13 Spring Lawn Care Tips for New Haven

House with large well maintained yard in New Haven, Ct

When you hear that early morning chatter outside your bedroom window, you know spring has arrived. The squirrels squabbling and the birds chirping signal it’s time for you to get your New Haven lawn in shape for the season.  

Cool season grasses can withstand New Haven’s snow and freezing temperatures. However, follow these 13 lawn care steps to revitalize your lawn back to its glorious green:

string trimmer on the ground with a hat on the handlebars
miakihiro0 | Pixabay

1. Equipment maintenance

Similar to a good stretch followed by a hot cup of coffee to get your morning going, your equipment also yearns for some TLC after a long winter storage. Here are some general guidelines to make sure your mower, weed eater, leaf blower, and chainsaw are all in good working condition:

Gas mower:

  • Dust or scrub off left-over grass clippings or other debris
  • Check and change oil
  • Gas up
  • Change spark plug (plug needs changing after about every 100 hours of usage)
  • Clean or replace the air filter
  • Check tire pressure
  • Sharpen or replace blade

Pro Tip: Sharp blades are imperative. Dull blades can damage the grass and result in bruising and discoloration.  

Electric push mowers:

  • Remove any debris 
  • Inspect all screws, nuts, and bolts
  • Check for frayed wires
  • Lubricate the wheels
  • Replace or sharpen blades
  • Fully charge the battery

Weed wacker:

  • Brush off any dirt, grass or debris
  • Wash off and dry the handle and deck
  • Wash or replace the filter
  • Clean spark arrestor
  • Clean or replace spark plug
  • Make sure the string head has the correct amount of string

Leaf blower:

  • Dust off any debris 
  • Wash or replace air filter
  • Inspect hose for any cracks
  • Clean or replace spark plug
  • Tighten bolts, screws, and fasteners
  • Change oil for gas blowers; make sure battery is fully charged for electric blowers

Chain saw:

  • Remove excess gas and replace with stabilized gas
  • Replace spark plug
  • Replace air filter
  • Sharpen blade if necessary (might want to consider taking it to a professional)
  • Oil the chain
  • Check to make sure chain is securely on

Pro Tip: Your safety is key when using a chainsaw.  Wear tight-fitting, goggles, cut-resistant chaps, protective gloves, and durable work boots (preferably steel-toed).  

Clean and disinfect gardening tools and containers to prevent any transference of disease. Technically, you should have given them a good scrub before storage. However, it’s still good practice to clean them as you move from plant to plant, bush to bush. Scrub with a stiff brush followed by washing with a dish detergent and water. Also, wash your pots and other garden containers.      

As with your mower blades, your cutting tools should be razor sharp. This simple sharpening task provides a smooth, precise cut when trimming. A shovel or garden spade also glides more easily through soil and roots.

Man raking leaves
photosharing | Pixabay

2. Yard cleanup

A New Haven winter of snow and ice causes havoc on the lawn. Broken branches, heavy leaf piles, and other debris just might be scattered about. Not only is debris messy and unattractive, but left to rot and fester, pests and diseases might result.  

Also, certain cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, might have experienced salt damage over the winter. Those patchy brown areas need to be flushed out with about 6 inches of water.   

large, circular brown patch on grass
Brown patch | Scot Nelson | Flickr | public domain

3. Eliminate dreaded diseases

Once the heavy winter white blanket melts and green starts to show, it’s time to deal with disease. Snow mold is most common with cool-season grasses, such as those in New Haven. Don’t be surprised if your Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue are throwing off some funky, colored patches.

 Here are common lawn diseases you might encounter:

