Even if your lawn is made up of weeds more than actual grass, you can turn it around with some basic preventive spring maintenance. Try these five tips to get your lawn ready before the weather warms up and the grass (and weeds) leave you in the dust.
Proper mowing, irrigation, and feeding practices are the best possible weed prevention, but established weed populations require drastic measures.
Use a pre-emergent herbicide to stop warm-season weeds before they even sprout. And even a weed-free lawn can easily be undone by nearby weeds and their traveling seeds, so remove any weeds in the garden now so they don’t find their way into your lawn.
If your lawn has bare spots, fill them in now with sod or seed so weeds don’t sprout and get a foothold.
Start your engines
Much like cars, lawnmowers will stop working without routine maintenance. If you haven’t already done so in the fall, replace the mower’s oil and gas with the types recommended in your mower’s instruction manual.
This would also be a good time to replace that corroded spark plug and dirty air filter. Add a fuel stabilizer to keep the gas from going stale and harming the mower’s engine.
A dull mower blade makes your grass more susceptible to disease with each ragged cut it makes, so sharpen the blade with a metal file when it starts to get dull. Clean your mower often to improve performance and prevent corrosion. If you own a riding mower, air up the tires for an even cut and comfortable ride.
Clear out thatch
You know that spongy layer of dead grass that builds up in your lawn? That’s thatch. A thin layer of thatch is normal and even healthy, because it protects the soil, roots, and beneficial organisms. But when that thatch gets about an inch tall, drought, weeds, and other problems develop.
Thatch is most likely to build up in lawns that have acidic or compacted soil – or lawns that have been excessively treated with herbicides and pesticides. If thatch is common on your block, prevent it with core aeration. This allows air to reach the soil, promoting organisms that naturally break down thatch. Use a vertical mower or power rake if the thatch is an inch thick or more.
Reseed and resod
None of these tips will do much good without a proper lawn. If your lawn seems as if it’s beyond hope, consider starting from scratch.
If your existing lawn is an annual one, remove it with a sod cutter. Perennial grasses, like Bermuda or St. Augustine grass, are much tougher to remove, so you’ll likely have to either solarize with clear plastic sheets for several weeks or resort to an herbicide.
Once you’ve dug up the grass or otherwise eradicated it, replace it with soil and a grass variety appropriate to your region. Plan on setting aside a day or two for installation.
Amend the bare soil with topsoil or composted manure, and begin laying down the sod or planting seeds by following the label instructions. After planting, water it often until the new grass becomes established.
Start good habits
If you’re not already following a fertilizing schedule, start one now by following the directions on your product of choice. It’s very likely that you will forget this schedule after the first feeding, so pencil in the dates on your calendar so you don’t get off track.
Start the season off right by mowing more often, on a higher setting, and in alternating directions. Inspect your sprinklers and pipes for possible breakage – a patch of damp soil or an excessive water bill would be your first clue. If your lawn seems to let into the surrounding landscaping, start edging now to define your boundaries.
A string trimmer is fine for maintenance, but cutting through the dirt with it could get messy. Either rent an edger or purchase a handheld half-moon tool to make deep, clean cuts that persist through the year for easier mowing and trimming.
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