5 tips to help you prep your lawn in spring

Ahhh, spring at last, and what better way to really enjoy it than during a long weekend. But wait! There’s spring clean-up to take care of first.

Lawn care in spring is essential for a healthy yard, not to mention excellent curb appeal. If you haven’t already started your lawn resuscitation, it’s still not too late to get a jump on igniting your neighbours’ envy once summer sets in. It’s only a month away!

Prepping your lawn for spring doesn’t have to be a chore. Look at it as a great way to enjoy the fresh air and get a workout at the same time. Yes, we’re still getting those unpredictable spring showers, and the ground needs to be dry before you can properly work on it, but try to get that yard maintenance finished by the end of this weekend. To catch up fast, here are 5 tips on how to easily prepare your lawn this spring.

Assess the mess

“As soon as you can, see what hand you’ve been dealt by Mother Nature,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Case your property for thrown branches, dead leaves and other built-up debris. Clear it away so you’re able to do a general inspection of your soil, lawn, trees, shrubs and garden structures. And while you’re out there, take a good look at the exterior of your home and look for any winter damage that should be repaired.

See what grass is coming back — or not. Get rid of broken tree limbs and call an arborist if they look dangerous. Now’s the time to take stock and make a plan.

Rake and wake your grass

Just as you like to hunker down on those dark winter days, so, too, do your grass and trees. “As soon as you can, vigorously rake that grass to wake it up and begin to get it to grow,” says Walt Nelson, horticulture program leader for the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Rake out areas of thatch — dried, dead grass that can be thick and deep. If you don’t, thatch will keep oxygen and sunlight from other plants and grass. Check for fungus and mold growth. Don’t worry if you run across “snow mold” — a pinkish or gray web over matted blades of grass, or possibly just a slimy brown mess. Despite its name, it’s rarely serious. Gently rake it out and it will dry. “You’d need 100 consecutive days of snow for snow mold to kill the grass,” says Tony Koski, extension turf specialist at Colorado State University.

Some of your grass may still be a bit brown, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. There are two types of grasses. “Cool season grasses green up in early spring. Warm season grasses green up really slowly in spring,” Koski says.

Weed out weeds

Finding a lot of crabgrass and dandelions out there already? It’s decision time. Will you avenge the scourge? If your weeds are out of control or you’re just hell-bent on getting rid of them, here’s what you need to know: Preventing weeds is all about timing. You want to nix the nasties before they start germinating. You need to use a preemergent weed control before the soil temperature hits about 13 degrees celsius and the weeds begin growing. But weeds get a head start thanks to any moisture on the ground, so if you haven’t already started, that’s okay.

You can choose a toxic or an organic preemergent such as corn gluten meal, but understand that with the organic, it will take two to three years of applications to be effective.

Oh, and if you’re eager to get seeding, note that you can’t put out grass seed until at least eight weeks have passed since you applied weed control. If this sounds too complicated, there’s no shame in hiring a professional company to take care of this for you. There are many excellent local landscaping companies who would be happy to help.

Trim the trees (and shrubs!)

Move on to trees and shrubs. “Trim out the dead, and it’s off to the races on another growing season,” Nelson says. “You can do the shrubs on your own, but if you’re concerned about trees, hire a professional.” Professional tree cutting services are there for your own safety. There are plenty of “tree cutting fail” videos online if you think you can tackle a full grown tree on your own.

The important thing about trimming is to “be careful about trimming growth,” Henriksen says. “You want new growth to get healthy enough to sustain itself in case of a second cold snap.” It probably won’t get that cold again, but this is good to remember for next spring. For flowering shrubs, wait until flowers bloom so you don’t cut off limbs that will be producing flowers or fruit. Lilacs are a good example of this. If you trim them now, you won’t see any of their gorgeous blooms in a few weeks.

Don’t forget the what-nots

Winter is hard on other garden elements. Henriksen recommends making sure your irrigation system works properly if you have one, and checking to see if there’s damage to any outdoor lighting. Fix broken or damaged patio furniture and any wooden structures. Clean off and refresh your deck once it’s warm enough. Power-washing any mildew may be necessary. Don’t forget to tune up the lawn mower and string trimmer. Clean, sharpen, and oil your pruning shears so they’ll be ready when the temperatures really kick into high gear. Now it’s time to start planting!

If you get the heavy lifting out of the way early, it won’t be long before you’re leaving your socks and shoes behind for good, and feeling the warm, soft grass tickling your toes.

— Houselogic.com