overseeding if you still have bare spots. While fall is the best time to seed cool-season grasses, you can take advantage of a short window of opportunity in the spring. Grass seed can germinate at soil temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you seed early enough, the grass will have time to develop strong roots. Warm-season grasses can be planted later. A word of caution, however, if you are planning on applying a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn, skip overseeding, as the herbicide will work on developing grass seed as well. Around Memorial Day, consider applying a light application of nitrogen fertilizer. You need to go easy on the fertilizer, as too much will cause an onslaught of growth at the expense of the delicate roots. Most cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall to prevent the encouragement of rapid growth that will be killed by the summer heat.
Need additional help? Visit our Louisville lawn care page for more info!