Spring is the season that marks new life and new beginnings — especially where your lawn is concerned. After a long, hard winter, your lawn is starting to wake up, having been in a state of dormancy. At this stage, your grass is a little delicate. Extreme drops in temperature during the winter “shock” your grass and weaken it considerably. This makes springtime lawn care all the more crucial to get right as we enter the growing season. Your lawn is entering a key seasonal transitional period as it begins to green up, so you need to make sure your turf gets off to a strong start to outcompete weeds, pests, and disease.
Remember, weak, damaged grass with a shallow root system will end up costing you time and money later on. In this guide, we’ll take you through step-by-step lawn care for spring and highlight some of the best spring lawn care products. By following these lawn care steps closely, you’ll be on track to achieving deep green, thriving grass.
When to Start Spring Lawn Care
There’s no specific date or time when you should start your DIY lawn care regime. But, there are some signs to look out for which indicate your turf has woken up:
- The ground is no longer frozen
- The weather is consistently warmer
- You can see the first signs of green, new grass blades
- Other plants in your yard are budding or beginning to bloom.
When you notice these changes, it’s time to start your springtime lawn care. Usually, these seasonal changes occur at the end of February into March, but be mindful of making your own judgment depending on your area.
1. Springtime Lawn Care: Preparation
If there’s one task you need to do before you start your spring lawn care regime, it’s a soil test. Soil tests for your lawn can save you a lot of money and energy on lawn fertilizers and biostimulants in the long run. This soil test from MySoil will tell you which nutrients your soil needs and the pH level of your soil (a six or seven neutrality is ideal). Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are the three essential nutrients your soil requires in large amounts (also known as macronutrients). You can read more about the importance of soil tests here.
Based on the results of your soil test, you might need to use products to raise or lower your soil’s pH to a neutral level. You can also choose the best fertilizer product for your spring lawn care and correct the micronutrient (nutrients your soil needs in smaller amounts) deficiencies your soil might have with a product like NutriSolve.
When Can I Start Mowing?
Until temperatures begin reaching consistent temperatures of 50°F, avoid mowing your lawn. Wait for grass height to reach between two and two-and-a-half inches tall, so it has the chance to develop strong and healthy roots. Going forward, make sure you’re mowing your lawn at least twice a week and cutting no more than a third off the grass blade’s length.
2. How to Care For Your Lawn in the Spring
Your lawn is vulnerable to problems like weeds and lawn disease in spring. A pre-emergent herbicide can mitigate this before weeds become a visible issue. During the fall and winter months, lots of natural debris builds up on your lawn, such as leaves and dead grass. Rake up organic matter and dispose of it responsibly in order to prepare for the next lawn care steps in spring.
What Are Pre-Emergent Herbicides?
Pre-emergent herbicides stop germinating weed seedlings from establishing themselves in your soil. This form of weed control works by either preventing weed root growth, the shoot, or the whole seedling.
Pre-emergent herbicides won’t kill weed seeds and will only come into effect when the seeds are germinating. Most applications last between 8-12 weeks, but it depends on the product you choose.
3. Pre-Emergent Herbicides
Apply a pre-emergent herbicide around mid-February for the best results. Usually, we recommend using a WDG (water-dispersible granule) pre-emergent as they’re easier to apply from a DIY perspective.
In terms of application, pre-emergent herbicides need to be incorporated into your soil with water. Pre-emergents will stay in the soil until weeds begin to germinate before they start preventing weed growth.
Just before soil temperatures consistently reach 50-55°F, apply your chosen pre-emergent. Our choice is Prodiamine .38% Pre-Emergent Herbicide with Fertilizer 0-0-7 which comes in granular form. One of the best weed killers which won’t kill your grass, it contains fertilizer to give your grass some nutrients too. Containing 7% potassium, a macronutrient that will strengthen your grass in response to the environmental stress caused by cold conditions.
Use a broadcast spreader to apply Prodiamine and control crabgrass in the spring or reapply to target annual bluegrass in the fall. If you need more guidance on which pre-emergent herbicide to choose for your lawn, watch the video below to help you decide.
4. Dethatching and Scalping
At the base of your grass, organic matter (both alive and dead) accumulates to form a thin layer on the soil — this is known as thatch. A thin layer of thatch actually protects your turf’s roots from extreme temperatures and heavy traffic on your lawn. Springtime is when you’ll need to remove thatch if it's built up to more than half an inch. Too much thatch will prevent oxygen from reaching your grassroots and provides a home for lawn-damaging pests and disease–causing organisms. In fact, if you end up having a disease or pest problem caused by excess thatch, you’ll need to remove it anyway before you use pesticides or fungicides. Thatch will reduce the effectiveness of these products, preventing movement into the soil.
Use a dethatching rake or a power rake to gently pull up the thatch and break it down. You can also use a vertical mower to “scalp” your lawn by adjusting the space between blades, depth setting, and power source. Try not to remove too much thatch — if you see your lawn has two inches or more of thatch, an aggressive dethatch risks thinning your grass and removing new turf growth. Multiple light passes is easier on your lawn than a single heavy pass.
If you choose to use your mower, set the blades to a high setting to only remove a small amount of thatch at first. Then, you can control how much thatch you’re removing while assessing any damage to your turf.
