Spring is a time of new beginnings, reflected by Passover, blossoming flowers and longer days. As such, April is recognized as National Lawn Care Month. In conjunction with this event, Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists, offers six steps to get your lawn on track for summer.
“As seasonal temperatures begin to rise across Oregon, we’re entering the prime lawn growing season and the perfect time to do some basic lawn maintenance,” said Bryan Ostlund, Grass Seed USA executive director. “Investing even a little time now to seed or repair your lawn will pay off in the months to come and make sure you’re ready for summer.”
Rake – Raking your lawn removes dead grass, leftover winter leaves and other debris, allowing you to control thatch and see bare or worn areas that need attention. It also permits new, young grass to grow more easily and increases soil contact when seeding.
Test your soil – Good soil is one of the essentials of a healthy lawn. Doing a soil test is simple and inexpensive (do-it-yourself kits are available at your local garden center), and it provides valuable information about your soil’s current pH level. Simple amendments like lime or sulfur can be added to neutralize overly acidic or alkaline soil and help your grass thrive.
Aerate – Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen into the soil. Lawn aeration can also increase the soil contact with new seeds and improve the success rate of new growth. You can rent an aerator or hire a professional to aerate your lawn for you.
Seed – Oregon’s spring offers optimal conditions for establishing new lawn spaces or repairing thin or bare patches in existing lawns. Expanding your current lawn or repairing high-traffic areas will allow the grass to grow in healthy and strong before summer, when the lawn will likely experience the heaviest use. For best results, talk to a turf specialist at a garden store or your local university extension office to help you select the right seed for your area and usage. The specialist will be able to identify which seed is closest to your existing lawn or suggest an alternate option if you’ve experienced recurring problems. After you plant the new seed, water lightly but regularly to make sure the reseeded areas stay damp until the new grass grows in. Applying a starter fertilizer is an option, though not required.
Control weeds – The best way to control weeds is to maintain a healthy, lush lawn, which will in turn squeeze out the weeds. If, however, you experience problems with crabgrass or dandelions, herbicides may help. Talk to a local garden specialist about which herbicide is right for your lawn and the best way to apply it. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring before weed grass emerges can reduce problems down the line. Herbicides can kill grass seeds, so if you’ve applied seed you’ll want to make sure you use a product that will not affect new growth. For dandelions, digging them up is often an effective solution. If not, a broadleaf herbicide can be applied.
Tune up your lawn mower – Get ready for the first mow by giving your lawn mower a tune-up. Don’t wait until your mower starts acting up. Keep it running smoothly with an annual service that includes changing the oil, changing the spark plug, swapping out or cleaning the air filter, and sharpening the blade. Most lawns are ready to be mowed when the grass reaches a height of 3 inches, although newly seeded areas or recently overseeded existing lawns should be mowed closer to 2 inches until the new grass is established. Remember to mow with a frequency that allows you to cut less than one-third the height of the grass. An easy-to-follow rule is to let it grow no taller than 3 inches and cut it to no shorter than 2 inches.
Following these six steps will have your lawn looking great throughout the season. If you have any questions or would like lawn care tips throughout the season, visit Grass Seed USA at weseedamerica.com or follow We Seed America on Facebook or Twitter.
Bryan Ostlund is executive director of Grass Seed USA. Grass Seed USA is a national coalition of grass seed farmers and academic turf specialists with a wealth of experience in studying, growing and harvesting grass and grass seed.