  • Pink snow mold grows on the outer edges of patches and casts a reddish/orange hue.  This mold might just completely kill off your grass. To remove, rake the affected area to increase air circulation.
  • Gray snow mold manifests itself in a location where the last of the snow has melted.  Lucky you if this is the mold on your lawn as it will not kill the grass. Rake and overseed as soon as possible.
  • Brown patch disease produces ugly spots of brown or brownish/gray, usually in late spring. A fungicide of triadimefon, myclobutanil, PCNB, maneb, thiophanate-methyl, or propiconazole should take care of this issue.
  • Dollar spot generates yellowish-colored areas in the lawn. This disease is stubborn and can be resistant to pesticides. The three-fold solution is to apply nitrogen fertilizer, remove thatch, and apply compost.     
  • Powdery mildew causes a film of white powder-like substance on leaves. Difficult to control, so a preventative herbicide is recommended. 
  • Fairy ring is a harmful ring of mushrooms which can range from a couple of inches to several feet. Rake away the mushrooms and follow up with aeration. Next, water and fertilize with nitrogen. If you have a serious fairy ring issue, you’ll need to completely remove the infected area and overseed.
  • Red thread shows up as circular, pinkish-red patches that infect the grass. This disease is mostly cosmetic, but an application of nitrogen fertilizer would assist with recovery.
  • Leaf spots and melting out show symptoms of small red and purple spots on leaf blades. Also, patches of weakened or dead turf could result. Although not considered a deadly threat, apply a compounded fungicide spray of azoxystrobin, iprodione, mancozeb, propiconazole, and thiophanate methyl, registered specifically for Connecticut      
close-up of a white grub in dirt
White grub | Patty O’Hearn Kickham | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

4. Get rid of pesky pests

The delightful warmth of the spring air awakens nature. Flowers bloom, trees grow leaves, and baby animals are born. However, that previously snow-covered landscape can now house unwanted guests.

Here are some invaders you might encounter:

  • White grubs emerge in the spring to feed on grass roots. These unsightly creatures are also attractive to raccoons, birds, and moles. Consequently, all this activity stunts grass growth. Products containing chlorantraniliprole can be effective for controlling grubs if applied from April to September. 
  • In the spring, leaf-footed bugs feed on flowers and seeds. While not terribly pleasant, the most effective method of control is physical removal. 
  • Ant mounds and tunneling can result in dead patches of grass. Apply an ant chemical control product only on ant hills.    
  • Chinch bugs reside in the grass just above the soil. These greedy gluttons feed almost immediately after they hatch. Their voracious appetite can devastate a lawn. To determine if you have chinch bugs, push an open-ended empty can into a yellowed patch of grass. Fill the can with soapy water. If they are living in hot grass, they will float to the surface. Use a commercial chemical solution to control infestation. 
  • Cutworms enjoy munching on young plants. They designate weedy areas or vegetable plants as their local hangouts. To control them, practice diligent weed and debris control. Repeated applications of bacillus thuringiensis spp. Kurstaki (BTK) effectively eliminates the young ones that are actively feeding.  
  • If flocks of birds come pecking at your lawn, you just might have a sod webworm infestation. You also might notice patches of uneven grass heights. Apply BTK as mentioned above to control young larvae.  

For further information regarding the existence of lawn pests and the usage of chemical control, you can contact the UConn Home and Garden Education Center at 877-486-6271.  Alternatively, reach out to a local professional lawn service company.  

close-up of crabgrass along the edge of a lawn
Crabgrass | NY State IPM Program at Cornell University | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

5. Weed away

Weeds plague lawns and cozily settle in like unwanted house guests who stay too long. That suffocation you’re feeling from that house guest is what your lawn is suffering. However, it’s probably a lot easier to ‘kick out’ those weeds than your guest.  

Weeds common to Connecticut are:

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

Weeds need to be controlled for the following reasons:

  • Take up garden space
  • Deprive “good” plants from thriving
  • Deplete the soil from water and other nutrients
  • Can house unwanted insects

In early spring, diligently apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent an invasion. If weeds have already emerged, hit them with a post-emergent herbicide.  

Proper way to apply herbicides to your lawn:

  • Carefully read label instructions
  • Do not apply 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
Aeration Machine
Vít Švajcr | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

6. Aerate, if necessary

Typically cool-season grasses should be aerated in the fall. However, aeration in the spring might be required if the following conditions exist:

  • Clay-heavy soil                           
  • Dense, compacted soil
  • Thatch buildup
  • Heavy foot and equipment traffic
  • Spongy feeling lawn

What exactly is aeration? A method of poking small holes in the lawn and removing small plugs of soil.  

Benefits of aeration:

  • Results in deeper and stronger root system
  • Allows soil to more easily absorb nutrients and water
  • Alleviates soil compaction
  • Prevents water runoff
  • Assists with healthy lawn growth
  • Flattens out bumps in the lawn

How to aerate:   

  • Plug or core aeration removes plugs from the soil
  • Spike aerator pokes holes in the lawn

3 types of core aerators:

  • Manual 
  • Gas-powered
  • Tow-behind 

Manual core aerators are ideal for small lawns with mild to moderate soil compaction or just a small spot in need of aeration. They are moderately priced from about $30 to $125 and not available for rental.

