Spring is always a hectic season for gardeners. Whether we’re turning over the vegetable garden or fertilizing perennials, one “spring” thing is for certain: Once winter has passed us by, the time to care for our lawns has arrived!

Great blue grass lawn

Wouldn’t you love to have a bluegrass lawn like this?

Photo Credit: Bosh Bruening

Crabgrass

Getting crabgrass under control in spring will make for a healthier lawn come summer.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Way to Mow!

Let’s start with the biggest lawn-care task of spring: mowing.

Before you mow, let me offer a few suggestions to prepare the mower for the season: Always start with sharp blades! Dull mower blades tear grass and give it a brownish cast – not the look we’re aiming for! And let’s not forget to clean mower spark plugs, lubricate all moving parts and use the correct fuel mixture, too.

When your lawn begins to “push” growth in spring, it’s time to mow. Cool-season grasses, like perennial ryes and bluegrasses, prefer cooler spring temperatures and generally adequate rainfall. With this combination, it seems like grass grows overnight. Mower blades should be set at 2½-3 inches. If you mow regularly (meaning once per week), recycle the clippings back on the lawn – don’t bother to bag them! (Clippings do not create thatch, that spongy layer that can form on lawn above the roots.)

With your mower up and running well for the season, you may feel ready to face whatever your spring lawn may have in store for you. But try to think ahead…

Avoid Getting Crabby

You see it every summer, but by then it’s too late: Crabgrass rears its ugly head in your lawn. A word to the wise: Crabgrass is best controlled before it has a chance to germinate (think of it as an ounce of prevention)! So come spring, use pre-emergent herbicides (AKA weed killers) to control it before it attacks in summer. (For best results, apply a pre-emergent control when forsythia is in full bloom.) And because many areas can experience a second generation of crabgrass each season, try to be a step ahead – make a second application six weeks after the first.

A quick word about seeding and pre-emergent crabgrass control: Most herbicides that are used for controlling crabgrass cannot be used if you plan to seed your lawn in spring. (If in doubt, read the label before you buy!)

They say if you snooze, you lose! Crabgrass germinates in the spring, and once that happens, you’ll need to switch control tactics. Use a post-emergent herbicide that’s labeled for crabgrass control. (And always follow the label directions to a tee!)

There are a few other weeds that can be troublesome in spring lawns, but no need to worry – those pesky dandelions and other broadleaved weeds can be controlled with a broadleaved herbicide. Only a few weeds scattered throughout the lawn? Consider doing spot treatments as needed.

Feeding Your Lawn

And you know what they say about April showers…but if spring rains aren’t adequate to keep your lawn looking its best (less than an inch of rainfall a week), then you may need to water. When you do, it’s best to apply 1-1½ inches in one application – don’t water every other day for 15 minutes – long, thorough waterings encourage deep root systems and reduce summer drought stress!

When it’s time to feed your lawn (other than water), use a complete lawn fertilizer that contains nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Memorial Day is generally a good time to apply lawn fertilizer. Read the bag for application rates and spreader settings.

With proper care and patience, your family can enjoy a lush, green springtime lawn that’s the envy of your neighbors. So think spring – and think healthy grass!