Another way to encourage new growth in your lawn is to try verticutting. This involves using a verticutter to slice the grass into sections that are between two and three inches wide. . Verticutters have thin blades spaced a couple of inches apart, which spin quickly to cut light grooves into the soil and remove thatch. Verticutting is not for the weak, so you might want to think about hiring a professional to help you on this one.
5. Core Aeration and Topdressing
Beginning in April, it’s a good idea to consider core-aerating. Core aerating your lawn will improve the uptake of nutrients, water, fertilizer, and air circulation in your soil. In fact, core aeration also helps increase the activity of soil microorganisms, which will help break down thatch. Both core aeration and dethatching (thatch retains moisture) will further prevent your lawn from becoming muddy and waterlogged. Aerate your lawn by pulling out plugs of soil between four and six inches, or use spiked garden tools to loosen the earth.
You can combine core aeration with topdressing, either in late March or April. For a smooth golf course finish, apply a thin layer of compost or sand over holes or uneven patches. For those homeowners who have naturally dense, clay-like soil, topdressing post-core aeration will drastically improve soil porosity over time.
6. Insecticides and Fungicides
It isn’t just your grass’ growth cycle that begins in spring; it’s also the start of many lawn-damaging insects’ life-cycle. Many species of beetle start laying their eggs in the grass when temperatures become warmer. Your lawn-eating culprit is less the adult beetle but more the grubs which feed on grass roots. Grubs are one of the most common perpetrators of lawn damage. For more specific information, take a look at our blog post about soil-damaging grubs.
Remember, your grass can’t be healthy if its root system or blades are compromised by armyworm, chinch bug, or any other pest activity. Lawn diseases like brown patch and dollar spot will also take advantage of a vulnerable lawn, especially if there has been a large build-up of thatch.
For more on pest management, read our comprehensive piece here.
Spring (around April) is an important time to introduce preventative measures as your lawn is weaker and more susceptible to pests and diseases. Acelepryn is a top-shelf insecticide for controlling lawn-damaging insects. Other insecticide and fungicide product recommendations are as follows:
Mirimichi Green Non-Toxic Pest Control
Mirimichi Green's non-toxic pest control is a high-quality, environmentally friendly insecticide. It’s made from natural, organic ingredients which target mosquitoes, beetles, chinch bugs, and more. This pest control product has a kill rate of more than 80% for pests and their larvae in a 24-hour period — but is safe to use around other plants, people, and pets.
Pests won’t become immune to this product, and rainfall won’t affect its effectiveness. Use a backpack sprayer, fogger, or spray bottle for application as the best way to apply liquid formulations. Watch the video below to find out more about how to apply your pesticides.
Headway G — Granular Fungicide
For pest and lawn disease control industry leaders, Syngenta is our go-to. Headway G comes in granular form and is a combination of two fungicides to target a broad range of fungi. The two active ingredients of azoxystrobin and propiconazole eliminate a wider range of fungi, saving you money and time on using multiple products to achieve the same effect.
Headway G will target brown patch, dollar spot, fairy ring, and more using a broadcast spreader. If you’re looking for an even more convenient product, Syngenta also offers Caravan G, which is a two-in-one insecticide and fungicide.
7. Fertilization and the Best Spring Lawn Fertilizer
The best time to fertilize your lawn in spring is when soil temperatures are around 55°F. This is around the same time you’ll apply your pre-emergent, so it’s worth getting a soil thermometer to be accurate. We go into more detail about how important soil testing is here — it can save you a lot of time and money. Once you have the results of your soil test, you’ll know exactly what nutrients your soil is lacking.
The Best Spring Lawn Fertilizer
For an easy and effective application, try Lebanon Turf’s Stress 12-0-24 Granular Lawn Fertilizer. It’s a slow-release fertilizer, so nutrients will break down over long periods, meaning your next application can be six to eight weeks later. Containing slow-release nitrogen, this fertilizer will help your grass green up quickly.
We’ve picked this lawn fertilizer as it’s suitable for all grass types. Stress 12-0-4 has high levels of potassium, which will strengthen weakened winter-weary turf. It also contains extra micronutrients like manganese and magnesium — with humic acid and kelp to stimulate microbial activity and growth.
When you’re applying liquid lawn care products, it’s very easy to overlap applications. To prevent this from happening, try a turf mark indicator dye to show where you’ve applied the product already.
8. PGRs: Plant Growth Regulators
Plant growth regulators help improve your grass’ natural processes. Abbreviated as “PGRs”, plant growth regulators can prevent grass from growing too quickly to allow the grass blades to thrive first. As a result, using PGRs can reduce your mowing requirements to promote a deeper green color for your grass. This is because you’re not mowing as frequently, and older grass blades are darker in color.
For this lawn care product recommendation, we prefer Primo Maxx from Syngenta. It comes in a ready-to-use 4oz size at a reasonable price for DIY lawn care enthusiasts. Primo Maxx can also reduce your lawn’s watering requirements and improve its resistance to drought, heat, and disease. Stimulating root growth, apply this PGR every four to six weeks, with the first application around early May.
The Best Lawn Care Tips for Spring
Having your lawn care schedule organized is something you can do during winter. There’s not much physical work to be done while your lawn is dormant, so use this time to carefully plan each of the steps above to give your grass a fighting chance. Spring is a pivotal time for new life and giving your grass the best possible start at the beginning of the growing season.