Unlike the 2012 growing season that started off in March with a roar, the 2013 growing season is making a subdued appearance with lawn mowers remaining silent. However, as several BYGLers noted, the slow start to the season means there is still time to accomplish some lawn care maintenance activities that may have been overlooked last fall, or activities that are always recommended for helping lawns to wake-up from a long winter nap.
Here are a few tips:
- Make sure your lawn mower is prepped and ready for the spring season. This includes engine maintenance such as changing the oil and replacing the spark plug and air filter if they weren't changed last fall, as well as cleaning and sharpening mower blades. Dull mower blades damage turfgrass blades! The new, tender spring grass blades are particularly susceptible to dull blade damage. If mower blades are already sharp, they should be cleaned; residue build-up on mulching mower blades can seriously interfere with the mulching action of the blades contributing to clumping.
- Inspect watering hoses and sprinklers. Don't wait until you need to depend on lawn irrigation in the heat of the summer to discover leaking hoses and dysfunctional sprinklers!
- Make a spring fertilizer application and get your soil tested to provide guidance for future fertilizer needs. Although there is a strong focus on fall fertilization of lawns, spring applications are also helpful, particularly this year with such a long, cold spring. A spring fertilizer application is essential to turfgrass health if no applications were made in the fall.
- Spot-seed damaged areas and/or over-seed thinning lawns. Again, although late-summer to early-fall is the best time of the year to sow grass seed, spring is the second-best time of the year! Spring seeding can be used to repair winter damage and it's your second shot at producing a thick lawn if your fall seeding failed to produce good results. Remember that a thick lawn is the best defense against lawn weeds.
- Judiciously apply pre-emergence herbicides (e.g. crabgrass control materials). Most turfgrass weeds, including crabgrass, are opportunistic: they do best in open areas or in thinning lawns. In other words, turfgrass weeds are often a symptom of other more critical problems such as a soil fertility problem or an aging lawn that has not been over-seeded in years to introduce new, vigorous plants. If you plan to sow grass seed, be very careful with using pre-emergent herbicides; many will also disrupt grass seed germination and establishment! As always, read and follow label directions and pay close attention to grass seeding restrictions, including whether or not it would be safe to seed in the fall.