Gas-powered core aerators are well suited for medium to large lawns with moderate to high soil compaction. Considered the “big boy” of aerators, they are priced from $2,000 to over $5,000. However, they are available for rental.

Tow-behind core aerators are best for larger lawns with moderate to severe compaction. These models range from $100 to $300 and are available to rent.  

4 types of spike aerators:

  • Pitchforks                                              
  • Spike aeration shoes
  • Rolling push aerators
  • Tow-behind spike aerators

Pitchforks work well for very small lawns with mild soil compaction. You might even have one in your garage or tool shed. Otherwise, they are quite reasonably priced from $35 to $60.  

Basically spiked aeration shoes live up to the adage “You get what you pay for.” They are inexpensive ($10 to $20), but time-consuming, and not very effective.  

Rolling push aerators work well for small lawns with slightly compacted lawns. They are available to rent or purchase from $40 to $65. 

Tow-behind spike aerators work well on larger lawns and even fields with mild to moderate compaction. You’ll have to purchase one though ($100-$175) as they aren’t available to rent.

If aeration seems too expensive, time-consuming, or you just plain don’t want to deal with it, you can easily recruit a professional landscaping contractor to take this job off your hands.  

illustration showing the best time for overseeding on the US map,

7. Overseed, if needed

Cool-season grasses benefit from autumn overseeding as the temperatures are ideal for germination. Spring is also a good time to overseed. If your lawn shows signs of “balding” or patches of brown, then go for it! But, get it done by the end of March or early April, before the summer heat bakes your lawn.  

How to overseed:                            

  • Mow to a height of 1.5 to 2 inches         
  • Dethatch 
  • Aerate to ensure seed germination
  • Apply compost 
  • Fertilize (only if your soil test reveals that is necessary)
  • Spread the seed
  • Water once or twice a day to maintain moisture

Need to know more about overseeding? Get answers easily by contacting your local extension office.    

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

8. Fertilize, but test soil first

If you already fertilized around Labor Day, there’s a good chance you’ll not need to do so again in the spring. However, your lawn just might require a touch up after being bombarded with snow and ice during a New Haven winter. 

Pro Tip: If you do apply fertilizer in spring, slow-release fertilizers minimize excess growth.

One vitally important step before fertilizer application is a soil test which will determine the proper ratio of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This is referred to as the N-P-K ratio. Every fertilizer bag features this ratio. For example, 10-5-10 means the bag contains 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 10% potassium.  

Consult with your local extension office for explicit instructions on how to obtain and conduct the test. Soil test kits also might be available at your local garden center. 

Here are some guidelines on how to obtain a sample:

  • Dig approximately 6 inches into the soil with a small garden shovel
  • Collect 10-20 samples 
  • Use dry samples only
  • Collect about 2 cups
  • Place in a waterproof bag or container
  • Send or take samples to your local soil testing office

Why fertilizer is important:        

  • Nurtures growth
  • Sustains density
  • Enhances color
  • Assists in storage of essential nutrients
  • Wards off turf stress from heat, drought, and cold
  • Reduces water runoff
  • Aids in management of weeds, diseases, and insects

Proper fertilizer tools:

  • Lawn spreader
  • Lawn sprayer

A lawn spreader works best for granular slow-release lawn fertilizers while sprayers mist liquid fertilizers.  


  • Irrigate with 1 inch of water three days before application
  • Apply fertilizer starting at the perimeter
  • Proceed up and down, then left to right
  • Be sure to cover the entire area
  • Water to about ¼ inch of water
  • Maintain a regular watering schedule
  • Grass should be dry before rewatering
Woman sits by grass to dethatch lawn
Jay Cross | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

9. Dethatch, if needed         

Thatch is a tightly woven layer of both dead and living grass shoots, stems, and roots which accumulates above the soil at the base of the grass blades. If the layer piles up to more than ½ inch thick, your lawn will smother. A thinner layer actually protects against temperature fluctuations.    

Cool-season grasses might require dethatching in early spring or early fall, prior to peak growth. Generally, fall is the prime season to dethatch.  

