Spring can’t get here soon enough in Hartford. Once you’ve shoveled 38 inches of snow out of your New England driveway, you start to miss the good ol’ days of warm weather yard work. But before you get too excited about maintaining your spring lawn, it isn’t until late spring (and even late summer) that we can start most of the dirty work.
Our 10 spring lawn care tips for Hartford will show you where (and when) to begin. From raking the turf to testing the soil, it’s time to wake up your cool-season lawn from its winter hibernation and get it ready for the warm summer ahead.
- Rake deeply
- Test the soil
- Fertilize (but only if you need to)
- Turn up the irrigation system
- Skip dethatching and aeration
- To overseed or not to overseed?
- Apply pre-emergent herbicide
- Run the lawn mower
- Apply fresh mulch
- Clean the gutters
1. Rake deeply
Your spring lawn might look a bit messy after months of freezing temperatures and sitting underneath snow covers. Grab your garden rake and give your turf a thorough comb. Loosen matted grass to promote new growth and rake up winter debris that might be harboring pests and disease.
Raking deeply also minimizes thatch buildup in your lawn. Thatch is the layer of living and dead organic matter that accumulates between the soil’s surface and the grass blades. A thatch layer less than ½ inch thick can do some good for your lawn, but a thicker layer can be unhealthy for your turf.
If your turf has become subject to gray or pink snow mold, your rake can be a helpful remedy. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recommends raking the affected areas to repair matted grass, remove plant debris, and stimulate new growth.
2. Test the soil
Once your dormant Hartford lawn starts to look some shade of green, throwing fertilizer on it is tempting. But sometimes, fertilizers can do your yard more harm than good.
The best way to determine a healthy fertilizer regime for your lawn is to conduct a soil test. A soil test can reveal many factors regarding your soil and lawn’s health. A soil test can show you:
- Nutrient deficiencies in the soil
- The soil’s salt levels
- pH imbalances
- Recommended fertilizers and soil amendments that can enhance the soil and ensure healthy turf growth
You can perform your own soil test with an at-home soil test kit, or you can send a soil sample to a lab. The University of Connecticut Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory offers soil testing to farmers, greenhouse growers, and Connecticut homeowners. Keep in mind that a soil test performed in a lab will often provide the most details about your soil.
3. Fertilize (but only if you need to)
After completing a soil test, you should have a firm understanding of the fertilizer treatment your lawn needs to stay healthy.
You may find that your lawn is healthy enough without any fertilizer at all, or it may only need one application of fertilizer per year. If that’s the case, the best time to apply fertilizer to a cool-season Hartford lawn is in late summer or early fall, which means you can skip your fertilizer chores this spring.
On the other hand, if your lawn needs two or more fertilizer applications, the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Extension warns against applying fertilizer in early spring before the grass has had a chance to grow.
It’s best not to fertilize in early spring because the grass is using stored carbohydrates to grow. Adding fertilizer could cause the grass to experience an unhealthy growth surge. It’s better to fertilize your cool-season turf in late spring after your turf has greened up and used its own resources.
4. Turn on the irrigation system
If you were diligent about your fall lawn care, your winterized irrigation system should have survived the freezing temperatures. Once the threat of frost has passed, it’s time to turn on the sprinkler system and quench your turf’s thirst. Here in Hartford, the last frost typically occurs sometime in May.
How much water does my lawn need? Most established lawns need 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. Dormant lawns typically need ½ inch of water per week. However, the amount of irrigation water your grass requires per week depends on many factors, such as precipitation levels, wind, your lawn’s slope, air temperature, and your turf’s drought tolerance.
How often should I water my lawn? A helpful way to determine irrigation frequency is to pay close attention to the lawn’s visible symptoms of thirst. Visual cues include wilting grass and a blue-greyish appearance. Following your grass’s lead ensures you don’t overwater your lawn.
Another rule of thumb is to water your lawn infrequently for long periods. Doing so helps promote a deep and healthy root system because the roots are encouraged to spread in search of more water. Watering too frequently and for short periods creates a weak and shallow root system.
What time of day should I water my lawn? The best time to water the lawn is in the early morning before 10 a.m., ideally before 8 a.m. Water past 10 a.m. and the rising sun will quickly evaporate your water. Avoid watering your lawn in the evenings. The sun may be going down, but tiny droplets of water can cling onto the blade overnight, creating an attractive environment for pests and disease.
5. Skip dethatching and aeration
Spring might be in the air, but it’s not the best time for invasive treatments like dethatching and aeration. These chores are best left until late summer or early fall.
