How to fix your lawn after a tough winterMaddy Scheinost
How to Repair and Revive Your Lawn in the Spring After a Rough Winter
Chances are you would love to have your lawn be the envy of the neighborhood. Or, at the very least, you don’t want to be labelled as “those people,” the ones with a yard that stands out like a sore thumb that makes neighbors shake their heads and worry about property values. But it’s a fact that rough winters with lots of snow, ice and frigid temperatures can give your lawn a beating. Especially if you have kids who love to build snow hills and snow forts. Lack of sunlight can create thin or bare patches and other issues for even the healthiest lawns, while cold dry winds can lead to dehydration. It’s also not unusual for your after-winter grass to suffer an invasion of weeds before your yard has fully revived from its winter dormancy. And in many areas of the country, wildlife…like moles and voles…may have been foraging for food in and under your grass during winter months. You can’t blame them, they’re hungry and they do what they do, but their tunnels, hills and holes can still be a nasty surprise when you start thinking about spring lawn care.
Sure, your lawn might be able to bounce back on its own – that’s certainly the (non)working premise of “those people” – but taking the time to help your yard wake up properly with some early spring lawn care will minimize problems later, while helping restore and prepare your lawn for healthy growth. The tire experts at Treadworld, your home for the finest lawn and garden tires anywhere, have put together some thoughts and tips to show you how to repair lawn damage after a harsh winter, along with some spring lawn care steps and spring lawn maintenance pointers that will have your yard looking great in no time!
Can You Start Your Spring Lawn Clean Up Too Early?
Everybody knows the early bird gets the worm, but that’s not necessarily the case with spring lawn preparation. The fact is that if you start your spring yard cleanup efforts too early, you may do more harm than good in the form of compacting the grass, or killing new roots before they have a chance mature, which can lead to patchy, brown areas.
So, when is the right time to get going? You should start your repair lawn and revive lawn efforts on March 13 at 10 a.m. Kidding! Of course, the perfect time for you will vary each year because every winter brings different challenges, and because weather varies greatly depending on where you live. Still, signs that it’s time to begin include: the soil and grass have thawed out, there’s no muddy areas on the lawn, the average temperatures are consistently above 40-degrees, and you can tell that your grass has started growing.
The First Step of Spring Lawn Treatment Is to Assess the Winter Damage
Once you’ve determined that walking around your yard won’t result in compaction damage to your lawn, get out and assess the winter damage. Keep in mind that your lawn is not a single entity, but instead is made up of thousands of individual grass plants. Check out brown spots to determine whether your grass is dormant or dead. Dormant grass will come back, dead grass will not.
There are two ways to tell. With the tug test, just grab a handful of grass and tug lightly. If it comes right up with no resistance – no good. If it provides some resistance, then the roots and crown are still alive and will likely come back. A second test is to get down and look closely at the crowns of the individual blades of brown grass. The crown is the thick, whitish part of the blade that grows at the soil level, where grass shoots and roots meet. If the crown is white, recovery is likely. If it’s brown, it’s likely dead and you’ve got winterkill.
Determine the Winterkill Culprit
The major contributors to winterkill are: winter desiccation – extreme dryness occurring when water in the plant is lost at a faster rate than water is replaced, which generally occurs during periods of cold weather with no snow, moreso than when your yard is snow-packed; crown hydration – the opposite of desiccation, when the cold weather, usually sudden following a warmer spell, freezes the moisture content in the grass crowns into crystals; direct low-temperature kill – occurs during extremely cold temperatures early in the winter following a relatively warm period in late fall when which causes ice crystals to form on plant cells leading them to rupture; ice sheets – prolonged exposure to sheets of ice can result in the death of your grass plants; snow mold – the name given to a number of molds that exist beneath the snow or wet leaves that can cause a gray or pinkish tint to your lawn. Snow mold shows itself in circular patches on your lawn, and is most common when early snow cover occurs before the ground freezes.Moles and voles, small rodents, can also be an issue, because they like to burrow paths just under the snow, leaving holes and tunnels after the snow melts. Additionally, they feed on the blades of grass and are known to leave excessive excrement.
