10 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Denver

Person using a shovel to add mulch from a large pile into an orange wheelbarrow

When spring hits the Mile High City, Denver homeowners are ready to bring out the power rake, run the aerator, and whip on the Fitbit. With snow still possible in early spring, it isn’t until late April or May when we can start to think about getting our yard work workout. 

Even though cool-season grasses need most maintenance in the fall, there are a few ways we can still prepare our Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue lawns for the summer ahead. From raking the turf to testing the soil, we can start crossing off the honey-do list (and start burning some calories). 

Here is our list of 10 spring lawn care tips for Denver:

  1. Rake deeply
  2. Test the soil
  3. Start up the irrigation system
  4. Fertilize if you need to
  5. Skip dethatching and aeration
  6. Delay overseeding
  7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide
  8. Clean the gutters
  9. Apply fresh mulch
  10. Start up the mower

1. Rake deeply

rake on spotty, dry grass
Kate Ter Haar | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Just like we look a bit disheveled after a long nap, our turf looks a bit shabby after long winter dormancy. Grab the rake from the tool shed and give your grass a good comb. Raking helps gather up all that winter litter, including acorns, twigs, leaves, branches, and thatch. 

What’s thatch? Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that accumulates between the soil and the grass. A tiny bit of thatch can be good for the lawn because it helps retain moisture in the soil. 

But thatch over ½-inch thick should be removed because it blocks water, nutrients, and oxygen from reaching the roots. Rake the lawn after winter to help prevent thatch buildup.

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2. Test the soil

Growing grass isn’t always smooth sailing. You might think adding fertilizer will speed things along, but adding the wrong amount can harm your turf. 

A good rule of thumb? Test –– don’t guess. 

Soil is a vital part of your lawn’s health. A soil test will identify your soil’s nutrient deficiencies, salt levels, and pH levels and how you can enhance it with the proper amendments, treatments, and fertilizers. The better you know your soil, the better you can take care of your lawn. 

A soil test also reveals what type of soil is in your Denver yard. According to the Colorado State University Extension, many areas in Colorado have heavy clay soil. This soil type makes it difficult for oxygen to reach the roots, making core aeration an essential soil treatment.

3. Start up the irrigation system

close-up of a sprinkler head with water coming out of it
Anton | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

As long as you remember to winterize the irrigation system in fall, everything should be in working order come spring. Otherwise, you’ll face burst pipes and broken sprinkler heads. Spring is the time to start up the irrigation system again and quench your turf’s thirst. 

How much should I water my lawn? It depends on many factors, including the type of grass you have, soil conditions, temperature, and weather. Most lawns need 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week, but this can vary. The amount of water your Denver lawn needs won’t necessarily be what your neighbor’s lawn needs. 

Pro Tip: It’s best to water your lawn infrequently for long periods instead of frequently for short periods. Infrequent, deep watering helps promote a strong root system, while frequent shallow watering encourages a weak root system. The best time to water is before 10 a.m.

4. Fertilize … only if you really need to

Fertilizing your Colorado lawn with nitrogen March through April might not be necessary if you fertilized the previous fall. Fall is typically the best time to fertilize cool-season grasses. Why? Because the summer heat drains the turf of the vital nutrients it needs to grow healthy in fall. 

Why you want to be careful with spring applications: Cool-season turfs experience rapid shoot growth in spring. The Kansas State University Extension warns that fertilizing before this rapid growth is over could cause cool-season grass to grow too fast. Growing too fast depletes the grass of its nutrients, leaving it with little fuel to survive the summer. The extension recommends delaying spring fertilization until the rapid growth is over, typically in early May.

For May to mid-June applications, the CSU Extension recommends applying ½ to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn area for: 

  • Tall fescue
  • Fine fescue
  • Low-maintenance bluegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • Blue grama
  • Bermudagrass

For high-maintenance bluegrass and ryegrass, the extension recommends applying 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

5. Skip dethatching and aeration

Graphic explaining thatch on grass

While some lawns may need thatch removal and aeration as much as twice a year, many lawns only need annual treatment. If your yard needs these treatments only once per year, we recommend delaying these lawn care chores till fall. 

