After a long winter we all look forward to Spring. The brown and grey colors associated with the cold give way to the promise of green. Leaves begin to appear in various shades of green. In addition, the lawn after a long period of dormancy starts to produce new green shoots. We all look forward to a healthy green lawn in the Spring. To ensure the lawn will be thick and healthy here are a few steps you should consider.
Step 1 – Inspect Your Lawn for Winter Damage.
During the winter of 2020-2021 we had a significant snow accumulation that stayed on the lawns for nearly a month. Because of the lengthy snow cover a fungus called Snow Mold proliferated in some areas. The two types of snow mold are pink snow mold and grey snow mold. They appear as matted down areas in the lawn with a grey or pink hue. Pink snow mold being the most severe. Inspecting your lawn for these patches is important to helping the lawn recover. Once identified a light raking with a grass rake to fluff up the matted grass will help the lawn recover. The increased air circulation allows the plant to dry out and grow normally. Should some areas not recover by the middle of April some spot seeding will be needed.
Step 2 – Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control.
Crabgrass is a grassy weed that germinates in the early spring when soil temperatures reach 55 degrees for several days. In our area this generally occurs toward the end of April. It often coincides with forsythia petal drop. Applying crabgrass control material prior to its germination is key. In addition, pre-emergent crabgrass control also suppresses some summer weeds. Therefore, the application is essential to protecting the lawn from weed growth. Some good options include Dimension, Barricade and Pre-M.
Step 3 – Evaluate your lawn for broadleaf weeds.
Many winter weeds germinate in the fall, mature during the winter months and flower in the spring. They are described as winter annual weeds. Some common winter annual weeds in our area include chickweed, bittercress, and corn speedwell. High populations of winter annuals will require a weed control application early in the spring to prevent these weeds from going to seed. Otherwise, a weed control application in late April or early May will provide the best timing for controlling most of your spring weeds including dandelions. Weed management is an ongoing activity and some additional applications in summer and fall may be required.
Step 4 – Apply fertilizer.
In general Penn State recommends three to four pounds of nitrogen per year to maintain most cool season grasses. A soil test will provide you with specific recommendations for your lawn based on soil nutrient levels and grass type. Applying fertilizer in the spring and fall is best. A good rule of thumb is to apply a balanced fertilizer with a 3-1-1 ratio or something similar. The ratio refers to the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium relative to each other. An example would be a fertilizer analysis of 15-5-5. Applying half of the required fertilizer in the spring and half in the fall is a good guideline.
Correct mowing habits play a critical role in the success of a lawn. Having a sharp mower blade provides a clean cut leaving the lawn looking manicured. Mowing at the optimum height encourages deep rooting and shades the soil surface to reduce weed germination. Though mowing height can differ with grass type a mowing height of 2.5” – 3.0” is best. When mowing, removing one third of the leaf tissue or less is ideal. If you are mowing at 3.0” when the lawn reaches 4.0” it is time to mow. Furthermore, it is best to leave the clippings after mowing as this recycles nutrients and adds organic matter to the soil.
A thick green lawn is what we all strive for as the warmer weather approaches. Following the steps above will give you a good start to achieving a nice lawn. May you and your family spend some time in a great lawn this year!