Basic lawn care is not as labor-intensive as you might imagine. But the trimming, edging, mowing and watering required for summer upkeep can be made that much easier with a few additional spring tasks.
Here are some of the best practices for lawn care this spring and summer.
Spring lawn care
Prepare your equipment
Spring’s arrival is the best time to assess your lawn equipment and give your mower a tuneup. Change the oil, air filter and spark plug, sharpen or replace the blade (a dull blade tears grass instead of cutting it, leaving it susceptible to fungi), or if it’s been a few years, consider purchasing a new lawnmower to stave off midsummer frustrations.
Clean the area
When your yard is dry, rake up small debris and bag it for composting or disposal.
For larger items like tree branches, you can toss them in a chipper or schedule a waste pick-up with your town.
Thatch is a dense layer of organic material that accumulates on the surface of your soil and can block vital nutrients, air and water from getting to the roots of your grass. Break up this layer with a thatching rake, so your lawn can thrive.
Take control of weeds
If you have weeds like crabgrass, apply a preemergent herbicide, which interrupts a weed’s growth process and prevents germination.
But timing is everything — apply the lawn treatment when the soil reaches a steady temperature of about 55 degrees for maximum effectiveness.
Fill the bare spots
Choose grass seed that matches the climate and growing conditions of your region.
But before seeding your lawn, check the packaging of your preemergent herbicide for a recommended waiting period. Overlapping herbicide treatment and grass seed applications can stop grass seed from germinating as well as the weeds.
Summer lawn care
Don’t mow too low
Mow your lawn once each week to keep it healthy.
Cut only the top third of your grass when you mow. If you remove too much of the blade at one time, brown patches can appear and weeds may start to grow.
Trimming and edging keep things neat
No matter how skilled you are at mowing, to get that head-turning lawn all summer long, you also need to trim and edge.
Use a grass trimmer on hard-to-reach areas near fences or under a deck. Running an edger along driveways and walkways gives your yard a fresh, neat look and keeps weeds at bay.
Don’t forget to water
When you walk across your grass and the blades don’t spring back up, that’s a sign your lawn is thirsty.
The best time to turn on the sprinkler is early morning, after the sun comes up but before 10 a.m. Your lawn needs roughly 1.5 inches of water a week, which is enough to moisten the top 6 inches of the soil. (If you can easily slide a screwdriver 6 inches into the soil, you’re good.) If your lawn needs watering, it’s better to do it twice a week rather than all at once.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
Spring is the perfect time to begin digging and growing a traditional vegetable or flower garden. These tips might make it easier for you:
Get an idea
Is this going to be a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? If you choose to grow flowers, do you want annuals, which you must replant each year but which give color most of the summer? Or do you prefer perennials, which have a shorter bloom time but come back year after year? You can mix any of the above — after all, it’s your garden. Just one bit of advice: Start small. ’Tis better to succeed just a little than to fail grandly.
Pick a place
Almost all vegetables and most flowers need about six hours of full sun each day. Spend a day in your chosen spot, and watch how the sun moves across the space. It might receive more sun than you think.
But don’t despair if your lot is largely sunless; many plants tolerate shade. Check plant tags or ask the staff at your local garden center to find out how much sun a plant requires.
Put the garden where you can’t ignore its pleas for attention — outside the back door, near the mailbox, by the window you stare out when you dry your hair.
Place it close enough to a water spigot that you won’t have to drag the hose to the hinterlands.
Clear the ground
Get rid of the sod covering the area you plan to plant. If you want quick results, you can dig it out, but it’s easier to smother it with newspaper. A layer of five sheets is usually thick enough; double that if your lawn is Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass. Spread a 3-inch layer of compost (or a combination of potting soil and topsoil) on the newspaper and wait. It’ll take about four months for the compost and paper to decompose.
If you don’t want to wait or if the area is covered with weeds such as creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), you’re better off digging the sod out.
Improve the soil
Invariably, soil needs a boost. The solution is simple: organic matter. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings or old manure. If you’re digging the soil, till the organic matter into the soil. If you decide not to dig or are working with an established bed you can’t dig, leave the organic matter on the surface, and it will work its way into the soil in a few months.
To learn more about your soil, have a soil test done through your county cooperative extension office. They’ll lead you through the procedure: how much soil to send from which parts of the garden and the best time to obtain samples. Expect a two-week wait for their findings, which will tell you what your soil lacks and how to amend it.
Dig or don’t
Digging loosens the soil so roots can penetrate more easily. But digging when the soil is too wet or too dry can ruin its structure. Dig only when the soil is moist enough to form a loose ball in your fist but dry enough to fall apart when you drop it. Use a spade or spading fork to gently turn the top 8 to 12 inches of soil, mixing in the layer of organic matter you’ve applied. In vegetable gardens and beds of annual flowers, turn the soil only once a year — in the spring before you plant.