11 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Bridgeport

11 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Bridgeport

Bridgeport blossoms in a celebratory response to spring, the season of rebirth. Your lawn joins the party but needs a bit of assistance to get regenerated and revitalized.  

Cool-season grasses like those found in the New England area thrive with proper care. Following is an 11-point guide to keeping a lush, healthy lawn in Bridgeport.

Man with wrench on lawnmower
Gustavo Fring | Pexels

1.  Tune up your equipment

You and your lawn equipment likely have something in common: You both sat dormant indoors for much of the winter, and both will benefit from an overhaul after stagnating for four or five months.   

Here are some basic maintenance tasks to get your mower, weed eater, leaf blower, and chainsaw back in good working shape:

Gas mower

  • Remove any dust, cobwebs or left-over grass clippings 
  • Check and change oil
  • Fill with gas
  • Change spark plug   
  • Clean or replace air filter
  • Check tire pressure
  • Sharpen or replace blade

Pro tip:  Dull blades rip and pull the grass, which can weaken and damage your lawn.  

Electric push mowers

  • Clean off any clippings, dust, stones, and other debris
  • Inspect all screws, nuts, and bolts
  • Lubricate wheels
  • Clean or replace the filter                          
  • Replace or sharpen blades
  • Fully charge the battery before using

Pro tip:  Corded electric mowers are affordable and ideal for lawns a quarter acre or less. However, managing the cord might still be a hassle. Also, they are not self-propelled.

Weed eater

  • Brush off debris
  • Clean handle and deck
  • Wash or replace air filter
  • Clean spark arrestor
  • Clean or replace spark plug
  • Inspect string head for adequate amount of string

Chain saw

  • Empty any old gas and replace with new
  • Replace spark plug
  • Replace air filter
  • Sharpen blade, if necessary
  • Oil the chain
  • Inspect the chain to ensure it’s on securely        

Pro tip:  Caution is key when using a chainsaw. You might consider taking your chainsaw to a garden center to be sharpened. Wear protective leather gloves, safety helmet and goggles when using. When trimming, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt that are close-fitting but not constricting.

Leaf blower

  • Brush off any dirt or other debris      
  • Wash or replace the filter
  • Inspect hose for cracks
  • Clean or replace spark plug
  • Tighten bolts, screws, and fasteners
  • Change oil for gas blower; fully charge battery for electric blower

General cleaning tips

Your gardening and lawn gear should have been cleaned and sanitized before storage. Even if you did, it’s still good to clean and disinfect them to prolong their effectiveness and prevent the spread of plant diseases. 

To give your gardening tools a good scrub:

  • Clean off dirt with a hose
  • Scrape off any remaining dirt with a putty knife
  • Remove any rust with steel wool
  • Remove sap, if any, with a touch of lighter fluid on a towel
  • Soak in a bucket of hot water with dish soap
  • Rinse and dry with an old towel

If your tools don’t require such an intense cleaning, give them a quick soak with a mixture of two cups of bleach and one gallon of water. Be sure to rinse off with a garden hose and dry thoroughly.  

Shovels and other gardening cutting tools should be razor sharp. A sharpened shovel glides more easily through soil and roots. Sharpened pruning and cutting tools provide smooth, precise cuts when trimming.

Dog on lawn
Ralph | Pexels

2.  Clean up the yard

In Fairfield County, winter winds and snow can break off tree limbs and scatter debris all over your lawn. You’ll need to remove the debris to allow your lawn to breathe.

Other suggested tasks to beautify your backyard and lawn:   

  • Pick up dog droppings (dog poop isn’t a fertilizer, but is actually toxic to your grass)
  • Remove old, rotting mulch
  • Decorate with garden pots, patio furniture and other lawn decor that was in storage
  • Remove any excess salt by soaking the area thoroughly (next winter consider using sand for traction)

Pro tip:  If salt is a concern, or if you live near the beach, consider planting Zoysiagrass, a warm-season grass that is salt-tolerant, and stands up to Connecticut winters.

Pink snow mold
Pink snow mold | Bevegelsesmengde | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

3.  Deal with the diseases

As the snow melts, don’t be surprised if your Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue exhibit colored patches other than a full, lush blanket of emerald green. You’ll need to take action to encourage growth and get your lawn back into shape. Here are some common cool-season lawn diseases in the Bridgeport area:

Pink snow mold

This disease casts matted patches of pink, white, or tan dead leaf blades. Pink snow mold might require you to reseed the diseased areas.  Also, application of chemicals will assist with healthy growth. 