Determining the cause of winterkill won’t help you in the current year, but once you know what your lawn is susceptible to during the off-season, you can take steps in the fall to negate the damage in the coming season.
Clean Up the Mess
Your next first step is to give your yard a good raking to clear away the leaves, fallen branches and dead grass that have built up over the winter. You don’t want that type of debris matting down the fresh grass underneath, collecting moisture that can stunt regrowth and leading to mold, pests and insects, and blocking the all-important the sunlight. This step will also increase the effectiveness of the subsequent seeding (or sod placement) needed to fix dead patches, as well as the fertilizing you may do.
Pull up the dead patches of lawn. Since they are unencumbered by roots, this should be fairly easy. You can also cut around dead areas with a spade, then pull up the patch.
Consider Dethatching Your Lawn
Spring is the time for a good, stiff raking to remove thatch, a layer of mainly dead turfgrass tissue lying between the green vegetation of the grass above, and the root system and soil below, that can keep sunshine, water, air and nutrients from reaching your lawn’s roots.
Though it used to be regular practice, some dethatching lawn experts are wary of damage caused by using a grass dethatcher since it can harm the roots of new grass plants, and so now recommend that levels of thatch up to ½-inch be left in place to protect the soil, preserve moisture and supply nutrients as it breaks down gradually. You should remove thatch of more than ½-inch with a dethatching rake. Since grass can be tender early, it’s best to wait until your lawn starts to green up, which signifies the grass is growing and the blades are firmly rooted, before dethatching. Lawns that are completely healthy may not ever require dethatching; a simple spring raking can be quite sufficient.
How to Test Soil pH and Nutrient Levels
Because large amounts of melting snow can change the pH levels of your soil and wash away nutrients, you may want to engage in soil testing using a home testing kit to identify the nutrient content. It is relatively easy to do, and the results can contribute to a plush, summer lawn by helping you make good decisions about the best lawn fertilizer for spring. Test soil kits range from simple soil pH tester strips to complex chemicals, used to pinpoint deficiencies of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash, and to identify acidity or alkalinity, and also possible contamination. Good grass growth is fostered by a good healthy, balanced, basically neutral, soil. If your soil is too acidic, it can lead to moss growth, while soils that are too alkaline can make it harder for your grass to get the optimal nutrients needed to thrive. Even ideal amounts of water and sunlight won’t give you the lawn you want if your soil is poor.
Aerate Your Lawn
The most important part of your lawn is not the grass, but rather the soil underneath it. Snow can really pack down that soil, which makes it difficult for the roots to get the nutrients they need to grow. Additionally, seed can’t germinate in compacted soil that doesn’t have the proper nutrients, water and soil exchange, so consider lawn aerating before seeding. Though Spring is not the ideal time to aerate your lawn, primarily because it can lead to weed growth, circumstances may require that you do it anyway. There are essentially two types of aerators – plug or solid spike. Solid spike aerators dig holes into the lawn that allow water and air into your lawn, while plug aerators remove small plugs of soil to allow for larger openings for the water and air. Plug aeration tends to create more room for expanding growth, and allows seeds to reach deeper into the soil.
Start Fighting Weeds and Crabgrass
Spring lawn care can be as much about fighting weeds as about helping your lawn grow plush because it’s not usual for unwanted weeds to appear in your lawn over the winter. Many times weeds survive even when grass doesn’t. You can either dig weeds out manually, or you can apply a week killer. Finding the best weed killer for your specific needs can be a challenge that will take some research, but you have a ton of options, including some that promote green spring lawn care, some intended for large areas, some for broad-leaf selective removal, some for grassy weeds, and others that are preferred by people with kids and pets. It’s crucial that you address lawn weeds before watering or fertilizing your lawn because you don’t want to give the weeds nutrients that can help them get out of control. Pre-emergent herbicides work to prevent weeds from ever growing, post-emergent herbicides work on weeds that have already grown. Dandelions are cheerful yellow plants, but they’re also perennial weeds so ideally you want to snap off their flower stems before they go to seed, and crabgrass is another perennial that can be difficult to eradicate and may require both pre- and post-emergent weed killer for lawns. Other spring weeds you may need to deal with include chickweed, white clover, wild violets, all of which usually appear after dandelions, later in spring and into early summer.
