Prepare your lawn for spring

Whether you enjoy researching new ways to improve the condition of your lawn or consider lawn maintenance a nuisance that consumes precious weekend time, lawn care season is on its way! With days growing longer and the sun feeling warmer it will soon be time to prepare the lawn for spring.

Once the chance for snow is past the first thing to do is to take a stroll around the yard and pick up any tree branches, trash or sticks that may have been dropped onto the lawn over the winter. Even if you performed a meticulous cleaning in the fall, leaves and other debris still fall and drift into the yard. Clearing away the debris not only neatens up the property but allows the homeowner to be refamiliarized with the layout.

After the fallen twigs and trash have been cleared away the yard is ready for raking. However, raking too soon in the season can damage the grass. Joseph Truini writing for Popular Mechanics says, "Just be sure to wait until the ground dries out a little before cleaning up the yard. Tromping around on a soggy lawn can compact the soil and damage tender grass shoots." Rake any leaves, pinecones, twigs and dead grass to clear the way for grass growth. Raking also provides an opportunity to closely inspect the lawn for thatch, moss or bare spots to be removed or repaired.

If a heavy layer of thatch is found it can be raked up with a leaf rake or a thatch rake. David Beaulieu writing for thespruce.com explains, "If you are unfamiliar with it, thatch is the layer of mainly dead turfgrass tissue lying between the green vegetation of the grass above and the root system and soil below." There are also power rakes designed for dethatching areas too large to rake by hand.

To determine soil health homeowners can have a sample of their soil tested at the University of Connecticut Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory (SNAL). This will determine the PH and acidity levels of the soil and determine how the lawn should be managed as far as adding fertilizer and other nutrients are concerned. The correct levels will ensure the health of the soil and encourage strong, healthy grass growth. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)'s Quick Reference Organic Lawn Care Calendar organic nutrients and lime should be added in late spring based on the results of a soil test.

Aerating the lawn loosens the soil and creates holes for water and nutrients to enter. Spike aerators simply poke holes into the soil while plug or core aerators simultaneously remove plugs of soil. There are a variety of different aerators available for sale or rent at home centers depending on the size of the area being aerated and the method of aeration desired. The Connecticut DEEP advises that tightly compacted soil should be plug aerated in mid to late spring and defines soil in need of aeration as soil too compacted to be easily penetrated with a screwdriver.

After any needed thatching and aeration is completed, fertilizer and lime can be spread. The results of the soil test will include recommendations for any soil treatment that might be needed. Overseeding (spreading grass seed over bare, thin or heavily weed covered areas) can be done at this time as well. Cover grass seed with a thin layer of straw to keep birds from feasting on the seed and make sure the seed is watered but not watered so much that the seeds can wash away.

In addition to preparing the lawn, get the lawn mower ready for a new season by cleaning it, making sure it starts and, if not, having it tuned up and the blades cleaned and sharpened if needed. Also check on the condition of any other routinely used yard tools such as a line trimmer. Preparing for the season in the spring promotes the healthiest most beautiful lawn possible.

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