After the snow melts and disappears from your lawn, the grass isn’t always greener on the underside. Grass goes dormant in the winter and comes back in the spring, but after being covered in snow and trampled on all winter, even the most beautifully manicured lawn can use some work to prepare it for the months ahead. Raking up loose debris, leaves, and dead grass is an easy first step. But after that, what do you do? Here are some tips to get your lawn back to being that deep carpet of green you love.
Laying seed is probably one of the first things you thought of when the snow melted to reveal bare spots on your lawn. But it isn’t as simple as buying a bag and spreading it around. There are a few ways to make overseeding your lawn easier and more effective.
When you buy your grass seed, take a look at the package. You can buy seed in sunny, shade, or a sun/shade mix. Pick the type that best describes your lawn. Prepare the area before you start. To do this, first pull out any weeds and rake the area to be seeded. This clears away loose debris from the area and also roughens up the soil underneath to help the seeds stay in the ground. Also clear out any stones and sticks. These items prevent seeds from contacting the ground and will lead to bare spots.
Once your area is prepped, you can start spreading seed. You can use your hands if you want but a broadcast spreader is recommended to get the proper amount and evenness. After you've spread the seeds, lightly rake over them covering them just barely with the soil. Water the area with a gentle spray, making sure you don’t wash the seeds away. Follow the watering directions for the next few weeks to ensure the best germination.
You can start using fertilizer on your new grass about four to six weeks after it has sprouted. Whether your lawn is new or already established, the correct fertilizer is essential for enhancing the growth and look of your lawn.
Lawn fertilizer consists of three ingredients: phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. In the spring, apply a fertilizer with a higher concentration of nitrogen. Nitrogen enhances the lush green that every homeowner loves to see from their lawn.
Another important thing to look for when choosing a fertilizer is whether it is slow release or not. Slow release fertilizers are useful for releasing the nutrients slower over time rather than all at once. This prevents your lawn from taking on more nutrients than it can handle and also saves you from having to fertilize as often.
You can use the same broadcast spreader as you used for your grass seed. The fertilizer bag will include the setting for your spreader. Fill your spreader with fertilizer and walk around the outside edge of your lawn. Then walk back and forth from one side of your yard to the other spreading fertilizer as you go. Most spreaders have a setting to spray their contents wider or narrower. Set it to spread wide when you are in open areas of your lawn and narrow when you are in tighter areas so you don’t spread fertilizer on gardens and driveways.
It might seem odd, but one of the most important maintenance items you can do to your lawn is to poke holes in it! The process is called aeration and it allows better airflow and water penetration to the roots of your grass. Aerating also loosens up soil that has been compacted from months of being trodden on. An aerator removes a cylinder-shaped core of dirt from your lawn. When it rains, soil fills back into the hole that was left from the aerator leaving the soil looser and able to absorb more water and nutrients.
There are a few different methods you can use to aerate your lawn. The most basic is done with a hand aerator. This is a multi-pronged tool where each prong is a hollow cylinder. Decide where you want to make your first holes, place the aerator there, and step on the back to push the hollow prongs into the ground. The dirt cores are then left on the lawn.
If you prefer an easier option, you can buy spikes that strap onto regular shoes. All you do is walk around your lawn until you’ve covered the entire area in holes. If you have a large lawn, an aerator with spikes on a wheel that you can push like a wheelbarrow might be a possibility.
Whichever aeration method you choose, your lawn will reap the benefits, and so will you when you walk out onto a bright green lawn every day.