7 Ways to Revive Your Lawn
Perk up your winter-weary lawn this spring...it'll look great in no time at all!
One of the first and most heartening signs of spring's return is when your lawn emerges from its winter rest. Green, at last! A new gardening year begins, with the grass setting the tone for your reawakening yard.
Sometimes, however, delight is tempered with a closer look. Often, there are flaws, brown or empty patches, or spots where the grass is returning more vigorously than in other areas. The winter that just passed may have been hard on it, or perhaps your lawn went into the cold weather in less-than-ideal condition. At any rate, what can you do now to fix it?
Here's a quick wake-up call to get your lawn up and running this spring. The following tips are arranged in priority—try each one in order, and before long, you'll be rewarded with great-looking results.
Get out the rake
Head out for a walk around the lawn with a good, springy lawn rake. This is your chance to assess damage and identify trouble spots. If an area of last year's grass is matted or looks "glued" together—a condition called "snow mold"—tease it apart with a gentle raking (be careful not to yank out the roots). Also get rid of dry, fallen leaves that you missed in the fall as well as twigs and other debris.
Do minor grading
Uneven patches in the lawn—little hills and dales—not only don't look good, they're no fun to mow. So smooth them out now, before grass-cutting season gets into full swing.
Generally, it's easier to fill in low spots than to press down high spots. The best fill material is topsoil, which you may have on hand or you can buy in bags at the local garden-supply store. Avoid the temptation to shovel in soil from elsewhere in your yard, which may not be fertile (and thus will not host good grass growth) or may contain lots of weed seeds.
Smooth over the fill and make the area as level as possible. Use a rake, not a roller—rollers compact the soil too much.
Spot planting and patch repairs
Fill in bare spots now, before weeds can; this will also create continuity throughout the lawn area. Loosen each bare area a bit with a stiff-tined rake, add some organic matter, then smooth with the back side of the rake to make it more welcoming for the new grass. Take your choice of these two methods:
Sod: This is the best way to get instant lawn. To get a match, especially if you don't know exactly what grass you have, dig out a small patch and take it with you to the garden center.
Sowing grass seed: This is not ideal because seedlings face competition from more-aggressive weeds and the coming stress of hot weather. If you opt to do this, however, be sure to keep the area lightly mulched and watered well, and to monitor for weeds.
Contrary to popular belief, spring isn't an ideal time to feed your lawn, particularly if you are growing cool-season grass.
Why? Because you will also be feeding young weeds! It's better to wait till fall for the major dose of fertilizer.
If you live in a mild climate and grow a warm-season grass such as Bermuda or zoysia, it's fine to feed now. Be sure to feed at the rates recommended on the bag—more is not better.
If crabgrass has been a problem, use a formulation that prevents its growth. It will be labeled and include a "preemergent" weed killer.
Although this can be an ongoing battle, there are ways to keep the weed population at bay starting now. Hand-pull big weeds, taking care to get all of the root system, which comes out easier when the ground is damp.
A higher mowing early in the season also helps because taller grass discourages weed sprouting. And since many weeds prosper in compacted, poor soil, aerating may well be worthwhile (see below).
Tend to edges
Spring is a good time to spruce up the edges of your lawn, both to contain it and to allow for easier summer maintenance. Replace or install barriers of plastic, wood, brick, stone or live plants. Create gravel or mulch "skirts" around beds and shrubs. This protects them and makes mowing much easier.
The first mowing
Because grass grows like hair, from the bottom up, you'll see brown-tipped blades and green below. The first mowing removes that brown layer. Wait until the grass is about 3 to 3-1/2 inches high. Pick a dry day, and remember to sharpen your mower's blades first if they're dull!
Leave the clippings to break down on the lawn, and watch your lawn leave the neighbors green with envy.