Gray snow mold

Gray snow mold results in bare circular patches from six to twelve inches. This disease is cosmetic and not deadly to your grass.  Promote recovery by raking and overseeding. 

Brown patch 

Brown patch shows up as unsightly spots of brown or brownish/gray. A fungicide application of triadimefon, myclobutanil, PCNB, maneb, thiophanate-methyl, or propiconazole might be necessary to eradicate this disease.  

Dollar spot 

Dollar spot produces yellowish areas in the lawn. As this disease can be stubborn and resistant to pesticides, a three-fold solution is necessary. Apply nitrogen fertilizer, remove thatch, and apply compost.   

Fairy ring

It might sound quite charming, but fairy ring is actually a harmful ring of mushrooms. To clear out this disease, rake the infected area and aerate. Then, water and fertilizer with nitrogen. If the area is seriously embedded, it’s important to completely remove the infected area and overseed.   

Red thread 

Red thread shows up as circular, pinkish-red patches. This disease is unsightly, but mostly cosmetic. An application of nitrogen fertilizer assists with recovery.

Leaf spots or melting out 

Leaf spots result after periods of extended wet weather. Depending on the fungi, symptoms vary from small red to purple spots on the grass blades to total collapse. To energize the infected areas, apply a fungicide specifically registered for Connecticut.  

Sod webworm
Sod webworm | Sean Clifford | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

4.  Banish the pests

The warmth of spring awakens the good, but also the bad and the ugly. With the melting of snow, you might find these invaders emerging:

White grubs 

They come out in spring to feed on grass roots. Unsightly but quite attractive to raccoons, birds, and moles, these pests stunt grass growth. From April to September, apply pesticides containing chlorantraniliprole to put a stop to the chomping.

Leaf-footed bugs 

These winged creatures are either grayish-black or brown with white tipped wings but do minimal damage to your garden unless the population gets out of control. Their primary diet consists of plants and fruit trees. They are slow-moving and can easily be caught by hand, as unpleasant as that may be. Suggestion: wear gloves because they also emit a foul odor when squished.

Ants 

Ants ruin picnics but can also kill grass. Use chemical products specifically formulated for ants and apply only to ant hills. Also, be sure to keep kids and pets off the lawn until the product has been well watered into the soil and then dried.   

Chinch bugs 

Chinch bugs greedily feed on grass almost immediately after they hatch, and their gluttonous behavior can destroy a lawn. To determine if you have chinch bugs, cut off both ends of a can and press into the soil in an area where the dying grass meets healthy grass. Fill the can with water. If you have chinch bugs, they will float to the surface in about 10 minutes. 

To quell the infestation, apply commercial insecticides but use judiciously as they are harmful to you and your pets. Use preventative pesticides in April to early June to reduce continuing generations. Also, fertilizing and dethatching assist in chinch bug resistance.  

Cutworms 

They designate weedy areas or vegetable plants as their local ‘restaurant.’ To control them, practice diligent weed and debris control. Repeated applications of bacillus thuringiensis spp. Kurstaki (BTK) will effectively eliminate the voracious youngsters. 

Sod webworms 

Sod webworms are the larvae of the white or gray moth and feed at night on rainy days. As the infestation becomes more serious, irregular and ragged patches will appear on your lawn. If there’s a severe infestation, flocks of birds will feast on your lawn. If you need to resort to chemical control, only certain insecticides are available to a homeowner. 

Pro tip: For further information regarding pests or bug control, contact the University of Connecticut Home and Garden Education Center. Otherwise, reach out to your local landscape professional who can assist with the proper application.

Ground ivy
Ground ivy | Andrew Coombes | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

5.  Weed away

Weeds are not only unsightly, they can choke out grass. Your job is to remove these suffocating, unwanted guests. 

