When temperatures begin to get warmer in Boston, you may be itching to get outside and enjoy the fresh spring air. But it can be hard to relax and appreciate the sunshine when the winter has left your lawn looking a mess.
Spring is an essential time to take care of your lawn so that it can be healthy and vigorous under the hot summer sun. Keeping your lawn in good shape also prevents diseases, pests, and unsightly bare patches.
- 1. Rake and pick up debris
- 2. Test your soil, if needed
- 3. Fertilize, if necessary
- 4. Wait to dethatch and aerate (except Zoysia)
- 5. Overseed if you need a boost
- 6. Restart your sprinklers
- 7. Break out your equipment
- 8. Get rid of diseases
- 9. Send weeds away
- 10. Mow the right way
- 11. Take time for your landscape
- Spring into action
1. Rake and pick up debris
Once the snow has melted, chances are you’ll find some leaves, sticks, and other leftover debris in your lawn from the fall and winter. Raking in the spring is like giving your lawn a refreshing facial — you’ll remove dead plants and other debris, giving you a clean slate to work with.
Why should you rake?
It’s imperative to keep your lawn clear of leaves and other debris, not just because it looks nice, but because it helps your lawn stay healthy. Letting detritus pile up in your yard can lead to:
- Increased risk of disease
- Rise in pests
- Lawn fungus and mold
- Lack of water, light, and nutrients reaching your grass
- Thatch buildup
Raking the ground deeply also helps your lawn “wake up” from the winter, and you might hit two birds with one stone by removing some extra thatch while raking. Thatch is a layer of dead and growing grass that accumulates as grass grows faster than it can decompose.
Clearing your yard after the snow has melted also helps you get started with a blank canvas for lawn maintenance, starting a garden, or any other upcoming landscaping plans you have.
2. Test your soil, if needed
If you forgot to test your soil in the fall, you should get it tested in the spring to detect any nutrient deficiencies or abnormalities.
When to test soil?
You should test your soil once a year, before planting grass seed or fertilizing. In Boston, it’s ideal to test your soil before overseeding in the fall. However, if you missed last fall’s soil test or are planning to overseed in the spring, go ahead and get it tested.
How to test soil?
There are two primary ways of getting your soil tested: a DIY soil test at home, or through your local Cooperative Extension office. DIY soil tests are cheap and easy, but sending a soil sample to the Cooperative Extension office will provide you with a more detailed analysis.
After getting the results of your soil test, determine whether your lawn could use a boost of any nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
3. Fertilize, if necessary
If you only want to worry about fertilizing your lawn once a year, the best time to apply fertilizer is in fall.
However, if you conduct a soil test in the spring and see that your lawn is deficient in nutrients, or prefer using multiple applications of fertilizer per year, you can go ahead and fertilize in the spring.
For a feeding schedule that includes multiple fertilizer applications for cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue, aim for:
- The first feeding: May
- The second feeding: August
- The third feeding: November
If you have a warm-season grass type like Zoysiagrass, aim for a feeding schedule like:
- The first feeding: April
- The second feeding: June
- The third feeding: September
4. Wait to dethatch and aerate (except Zoysia)
Fall is the growing season for your cool-season grasses, which is the best time to aerate and dethatch your lawn.
Dethatching is a process where you remove thatch, a layer of dead and living grass that forms when grass grows faster than it can decompose. Aeration involves poking holes in the soil or removing soil plugs, which would be disastrous to attempt with wet spring soil. These processes can be stressful but ultimately beneficial for your grass, so it’s important to schedule them around the grass type’s growing season.
If you have cool-season grass, your lawn will benefit from dethatching and aerating in the fall before overseeding. This will establish a strong, fall turf for the winter season.
However, some homeowners in Boston use a warm-season grass type, Zoysiagrass. For those with Zoysia, you can dethatch between late-spring and summer, and aerate in the summer. If you’re planning on overseeding, you’ll want to dethatch and aerate by the beginning of July. Just make sure the soil isn’t still wet from the melting winter snow and spring rainstorms.
