15 Spring Lawn Care Tips

Kid mowing a lawn

Spring is one of the most important seasons for lawn care as it’s the time for your lawn to recover from winter dormancy. Starting off your lawn care routine the right way can mean the difference between having a beautiful, healthy lawn and a sickly, patchy one. Here are 15 spring lawn care tips to follow this season.

15 Spring Lawn Care Tips

1. Clean Your Yard

Mother and son cleaning yard
Photo Credit: Juanmonino / Canva Pro / License

Before anything else, clean your yard of debris, like leaves, twigs, dead plants, and rocks. It’ll be easier to work on a clean lawn. Plus, you might get some composting material out of it; just don’t add weeds or diseased plants to your compost pile. To start, you’ll need a leaf rake or a leaf blower.

Only rake your lawn if the grass is dry.. While it’s easier to work with muddy soil, it also means that it’s easier to pull up perfectly healthy grass crowns. The goal is to clear out dead things, not healthy grass.

If you find matted grass, use your rake to break it up. Often caused by snow molds, overwatering, and soil compaction, matted grass will make it more difficult for new, healthy grass to sprout.

2. Check for Thatch

Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Does your lawn feel more springy and spongy to walk on? That’s likely because of thatch, the spongy layer of dead and living plant matter (roots, leaves, and stems) that lies under your turf but above the soil. To check for lawn thatch, dig up 3-inch-thick samples of soil and measure the spongy layer’s thickness; if it’s ½-inch or more, then it’s time to dethatch.

To get rid of thatch, you’ll need to dethatch your lawn. Dethatching can be a stressful procedure for your turf, so dethatch when your grass is actively growing. 

  • Cool-season grasses: Grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue grasses can be dethatched in early spring.
  • Warm-season grasses: Grasses such as Zoysiagrass, Bermuda, bahia, and St. Augustine will need to be dethatched in late spring.

If you like manual labor, then you can use a dethatching rake, dethatcher, or verticutter to dethatch your lawn. Otherwise, you might want to hire a lawn care pro for that instead.

3. Aerate Compacted Soil

graphic showing aeration of grass
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Compacted soil can block the flow of nutrients, air, and water to your turf’s root system. To get rid of it, you’ll need to poke holes in your lawn with an aerator; this process is called aeration. Aerating a lawn by yourself isn’t a very difficult task, and you’ll reap many benefits such as reduced thatch build-up and better drainage.

Soil is more likely to get compacted during the spring because of its more frequent rains. Clay soils and frequently walked-on lawns are also more susceptible to soil compaction.

Like dethatching, lawn aeration can be a stressful process and needs to be done around the same time.

  • Cool-season grasses: While fall is the best time to aerate cool-season turf, you can also aerate your lawn very early in the springtime.
  • Warm-season grasses: Late spring is the ideal time to aerate a warm-season lawn.

Don’t rush to aerate your lawn, especially since not all lawns need aeration. You’ll know when you have compacted soil, though; some warning signs of soil compaction include puddle formation and increased weeds.

4. Conduct a Soil Test

Man testing soil for pH
Photo Credit: CSIRO / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Like all living things, turfgrasses have preferred living conditions. They can be particularly picky about their soil; they like it at a more neutral pH level of 6 to 7. Soil with too extreme pH levels is harmful to grass and more conducive to weeds that can outcompete your turf.

To ease your worries, you can conduct a soil test. These tests reveal the pH and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) levels of your soil. If your soil test kit results show that your soil isn’t optimal, don’t worry; you can use them as a guide to help you balance the soil. You may need to use soil amendments, like lime or sulfur, to change its pH level.

5. Control Weeds

worker spraying weed killer or herbicide on lawn
Photo Credit: welcomia / Canva Pro / License

You can prevent grassy and broadleaf weeds with a pre-emergent herbicide or kill existing weeds with a post-emergent herbicide. Spring is prime weed season, particularly for summer annual weeds such as crabgrass. 

Early in the season, you’ll want to apply a pre-emergent weed killer to your lawn. Pre-emergent weed killers can help prevent these weeds from germinating:

  • Crabgrass
  • Goosegrass
  • Ragweed
  • Foxtail
  • Black medic
  • Spurge
  • Prostate knotweed
  • Pigweed

You must apply pre-emergent weed killers at the right time, as they will wear off if applied too early in spring and be ineffective if applied after the weed seeds have already germinated. However, be careful if you plan to overseed your lawn this spring as pre-emergents also can prevent grass seeds from sprouting.

Post-emergent weed killers can only kill already established weeds. Post-emergent herbicides are effective against most weeds, but especially against perennial weeds like:

  • Dandelions
  • Clovers
  • Oxalis
  • Ground ivy (Creeping Charlie)
  • Thistles
  • Plantains
  • Sedges

When using chemical herbicides, try to spot-treat visible weeds rather than using them on your whole lawn. Chemical herbicides are often toxic to the environment.