Reseeding the Lawn or Sodding
It’s not uncommon for bare spots to appear after a long winter which, if left untreated, can cause problems with weed growth, and make fostering a beautiful lawn that much more difficult. So, when you’re wondering how to fix patchy grass, you can either try planting grass seed in spring in the needed areas – and also spread some new topsoil if warranted – water, then wait for the grass to grow; or if you’re in more of a hurry, you can lay sod. If you decide to go the seeding route, you can apply seed only to the visible bare patches, or you can overseed your entire lawn to ensure that it remains thick and healthy.
Spring Lawn Fertilization
Fertilizer provides your grass with extra nutrients that allow your yard to grow green and thick. Ideally, the ground should be around 55 degrees before spreading fertilizer. Depending on where you live, March to April is the best time to fertilize the lawn. It’s also best if your yard is watered a few days before you want to apply the fertilizer, whether that’s from rain, a sprinkler or a sprinkler system. Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady, consistent feed for up to 4 months, while a quick release spring fertilizer for grass is fast-acting, usually offering results in about 6 weeks. You may be able to combine tasks with a weed and feed fertilizer. Keeping your lawn fertilized is essential for making sure your grass reaches its full potential, though knowing which grass fertilizer will serve you best can be a challenging – which is why you may want to test lawn soil to get answers. Water the lawn promptly after applying fertilizer to force the nutrients into the soil and root zone.
Water the Lawn
No surprise, watering your yard regularly is essential to helping the grass grow strong, even in spring. The best time to water the lawn is in the morning before 10 a.m. in order to allow the grass time to soak up the water and dry out with the help of the afternoon sun. Watering in the evening may seem like a good idea, but the later in the day you water, the greater the chance of it leading to development of disease and fungi.
What About Lawn Mowing in Spring?
While you may be chomping at the bit to get out and mow that first spring growth, it’s a good idea to wait until the grass is at least 2 inches high to give it a chance to develop strong, healthy roots. And even then, don’t mow it too short – don’t take off more than a third of spring grass – because it can cause stress on the grass plants by exposing the root system. Instead, ease your lawn back into the mowing season.
One Last Thing…Maintain Your Lawn Equipment
It’s always a good idea, when you’re wondering how to repair your lawn, to give the equipment you’ll be using a thorough check before you begin figuring out the steps to take after a tough winter. Sharpen lawn mower blades, check oil and air filters and don’t forget to check the tires to see if it’s time for replacement. Nothing is worse than getting yourself psyched, anticipating a good, productive session in the yard, then finding out you should have replaced the tires on your equipment.
And of course, we can help you with that.
We’re Treadworld, Home of the Best Lawn & Garden Tires Anywhere
Regardless of the equipment you use, you can count on us to provide you with the lawn mower tires, riding lawn mower tires, lawn tractor tires, wheelbarrow tires, the tires for your dethatcher, seeder, lawn aerator…any lawn and garden tires you need. Dependable, high performance RubberMaster Lawn & Garden Tires offer the finest in top quality, long-lasting, never-let-you-down reliability, manufactured with strict tolerances from top rubber compounds, triple-tested for quality before being X-rayed to be sure they’re perfect, then covered by our Ultimate Advantage Lifetime Warranty. Don’t hesitate to contact our tire experts via live chat or email with any questions you may have on the best lawn and garden tires for you.