Some of the most commons weeds common to the Bridgeport area include:

  • Ground ivy
  • Annual bluegrass
  • Crabgrass
  • Henbit
  • Nutsedge
  • Prickly lettuce
  • Broadleaf plantain
  • Dandelion       

Using herbicides

In early spring, diligently apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent an invasion. If weeds have already made an appearance, treat the affected area  with a post-emergent herbicide:

  • Read label instructions carefully
  • Do not use on a windy day
  • Do not mow two to three days before application
  • Allow three to four days after treatment before mowing
  • Do not irrigate within 24 hours of application

Additional weed prevention tips  

  • Cover bare spots with soil to prevent weeds from emerging
  • Where applicable, spread mulch 
  • If you decide to manually remove weeds, slice through roots with a sharp knife
  • Chop off heads of annual weeds
  • Pull out weeds when ground is wet
  • If you are wary of chemicals, try a natural weed killer

Pro tip: The best overall method to prevent weeds from flourishing is to maintain a healthy lawn. Lawns require sufficient moisture, fertilization, and routine mowing.  

illustration showing how aeration works and the benefits of aerating soil

6.  Aerate, if necessary

Aeration removes small plugs of soil or punches the soil with small holes to allow deep penetration of nutrients, water, and oxygen. This promotes a strong root system that can stand up to pests, drought, and disease. LawnLove has an excellent, comprehensive guide to aeration.

Here is the short version:

Aeration is usually done in the fall for cool-season grasses and might be necessary in the spring if your lawn gets heavy foot, equipment, and vehicle traffic; has dense, compacted soil; or thatch buildup. 

Aerating in the March-to-May growing season also provides for quick recovery after winter damage. Do not wait until summer, however, when cool-season grasses experience heat stress and will not be able to recover easily from aeration.                                             

Types of aeration

There are two types of aeration:

Core aeration

Core aeration is preferred by many lawn care professionals as it is most effective in extracting small plugs and loosening up the soil. There are three types of core aerators:

  • Manual core aerator
  • Gas-powered core aerator      
  • Tow-behind aerator

Spike aeration

Spike aeration is basically core aeration minus the hollow cores. If core aeration is like using a hole puncher on paper, then spike aeration is like poking through the paper with the tips of scissors. When you spike aerate, no soil is removed. It loosens soil and reduces compaction in the short term, but it increases compaction in the long run. 

Types of aerators

Pitchforks

  • Best suited for very small lawns with mild compaction
  • Priced from $25 to $60
  • Only available for purchase

Spike aeration shoes

  • Only for very small areas
  • Time-consuming method
  • Priced from $10 to $20

Rolling push aerators

  • Works well for a small, mildly compacted area
  • Requires muscle to operate
  • Priced from $40 to $65
  • Available for rent

Tow-behind aerators

  • Excellent for larger lawns with mild to moderate compaction
  • Priced from about $100 to $175
  • Available for purchase

Gas-powered aerators

  • Well-suited for medium to large lawns
  • Effective for moderate to high soil compaction
  • Priced from $2,000 to over $5,000
  • Available for rent

If the idea of aeration becomes mind-boggling or if you don’t have the proper tools, especially if your soil is densely compacted, consider calling your local landscape professionals for expert assistance. 

7.  Overseed, if necessary

Typically, cool-season grasses are overseeded in the fall when the temperature provides ideal conditions for germination. However, spring serves as an alternate season if your lawn shows signs of thinning or patches of brown. Be sure your soil temperature is above 50 degrees to allow for proper germination.

Spring reseeding might compete with weed invasion, so consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide. Connecticut has approved Tupersan and Tenacity for residential use. 

Before you reseed, you’ll need to know which variety of cool-season grass is already growing in your yard.  If you require assistance identifying the type of cool-season grass in your yard, contact your local extension office.  

How to overseed              

  • Start by dethatching and aerating
  • Mow the lawn to an inch or shorter
  • Rake any debris
  • Loosen the top layer of soil       
  • Add topsoil
  • Spread the seed       
  • Spread a lawn starter fertilizer
  • Water generously
  • Avoid mowing or heavy traffic until grass is one to two inches tall
illustration explaining thatch on grass

8.  Dethatch 

Cool-season grasses might require dethatching in early spring or early fall, prior to peak growth.  Generally, fall would be your prime time to dethatch when grasses are actively growing and eagerly absorbing nutrients to prepare for the onslaught of an upcoming winter.  

Thatch is a compacted layer of dead and living grass shoots, stems, and roots accumulated above the soil at the base of the grass blades. A layer thinner than a half inch thick protects your lawn against temperature fluctuations. However, left to pile up to more than a half-inch thick, thatch can smother a lawn, stifle air and water flow into the grass, and serve as a habitat for pests and diseases.

To determine if you have a too-thick layer, push a screwdriver into your grass. If the spongy layer of matter between your grass and ground is over a half-inch thick, you’ll need to dethatch.  