Here’s why: Autumn is cool-season turf’s active growing season. When the turf is actively growing, it does a better job repairing itself than when it’s dormant. Aeration and thatch removal are invasive treatments, and your turf is going to need plenty of strength to heal.
So, if you were already on your way to a home improvement store to rent an aerator and verticutter, you might want to turn back.
6. To overseed or not to overseed?
Whether or not you overseed this spring depends on the state of your lawn. Overseeding is the spreading of new grass seed over an existing lawn. It’s an excellent way to minimize patches and create carpeted, thick turf.
The best time to overseed your Harford lawn is late summer through early fall, at least 45 days before the first frost. Autumn temperatures and moisture levels are ideal for seed germination, and fall is the active growing season of cool-season grasses.
Spring is not the optimal time to plant new grass seed, but sometimes it’s necessary here in Hartford. A common reason why Connecticut homeowners choose to overseed in spring is to remedy winter salt damage from salted sidewalks and roads. The UCONN Extension recommends overseeding with fescues where salt damage is a chronic problem.
7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide
Weeds are no good for your spring lawn. They compete with your grass for nutrients, water, and oxygen. As weeds deplete your turf of its valuable resources, your grass becomes susceptible to pests, diseases, and more weeds.
Put a stop to these invaders with a pre-emergent herbicide, a chemical barrier that prevents weed seeds from germinating.
What are post-emergent herbicides? Unlike pre-emergent herbicide, which only targets weeds before they’ve grown, a post-emergent herbicide eliminates established weeds.
A note about herbicides: Avoid overseeding and applying herbicides near the same time. Herbicide can prevent your grass seed from growing the same way it halts weed growth. You may need to wait to overseed several weeks after an herbicide application or until a later season.
Remember: Excessive weed growth isn’t a common problem for healthy lawns. If several weeds are cropping up in your yard, there may be an underlying issue that an herbicide alone cannot remedy.
8. Run the lawn mower
Once your turfgrass begins to grow, it’s time to bring out the lawn mower. Make sure your mower blades are sharp, as a dull blade will rip your grass instead of cleanly cutting it. Keeping your lawn well maintained this spring will help keep away pests and disease, ensuring its strength this summer.
The number one rule to follow when mowing your turf is the one-third rule. Avoid cutting more than one-third of your turf’s length during a single mow, as this can harm and stress your turf. For example, if you want to cut your turf down to 2 inches, you should cut the lawn before it exceeds 3 inches.
9. Apply fresh mulch
A beautiful lawn won’t make much of an impression on the Harford neighbors if unhealthy flower beds surround it. Spruce up your flower beds with health-boosting, eye-catching mulch.
Mulch offers your garden beds many benefits. Mulch:
- Retains moisture
- Regulates soil temperatures
- Minimizes erosion
- Prevents weeds
- Adds textured beauty
- Highlights your flowers
- Enhances soil nutrients (if organic)
When to mulch: The best time to mulch is mid to late spring when the soil temperatures are no longer freezing. Mulch acts as an insulator, so applying mulch too early could hinder the soil from warming up and delay your spring bloom. You also don’t want to mulch before your flowers have had a chance to sprout because a thick layer of mulch might block new growth.
10. Clean the gutters
While you’re outside soaking up the sun, why not add one more chore to the list? Your gutters are likely overflowing with winter debris that’s distracting passersby from your manicured lawn. Clogged gutters also invite pests, small nesting animals, and water damage.
If cleaning gutters isn’t how you want to spend your weekend, consider hiring a pro to take the job off your hands.
Give your Hartford lawn just the right amount of love
When you’re bundled up indoors during Connecticut’s freezing winter, a warm sunny day on the riding mower sure sounds inviting. But as the snow melts away and the birds begin to sing, you don’t want to smother your Hartford lawn with too much TLC this spring.
Give your lawn just enough care to prepare it for summer, but not so much that your turf weakens due to too much stress. Turning on the irrigation system, raking up snow mold, and overseeding salt-damaged areas are excellent ways to prepare your lawn for summer. On the other hand, chores like aeration, thatch removal, and early-spring fertilizer can put stress on your cool-season turf.
Want more time with family and less time in the yard? Don’t enjoy getting your hands dirty? Call up a Hartford local lawn care pro to do the hard work for you, such as mulching, fertilizing, and mowing. While your pro plants your black-eyed Susans, enjoy a family meal at Hartford’s Black-Eyed Sally’s.
Main Photo Credit: Jonathan Lidbeck | Flickr | CC BY 2.0