5. Overseed if you need a boost
If you notice bare patches in your grass, or that your lawn could use a boost of volume, you can overseed in the spring.
When to overseed in the spring?
The best time to overseed cool-season grass is during the fall, but it’s fine to overseed your lawn in the spring, if needed. This is the best time to overseed if you have warm-season Zoysiagrass.
If you must overseed in the spring, be sure to do it between mid-March and early April. This gives your grass enough time to establish before summer temperatures start heating up. Zoysiagrass can be overseeded between March and July, since it better tolerates warm temperatures.
Pro Tip: Make sure there aren’t any pests or diseases causing the bare patches in your lawn before overseeding.
6. Restart your sprinklers
It’s been months since your sprinklers rained down on your yard, and it’s time to wake them up from their winterization.
When to restart sprinkler systems in Boston?
You need to wait until the ground temperature is consistently above freezing, which is typically between mid-April and mid-May.
How to restart your sprinklers:
Follow your user manual for directions specific to your sprinkler system, but the following process applies to most irrigation systems.
- Find the sprinkler’s main panel and turn on the manual settings.
- Ensure your backflow preventer is tightly shut.
- Locate the sprinkler valve and close.
- Look for damaged sprinkler heads and ruptured water lines.
- Slowly open the main valve, waiting a few minutes to let the water run before opening it more; repeat until fully open.
- With a branched system, repeat the process for each section of the irrigation system.
- Check for areas with low pressure, odd sprinkler patterns, or other unusual conditions.
- Set your sprinkler timer and settings for the current needs of your lawn and landscape.
7. Break out your equipment
It’s been months since you took the mower for a spin around your lawn, so you should check the condition of your equipment to ensure your lawn can get a high-quality cut.
Spring equipment prep checklist:
- Check for dull blades, have them sharpened
- Add fresh gas to your gas-powered equipment
- Inspect the battery levels on your battery-powered equipment
- Change out the engine oil on your mower
- Replace the filter and spark plug on your lawn mower
Why is it important to keep equipment blades sharp?
You don’t want to mow with dull blades, just like you wouldn’t want to shave with a dull razor. Dull or damaged blades can cause your lawn to bruise or discolor, and make your lawn more prone to further damage and disease.
How to tell if your mower blades are dull:
Use a patch of your lawn to test your mower. Cut the grass in this area and take a look at the condition of the blades. If the grass looks uneven, torn, or damaged in any way, you should make time to sharpen your blades.
How to sharpen mower blades:
What you’ll need:
- Paint scraper (or another scraping device)
- Disconnect the spark plug.
- Use the wrench to remove the bolt on the blade.
- Remove the blade.
- Use the paint scraper to take off any gunk that’s built up on the blade.
- Put the blade in the vice.
- Use the file to sharpen the edge of the blade.
- Hang the blade on a nail. See if it’s level — if one side is off balance, continue to sharpen until the blade hangs level.
- Use the paint scraper or an air compressor to clean off debris from underneath the deck.
- Return the blade to the mower.
- Reconnect the spark plug.
Now, your mower’s all set for the spring. Be sure to look over your other equipment, like weed eaters, hedge trimmers, and leaf blowers. Like mowers, they can have dull blades, low gas levels, and dead batteries.
Pro Tip: Change your mower’s oil every 20-50 hours of use.
8. Get rid of diseases
The transition from winter to spring and summer can be stressful for your lawn. If your lawn is lacking nutrients, proper maintenance, and is experiencing weather changes, it can be susceptible to lawn diseases.
Common spring and summer lawn diseases in Boston include:
- Brown patch
- Dollar spot
- Snow mold
Brown patch typically appears later in the season when humidity is high and temperatures are above 70 degrees. It appears as light brown patches of grass in your yard, sometimes popping up overnight.
How to get rid of brown patch?