While you can use store-bought herbicides, you have other weed control options, too. You can try hand-pulling, solarization, or DIY weed killer. If you don’t want to get down and dirty with lawn weeds, you can hire a pro instead.

6. Overseed if Necessary

Grass seed falling from hand
Photo Credit: georgeclerk / Canva Pro / License

Grass can thin out or develop bare spots because of disease, neglect, and general wear and tear. A patchy lawn is quite unpleasant to look at and can negatively affect your curb appeal. The solution is quite simple: overseeding. Basically, you need to grow grass seed over an established lawn.

The best time to overseed your lawn will depend on the type of grass you have.

  • Cool-season grass: It’s better to overseed these grasses in the fall, but you can overseed in early spring if your lawn is in dire need of fixing.
  • Warm-season grass: Overseed in late spring.

Overseed after dethatching and/or aerating your lawn if you plan to this spring. Otherwise, your grass seed can be disturbed when you dethatch or aerate; disturbed grass may fail to germinate.

Keep overseeded grass moist in the first few weeks or else the seedlings might die. Water the new grass frequently but lightly, then slowly transition to deeper and infrequent watering.

7. Feed with Fertilizer

gardener filling his handheld with granular fertilizer
Photo Credit: welcomia / Canva Pro / License

The three major nutrients your lawn needs to recover in the spring are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Lawn fertilizers typically contain these nutrients in different ratios which you can check by looking at the “N-P-K” numbers. It’s better to fertilize lightly with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring, especially if you’ve already fertilized your lawn in the fall. Too much fertilizer can actually cause problems on your lawn.

Here’s a simple guide on how to fertilize your lawn this spring:

  1. Conduct a soil test to find out what your soil’s nutrient levels are. The results can even tell you what kind of fertilizer you need to use to fix nutrient deficiencies.
  2. Find out how big your lawn is in square feet by dividing it into imaginary squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles. Calculate the area of each shape, then add them together to get your lawn’s total square footage.
  3. Figure out how much fertilizer you need. Ideally, lawns need 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. To calculate how much fertilizer you need to achieve this, look for the N-P-K ratio of your fertilizer. Take the value of N (nitrogen) and convert it to a decimal. Divide the decimal by 1. The answer you get is how many pounds of fertilizer you need to spread per 1,000 square feet of lawn you have.
  4. Water your lawn a few days before fertilization. Watering your lawn three to four days in advance will prime the soil to absorb nutrients but still keep your grass dry on the day you want to fertilize.
  5. Check for rain and wind as rain can wash away your fertilizer. Don’t fertilize if the weather forecast says it will rain in the next two days. If you’re using a liquid fertilizer, don’t fertilize on a windy day. Lastly, avoid fertilizing wet grass.
  6. Wear protective clothing because the nitrogen in the fertilizer can cause burns. Wear gloves, safety glasses, long pants, long sleeves, and a mask before you start fertilizing.
  7. Read the instructions carefully as some products have special instructions.
  8. Fertilize your lawn with a spreader. The exact instructions will vary based on your fertilizer and your spreader. However, you will want to fertilize your lawn evenly, starting at the edges of the lawn. Then, move to the center and fertilize in a grid-like pattern; go north to south, then east to west. Push excess fertilizer back onto your grass with a broom or a leaf blower.
  9. Check if you need to water your fertilizer after as some fertilizers can’t be watered until after they’ve set (usually a couple of hours).

When should you fertilize your lawn? Generally, you should wait three weeks after your grass has started to green up. This will be different for every homeowner based on their climate and grass type. If you’ve used herbicides on your lawn, wait for a week before you fertilize.

8. Spread Mulch

grass and mulch in a lawn
Photo Credit: kyoobit / Canva Pro / License

Mulch is a protective layer for your soil, shielding it from extreme temperatures and preventing weed seeds from sprouting. Early to mid-spring are the best times of the year to top up your mulch or add new mulch to your yard. Aim for a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch.

Mulches can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulches double as a very slow-releasing fertilizer, releasing nutrients as they break down. They are also quite easy to find for free. However, they don’t last as long as inorganic mulches.

Organic Mulches:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings (except those treated with chemical products) 
  • Pine bark and needles
  • Straw
  • Wood
  • Bark nuggets
  • Sawdust  

Inorganic Mulches:

  • Stone and rocks
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Landscape fabric

9. Check Your Tools

tightening a lawn mower blade
Photo Credit: KathrynHatashitaLee / Canva Pro / License

Over the winter, your lawn care equipment may have seen little to no use. Before you start a rigorous spring lawn care routine, you’ll need to make sure they’re in working order. Let’s start with your lawn mower.