If your lawn exhibits the following, it might need to be dethatched:

  • Balding spots
  • Weed and insect invasion
  • Lackluster color
  • Signs of fungus
  • Drooping grass blades  

How to dethatch

There are a number of tools available to scratch thatch out of your lawn effectively.

Manual dethatchers/thatch rakes are inexpensive but labor-intensive. This type of dethatcher is best for small lawns with mild thatch problems.

Electric dethatchers work well for medium lawns with mild to moderate thatch problems.

Power rakes are well-suited for larger lawns with serious thatch problems.

Vertical mowers/verticutters are ideal for large lawns with serious thatch problems.

Soil pH - Soil in a man's hand
Ragga Muffin | Pexels

9.  Test soil before fertilizing

Even if you fertilized in the fall, your lawn might crave a ‘top off’ of fertilizer after being blanketed with snow and ice during the Connecticut winter. But before you grab that fertilizer bag, you’ll need to test your soil to determine the proper ratio of essential nutrients required specifically for your lawn. 

Every fertilizer bag states a ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This is referred to as the NPK ratio. For example, 15-5-10 means the bag contains 15% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 10% potassium.  

Fertilizer is important because it assists with healthy growth, encourages density and strength, enhances the luster and color of the lawn, and helps with absorption of essential nutrients.

Obtaining a soil sample

  • Dig straight down about fix to six inches into the soil
  • Gather up to 20 samples
  • Sample different areas separately
  • Place samples in a sealed, plastic bag and notate the area 

Pro tip:  Your local extension office can provide a soil test kit and explicit instructions on how to obtain and conduct the test. Soil test kits might also be available at your local garden center.  

How to fertilize  

  • Moisten lawn with at least one inch of water three days before application
  • Start at the perimeter; go up and down, then left to right
  • Cover the entire area
  • Water again with about ¼ inch 
  • Maintain a regular watering schedule                                
  • Do not overwater; grass should be dry before irrigation

10.  Water well

Before you switch on those sprinklers, the ground temperature needs to be consistently above freezing. Soil thermometers, priced around $10, are readily available online or in a gardening center. 

When you’re ready to start watering, remember that the keys are knowing when and how much to water. Lawn Love has a first-rate guide for watering:

When to water 

  • If grass is looking droopy, dull green, or lackluster
  • If your footprints are visible when you walk across the lawn
  • Early morning, between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m., before the sun blazes and causes evaporation
  • Do not water in evenings; moisture clinging to grass blades can result in disease

How much to water

  • About 1 to 1 ½ inches of water weekly per square foot
  • Water deeply and infrequently; not frequently and shallow
  • Water uniformly
  • Lay empty tuna or cat food cans on the lawn and time how long it takes until there’s an inch of water in the can
  • Water running into the street or down the gutter indicates you might need to adjust your sprinkler heads to ensure effective coverage

Pro tip:  The screwdriver test is a simple way to determine if your lawn needs a drink.   Push a screwdriver into the soil about two inches. If it comes out dry, you need to water.  

Mowing lawn
Magic K | Pexels

11.  Know how to mow

Garden experts and researchers might disagree slightly on the exact mowing height for the different types of cool-season grasses. However, there are some universally accepted mowing guidelines that cannot be denied:       

  • A sharp blade is a must. Dull blades shred grass leaves, leaving them vulnerable to disease  
  • Air temperatures must be consistently 40 degrees and above before mowing.
  • Mow a minimum of once a week.
  • Grass must be dry. If you mow on wet grass, ruts can result. Also, matted, wet grass might clog the mower.
  • As summer approaches, mow on the taller side to promote survival.  
  • Follow the one-third rule.  Do not cut off more than one-third of the grass height. This will reduce stress and promote a healthy lawn.   

Final thought

Sometimes you want to start over, or perhaps you want to reseed your lawn with a different variety of grass. Lawn Love has a terrific guide to the 5 Best Grass Types for Bridgeport, as well as a Fall Lawn Care Checklist.

For more help

Following these steps is important for giving your lawn a strong head start to the growing season. You should also consider using a lawn pro to assess your grass and help you create a strategy for achieving and keeping a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Main photo credit: User:Magicpiano | Wikimedia Commons |

Liz Chojnacki

Liz Chojnacki is a multimedia writer -- blog posts, radio scripts, bios, photo captions, catalogs, and much more. She also enjoys putting pen to paper. She has had the privilege and pleasure of gardening in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, New Mexico, South Africa, and now Florida. Liz resides in Florida with her husband and three dogs.