Treat with a fungicide that includes myclobutanil, PCNB, maneb, triadimefon, propiconazole, or thiophanate-methyl.
Dollar spot appears as straw-colored or light brown spots across your lawn. It appears during humid weather, with warm days and cool nights.
How to get rid of dollar spot?
Dollar spot can be resistant to some fungicides, so try a variety of fungicides to treat damaged areas.
Snow mold will appear in the spring as the snow begins to melt. If you forgot to rake in the fall, the piles of leaves, unfortunately, created the perfect environment for snow mold to grow. These web-like spots in your yard can be gray, white, and pink.
How to get rid of snow mold?
They will typically go away on their own, but it can be helpful to rake some of the snow mold away. If that doesn’t work, apply a fungicide with bacillus subtilis, propiconazole, or azoxystrobin for gray and pink snow mold. Use thiophanate-methyl for pink snow mold.
9. Send weeds away
Weeds suck the life out of your yard, stealing vital nutrients from your grass. It’s important to get weeds taken care of quickly, before they have a chance to become an even bigger problem.
Pre-emergent herbicides stop weeds like crabgrass, clover, and dandelions before they have a chance to germinate. If weeds still manage to pop through, a post-emergent herbicide can take care of them.
When to apply pre-emergent herbicide?
Add pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn sometime around mid-March or when the ground is 65 to 70 degrees. Pre-emergent herbicides will last for three to five months.
When to apply post-emergent herbicide?
The best time to apply post-emergent herbicide is early to late spring, ideally when the temperature is below 85 degrees, and the ground temperature is above 55 degrees for a minimum of three days. Once temperatures go past 85 degrees, the herbicide will be less effective.
Pro Tip: Don’t add pre-emergents soon after aerating, overseeding, or fertilizing. This will prevent the herbicide from working effectively and kill the new grass seed you just spread.
10. Mow the right way
Since your mowing routine can make or break your lawn’s health and beauty, it’s important to mow your lawn with care.
Mow your lawn as early as you can in the spring to wake up your lawn from winter and remove your grass blades’ “dead ends.” Never remove more than one-third of the blade height in one mowing session, and mow when the temperatures are cool and the grass is dry.
Spice up your mowing pattern to prevent compact soil, and let grass clippings mulch on your lawn, returning nutrients to the soil.
It’s also important to make sure you’re mowing at the right height. Cutting your grass too short or letting it grow too long can lead to problems like pests and diseases.
|Grass type||Ideal grass height|
|Kentucky bluegrass||2.5-3.5 inches|
|Perennial ryegrass||1.5-2.5 inches|
|Fine fescue||2.5-3 inches|
|Tall fescue||3-4 inches|
11. Take time for your landscape
Now that your grass is taken care of, it’s time to turn your attention to your garden and flower beds. Your landscape can show off your personality, add value to your home, and make your home more environmentally friendly. Spring is a great time to sprinkle fresh mulch on your garden beds and add a few new plants to your yard.
When should I start planting?
New England gets to experience all four seasons, but that also means having a shorter growing season. Boston gardeners can get their vegetable seeds started indoors as soon as February but should wait until mid-March or later to get their hands dirty planting in the yard.
A trick for telling whether or not your soil is ready for planting is called the “squeeze test.” Scoop out a handful of soil and squeeze it: If the soil is clumpy and so wet that it’s dripping, wait a bit longer. The soil should be somewhat moist and crumbly.
Plant Tip: While purchasing perennial plants, keep in mind that Boston is in plant USDA Hardiness Zone 7A.
Spring into action
Make yard work feel less overwhelming by getting a head start on your spring lawn care plan. If you put the time and energy into maintaining your equipment and learning how to manage your lawn, you’ll save yourself from any frustrating landscaping mishaps.
Want to catch the game this weekend, but your lawn looks like it could use some TLC? Call a local Lawn Love pro to knock your lawn care to-do list out of the park.
Main Photo Credit: Mike | Flickr | CC BY 2.0