  • Warm up your lawn mower by placing it under the sun for an hour or so before you first use it this spring. This will make it easier to start up.
  • Start the mower. If you run into any problems while starting it up, you may need to perform a tune-up:
    • For gas-powered lawn mowers: Change the oil, spark plug, and air filters. Refuel afterward.
    • For battery-powered lawn mowers: Check the battery. Replace if it isn’t holding a full charge.
  • Check your mower blades and sharpen them if they’re dull. Replace them if they have lots of chips or if they won’t sharpen. A sharp blade makes for a clean cut, which is healthier for your lawn.
  • Rinse beneath the deck. A lawn mower caked with grass clippings, dirt, and debris won’t perform well.

There are other lawn care tools that you may have in your shed. Here’s how to check and maintain them:

  • Edger: Check for dirt and clean it up. Inspect its engine belts, edger head, fuel/battery, and air filter. Replace these parts if needed. Sharpen if it’s dull.
  • Lawn trimmer: Check for dirt and clean up. Inspect its oil, fuel/battery, and air filter. Replace these parts if necessary. Replace the trimmer line.
  • Cutting tools: Sharpen them if needed.

10. Inspect Your Sprinkler System

Man repairing a sprinkler system
Photo Credit: tab1962 / Canva Pro / License

You will need to check your sprinkler system, especially if your area experiences harsh winters. Here are the things you should look for when inspecting your sprinklers:

  • Dirt and debris. Soak, brush, and rinse your sprinkler heads before turning them on. Cleaning your sprinkler heads will rule out clogging when checking your system for issues.
  • Sprinkler heads facing the wrong direction. Your sprinklers may be facing toward the driveway, which wastes water that could’ve gone to your grass. Although sprinkler systems have varying adjustment instructions, homeowners will typically need to turn an adjustment screw for each head.
  • Puddles, weird streams, and runoff are some irregular water issues that might pop up with a broken sprinkler system.

If you find issues with your sprinkler system, it’s best to hire a pro to get it repaired.

11. Start Mowing

person mowing a lawn
Photo Credit: MariuszBlach / Canva Pro / License

While mowing your lawn is quite simple, there are some tips and tricks you can learn to ensure you’re doing it properly.

  • Mow every other week in early spring and slowly ramp it up to once a week as the temperature warms up. Grass grows slowly early in the spring and will become more vigorous later in the season.
  • Don’t mow more than 1/3rd of your grass height in one go. This can stress your grass. Ideally, you should mow your turf when it’s 50% of its ideal height. Refer to the table below for more information.
  • Mow down to your lawn’s ideal height. Even better, try to mow on the higher end of the range to help prevent weeds from germinating.
  • Mow only when your grass is dry. Wet grass can jam your lawn mower and cause it to chuck out clumps of wet grass. When left alone, these clumps of wet grass can smother and kill grass.
  • Mow in the mid-morning as it’s not as hot out. The next best time to mow is during the late afternoon. Mowing when it’s too hot can cause moisture to evaporate from your grass, stunt your lawn’s growth, and kill weak turf.
  • Change up your mowing pattern every time you mow to prevent a pattern from forming on your lawn. It also helps your grass grow in different directions, which keeps each blade healthy and resilient.
  • Overlap while mowing to ensure you get an even cut. 

Here is the table containing the ideal heights of common turfgrasses:

Grass typeIdeal lawn height (inches)Mow when the grass reaches this height (inches)
Bahiagrass3.0 – 4.04.0 – 5.25
Bermudagrass1.0 – 2.01.25 – 2.5
Buffalograss2.0 – 4.02.5 – 5.25
Carpetgrass1.0 – 2.01.25 – 2.5
Centipedegrass1.5 – 2.02.0 – 2.5
Fine fescue1.5 – 32 – 4
Kentucky bluegrass2 – 32.5 – 4
Perennial ryegrass2 – 32.5 – 4
St. Augustinegrass2.5 – 4.03.25 – 5.25
Tall fescue2 – 42.5 – 5.25
Zoysiagrass1.0 – 2.51.25 – 3.25

Don’t throw away your grass clippings. You can spread it out on your lawn, which will fertilize your lawn as it breaks down. Clippings also can be used as a composting material. However, it’s best to bag them and throw them away if you’ve recently treated your lawn with chemicals or if your grass is diseased.

12. Edge Your Lawn

edging a sidewalk with a string trimmer
Photo Credit: CatLane / Canva Pro / License

Lawn edging lends a clean and manicured look to your yard. You can even add visual interest by adding stones, wood, or metal. If you want to edge your lawn, early spring is one of the best times to do it, as the soil is easier to work with. 

