Lawn Care Tips for the DIY’er
Handy Tips for Spring Lawn Care
By Mark Clement
If you’re a lawn-a-holic like me and relish having a luscious and low-weed lawn throughout the warm weather seasons, then you’ll want to get out of the gates early this spring. With a total turf takeover, you can give your grass the fightin’-est chance to win the green gold from spring to fall, so you can mow, stripe and show off while others are battling brown spots.
For much of the US, grass thrives in cool weather. It likes dewy mornings, warm days, enough sun and cool nights. Spring and fall are when grass grows most vibrantly and is the perfect time to jump-start it.
One magic element of cool weather is dew. It practically, but not entirely, waters your lawn for you, making spring an opportune time to get new seeds in the ground and growing. For the many lawns I’ve repaired and rescued in my part of the country (northern half), getting new grass to take hold is the weed-beating lifeblood of healthy turf. But just because spring hands us primo conditions for getting the new seed to take, it’s not enough for many lawns. To be a weed-beater I prepare my lawn by thatching, core aerating and mowing before dropping new seed.
Mowing, Phase 1. I mow my lawn at or near the mower’s highest setting during the summer. This keeps my grass healthy, green and growing, while helping to choke out weeds. In the spring, however, I cut it shorter because after the next few steps I won’t be mowing for a few weeks. This also helps with spring cleanup by sucking up leaves and twigs in the process.
Thatch Removal. Over time, lawns where I live get choked with broadleaf weeds like violet and clover and/or a net of dead grass clippings, unwanted grass species, pine needles and other debris (mostly thanks to my non-lawn loving neighbors). My grass roots are trapped, and the soil is sealed off from new seed.
While I try to manage weeds throughout the season with various weed control fertilizers, mechanically removing them is pretty much unavoidable if the weeds take hold. I rent a thatching machine called a power-rake. This mini-monster de-populates the turf of many broadleaf weeds without de-populating it of all the dead grass. A power-rake’s vertical, rotating tines pulverizes and bags broadleaf weeds (not their roots). It also pulls up thatched grass and opens the base of the grass plants to let air, water and new seed get in there. It gets some grass, too, but that’s no problem. To gain an optimum angle of attack on randomly intermingled weeds, I run the machine over the lawn twice—north-south and east-west—otherwise the machine leaves material behind.