Thankfully, spring is around the corner. And while it’s not time for your lawn mower to come out of hibernation just yet, now is a great time to make a plan to revive your lawn.
In addition to the following lawn maintenance tasks you can tackle right now, there are also a few preliminary steps you can take to nurse your grass back to its former green self. Consider this your lawn fix-it game plan.
Mitigate snow mold
Long periods of snow cover make snow mold ripe to develop and spread. The areas most likely affected are where snow piled or accumulated for extended periods of time.
These are some signs you have snow mold:
- Straw-colored circular patches ranging in size from a few inches to several feet across
- Grass patches that are matted down and crusty
- Grass patches with a grayish-white or whitish-pink appearance
To combat the mold, gently rake the grass to loosen it up and allow the soil to dry.
Rake and remove thatch
Excessive thatch is a major indicator that your lawn is struggling, says Greg Crouse, product marketing manager at Leaf Home.
“Thatch is layers of dead grass and roots that tangle together along the ground’s surface,” says Crouse. “When there are massive amounts of thatch, the soil and roots below are often cut off from the air, water, and nutrients they need to flourish.”
Thick thatch can also make an ideal home for snow mold to develop.
If you notice a half-inch of thatch or more on your lawn, rake it so that the soil below can get the air it needs.
Raking will also clear your lawn of debris that may damage your lawn mower blade when you first mow, says Craig Elworthy, founder of natural lawn care company Lawnbright. And it can stimulate new grass growth when soils begin to warm from longer daylight hours.
In cold season zones of the U.S., dethatching is best done when the snow melts and air temperatures begin to rise. In warm season and transition zones, start in February before your lawn becomes active again.
Consider aerating the soil
Winter frost can wreak havoc on your lawn’s soil. You might need to aerate it to ensure it consumes all the water, air, and nutrients it needs to thrive.
“If you stick a screwdriver into the ground and it does not go in easily, your soil is compacted and will require an aeration,” says Elworthy.
Use aeration sandals or boots with tiny spikes on the bottom, or use a manual or electric appliance to puncture the surface.
Lower the lawn mower blades on the first run
Once it’s time to break out your lawnmower, experts recommend using a lower blade setting for a closer cut on the first run of the season.
“This will remove dead grass blades, help to improve air circulation, and stimulate new grass growth,” says Brian Feldman, senior director of technical operations at TruGreen.
For the cool season zone, this means mowing (after cleaning up the debris on the lawn) in March or April, after all the snow has melted. For the warm season and transition zones, mow the lawn when grass begins growing again, which is usually around March.
Fertilize at the right time
Lawns can take their sweet time to start growing again, and the exact date they shake off dormancy depends on your climate. Applying fertilizer while your lawn is still dormant or partly dormant won’t do much good and wastes money, Elworthy says.
The best way to enhance your lawn after a long winter is to apply granular or water-soluble fertilizer.
“Organic fertilizer should be used for a lawn in need of thicker and more natural-looking grass, because it helps stimulate the soil to better absorb nutrients,” says Crouse.
Granular fertilizers are usually in time-release formulas, while water-soluble fertilizer helps lawns that have trouble absorbing the proper amounts of water needed.
If you know the type of fertilizer your lawn needs, stock up now. Or buy a soil testing kit and use the recommendations to buy the correct fertilizer.