You’ll need a landscape edger or a motorized lawn edger to define an edge. To clean it up later throughout the rest of the year, you can use a string trimmer.

13. Water Your Lawn Properly

automatic sprinkler head
Photo Credit: welcomia / Canva Pro / License

Underwatering your lawn is bad, but overwatering it is just as bad if not worse. Aside from reducing your turf’s drought resistance by promoting shallow root growth, overwatering also invites fungal diseases that can injure or kill your grass.

Need tips on watering your lawn properly? We’ve got you covered:

  • Water your lawn between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. This time is perfect as it’s not hot enough to scald your grass, but will still allow your grass to dry throughout the day. 
  • Check if your grass is thirsty before watering. A simple way to check is by stepping on your lawn. If the grass lays flat on the ground and doesn’t recover, then you need to water your lawn.
  • Don’t water your lawn as often in early spring. Less water evaporates from your lawn because of the cooler temperatures early in the season.

Cool-season grasses need a bit more water than warm-season grasses in the spring. Cool-season turf –  like Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, and perennial ryegrass – needs 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly, while warm-season grasses only need about 1 inch.

Check if your sprinkler system is putting out enough water. To do this, you can perform the tuna can test.

  1. Place six tuna cans around your lawn.
  2. Turn on your sprinklers and leave them running for 15 minutes.
  3. Measure the depth of the water in each can using a ruler.
  4. Add the depths and divide by 6 to find the average.

Now what? Let’s look at this table to see how long you need to run your sprinklers based on the measurement you got.

Average water depth after 15 minutesTotal minutes needed to water 1 inch
⅛ inch120
¼ inch60
½ inch30
¾ inch20
1 inch15

14. Treat Pests

Brown caterpillar cutworm
Photo Credit: alex_1910 / Canva Pro / License

Many baby animals are born or hatch in spring. Unfortunately, among them are pests that can wreak havoc on your lawn. The worst of them may be grubs, which start their reign of terror later in spring. Here are some pesky pests you might encounter this spring:

  • Grubs
  • Sod webworms
  • Aphids
  • Ants
  • Cutworms
  • Mole crickets
  • Chinch bugs

Homeowners have a few pest control options available to them, ranging from traditional pesticides and organic insect killers to integrated pest management and beneficial nematodes. Understandably, not everyone wants to be hands-on when it comes to pest control. If that sounds like you, why not hire a pest control pro to do the job instead?

15. Treat Lawn Diseases

image of a fairy ring disease in lawn
Photo Credit: Scot Nelson / Flickr / CC0 1.0 DEED

When combined with overwatering, the cool and wet spring weather can invite fungi into your lawn. These aren’t friendly guests; they are invaders that cause lawn diseases. Here are some common spring lawn diseases:

  • Dollar spot
  • Red thread
  • Large patch
  • Yellow patch
  • Fairy ring
  • Powdery mildew
  • Melting out
  • Take-all root rot
  • Leaf blight
  • Snow molds
  • Anthracnose

Most lawn diseases cause lesions and discoloration of grass blades, eventually leading to thinning. In the worst-case scenario, your lawn will develop bare patches of dead grass after the fungi attacks the roots. You may even see foreign bodies on your grass that look unsightly.

The key to preventing these diseases from taking hold of your lawn is caring for your lawn properly, especially when it comes to irrigation. If all else fails, fungicides will get rid of the fungi causing these diseases.

FAQs About Spring Lawn Care

Should I Fertilize Before or After Dethatching?

Fertilize your lawn after dethatching. Dethatching is a more involved lawn care procedure that can mess with your fertilization efforts.

How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

If your lawn experiences heavy foot traffic, you may need to aerate your lawn every year or every two years. Most home lawns should be aerated every two to four years.

When Should You Start Spring Lawn Care?

You should hold off on spring lawn care until you’re sure your area won’t experience frost anymore. Even then, you will need to wait for some tasks, like fertilization, until after your lawn has greened up.

Hire a Pro to Help With Spring Lawn Care

Since spring is your lawn’s chance to recover from the cold winter temperatures, you should start your spring lawn care routine right. It can mean the difference between a green lawn and an unsightly one.

If you don’t have the time to care for your lawn during this crucial time, then consider hiring a pro to do it for you. LawnStarter can connect you with local lawn care professionals who can mow, fertilize, and much more. Hire a pro through LawnStarter or get a free quote today.

Main Photo Credit: JasonDoiy / Canva Pro / License

Janine Caayao

Janine Caayao

Janine Caayao has always been fascinated with growing plants, from fruits and veggies to bonsai trees and orchids. Now, she’s interested in urban gardening with her family. She loves finding new tips and tricks to keep their plants thriving.