In the middle of winter, the last thing you might care about is lawn care. Yet even though your grass may not be growing when Old Man Winter is around, you still should be giving some thought to preparing your lawn for spring.
“If a lawn is not properly prepared for spring, it can lead to poor health of the lawn and landscape, which can in turn cause problems — such as weeds, or brown or thinning grass — for years to come,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Experts offer these five tips for ensuring your lawn is ready for the march into spring.
1. Mulch the Leaves.
John Burns, manager of landscape services at the University of Texas at Austin, recommends mulching the leaves on your lawn with a mulching mower. Raking may be necessary if the blanket of leaves is too thick, he says.
“If too much leaf litter remains, it may slow down spring green-up or may even shade out the grass altogether,” Burns says.
2. Don’t Overdo the Raking.
If you do end up raking the leaves on your lawn, don’t get carried away, Burns says.
“Many people seem to be obsessed with removing every leaf,” he says. “This may actually cause damage to the grass, at least with the warm-season grasses.”
3. Spread Mulch.
Henriksen recommends adding a 1-inch layer of fresh mulch in plant beds and around trees. Don’t let the mulch touch tree trunks and don’t let the mulch become more than 3 inches deep.
“Mulch not only makes planting areas look neat, but also helps to retain moisture in the soil, keeping roots cool in the summer. As mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil,” Henriksen says.
4. Test the Soil.
Your soil should be tested to make sure it has the proper pH balance and mix of nutrients, Henriksen says. Depending on the test results, it might be wise to fertilize your lawn. Keep in mind that some types of grass do better if they’re fertilized in the fall, not the spring.
“Grass and the soil beneath it can be damaged by snow-melting agents in colder parts of the country,” Henriksen says. “It’s important to know what’s happening to correct issues early, before they create long-term problems.”
5. Get a Jump on the Weeds.
Apply pre-emergent weed control to prevent unwanted growth, such as crabgrass.
“As the name suggests, pre-emergent herbicides must be applied before weeds emerge to have any real effect, since they work by preventing weed seeds from germinating in the first place,” according to HGTV.com. “If you wait until after the weeds emerge, the herbicide won’t have any effect.”