Why fall? Your cool-season turf will need to heal after the summer heat and prepare for winter. Removing excess thatch and relieving any soil compaction that developed over summer will help your turf grow strong for winter. 

Another reason to delay these lawn care chores is so you can time them along with overseeding. Overseeding is another fall chore, and dethatching and aeration are great ways to prepare the soil for new grass seed. 

Pro Tip: Avoid these invasive treatments in summer. Your cool-season grass is not actively growing in summer, which means it will have difficulty healing after core aeration or thatch removal.

6. Delay overseeding

Sorry –– we know you were excited for more ways to get your 10,000 daily steps in, but overseeding is another chore you can delay this spring. 

It’s OK to overseed in spring, but fall does have its advantages. Autumn temperatures are typically more ideal for germination. And because aeration and dethatching are typically done in fall, your grass seed will have a better chance of taking root in the newly exposed soil. 

7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide

Pesky weeds will take advantage of your lawn any time of the year. They compete with your turf for space, nutrients, water, and oxygen, compromising the health of your lawn. Weeds also make an excellent hideout for pests and diseases. 

You’re probably thinking, “Weeds in my lawn? No, thanks.” Help prevent these invaders from cropping up this spring by applying a pre-emergent herbicide. If the weeds are already growing in your lawn, you’ll want to use a post-emergent herbicide instead. 

Remember to read the product’s instructions before application.

8. Clean the gutters

Man on a ladder, cleaning out house gutters
Nannette Turner | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

An easy way to earn those zone minutes is by cleaning the gutters. You’re already outside working on the lawn, so what’s one more chore on the list?

Gutters are usually clogged to the brim in spring from old autumn leaves. Ignoring the debris for too long could lead to water damage to your home, so it’s important to clean the gutters sooner rather than later. Dirty gutters are an eyesore and will lower your home’s curb appeal. 

9. Apply fresh mulch

Spreading mulch is sure to work up a sweat, and your flower beds and vegetable garden could probably do with a fresh layer. Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, deters weed growth, regulates soil temperatures, minimizes erosion, and even adds nutrients to the soil (if organic). In general, 2 inches of mulch is enough for your flowers and veggies. 

Apply mulch mid to late spring. Mulching too early will prevent the cold soil from warming up, causing delayed plant growth. Mulch applied too soon also makes it difficult for plants to sprout. 

Have an old mulch layer from last winter? Use a rake to fluff up the old mulch before adding a new layer. Loosening the old mulch helps prevent it from matting. 

10. Start up the mower

Red lawn mower, mowing grass and weeds

Once your spring lawn starts to grow, it’s time for the first mow. The CSU Extension recommends a 2 ½ to 3-inch mowing height for all Colorado grass species. 

Remember not to cut more than ⅓ of your grass’s height during a single mow. For example, if the grass is 3 inches tall, don’t cut off more than 1 inch. Cutting too much at once can stress your turf. 

Spring lawn care sows summer strength

Spring lawn care may not be as demanding as fall lawn care, but it certainly is essential to your lawn’s health. 

It’s tempting to go overboard in spring with overseeding, aeration, dethatching, and fertilizing, but save a majority of those chores for fall. If you want your cool-season grass to survive the stressful summer, don’t wear it out in spring with too much renovation.

But that doesn’t mean spring is the time to ignore your lawn. You still need to soil test, mulch, apply some fertilizer if your lawn needs it, and mow. 

Don’t want to waste your strength doing spring yard work? We get it. Hire a lawn care professional near you to do the hard work for you. Your lawn will still stand strong in summer, and you’ll have time to enjoy your favorite local breweries and concerts. It’s a win-win.

Main Photo Credit: Greta Hoffman | Pexels

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is an artist, writer, and nature lover. She enjoys teaching readers about the importance of eco-friendly lawn care, integrated pest management, biodiversity, and sustainable landscaping.