To determine if you have thatch, insert a measuring stick or screwdriver into your grass. If the spongy brown layer of matter between your grass and ground is over ½ thick, you need to dethatch. 

Benefits of dethatching:

  • Aids in absorption of fertilizer, nutrients, water, and air
  • Increases soil health
  • Increases root strength and density
  • Reduces possibility of disease, fungus, and pests
  • Reduces puddling, standing water and runoff
  • Controls weeds

Methods to dethatch:

  • Manual dethatcher
  • Electric dethatcher
  • Power Rake
  • Verticutter
Sprinkler Watering Grass
AxxLC | Pixaby

10. Start up sprinkler system

Along with your lawn, your sprinklers were tucked in for the winter and are ready to start spraying. However, the ground temperature needs to be consistently above freezing, probably between mid-April and mid-May.  

How to open your sprinklers:

  • Turn on the manual settings located in the main panel
  • Backflow preventer should be shut
  • Close the sprinkler valve
  • Check for damaged heads and ruptured water lines
  • Slowly fill pipes with water
  • Check each line to make sure water is flowing correctly
  • Set your timers

These are general guidelines for sprinkler systems. It’s recommended that you check your user manual for directions specific to your system. If you are unable to locate it, check the company website.  

Looking up at gutters and downspout along the top of a house
Stilfehler | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

11. Clean the gutters

Fallen limbs, broken branches, and dead leaves could be clogging up your gutters. Before the arrival of April showers, it’s important to give them a thorough inspection and cleaning. If not cleaned and flushed out, the collected rainwater could flood the gutters and downspouts, possibly resulting in water damage to your home.  

How to clean gutters:   

  • Wear waterproof gloves, safety glasses, long pants and long sleeves
  • Place a tarp under the ladder
  • Ladder should be sturdy
  • Attach a small bucket to the ladder
  • Use a small shovel or scoop to collect the debris
  • After debris is removed, flush out with a garden hose

You might want to consider recruiting a family member or neighbor to help steady the ladder.  However, balancing on a ladder with a gushing hose could present a dangerous situation.  Consider calling in a professional gutter cleaning service. 

Happy woman mows learn and happy man sits and smiles at her
Gustavo Fring | Pexels

12. Mow properly

Follow this general guide to mow your cool-season grass:

  • Mowing blade should be newly sharpened
  • Air temperatures must be consistently 40 degrees and above before mowing
  • Mow a minimum of once a week
  • Mow to approximately 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches above soil line

Mowing heights:    

Kentucky bluegrass: 3-3.5 inches

Perennial ryegrass: 2-3 inches

Fine fescue: 2-3 inches

Tall fescue: 2.5-3.5 inches

Pro Tip: Do not cut off more than one-third of the grass height. Follow this practice to reduce stress on the grass and promote a healthy lawn.

Watering Plants
Sarah Dietz | Pexels

13. Water wisely

Water sprays open the door to your lawn’s health and happiness. The optimum time to water is in the morning, before 10 a.m.  It’s cooler, reducing evaporation and water loss.  

Watering later in the day when the hot sun blazes, sprinkling water evaporates which defeats the entire purpose of irrigation. Check the top 2 inches of your soil. If it’s dry, water!  

To determine if you need to water, perform the screwdriver test. Push a screwdriver into the soil about 2 inches deep. If it comes out dry, you need to water the lawn. Also, if your lawn looks a bit peevish, yellowish, and droopy, turn on the sprinklers.  

Cool-season grasses require about 1 ½ inches of water weekly. To determine if your lawn is getting enough water, place empty low cans throughout the yard. Place one close to a sprinkler, one about midway; and another close to the farthest sprinkler. Then place others around your lawn. After a 15-minute sprinkler run, measure the depth in each can, take the average and you’ll be able to determine how long you need to consistently run your sprinklers.   

Mom and toddler walk barefoot in grass
Ben Mack | Pexels

Put a spring in your step

Although your lawn requires spring cleanup, weeding, fertilizing, mowing, and watering, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Your lawn tasks can be solved by contacting one of Lawn Love’s New Haven landscaping companies. They’ll weed away all your problems leaving you with a spring in your step and a lawn that is lush and happy.

Main photo credit: Pixabay | Pexels

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.