During the chilly months, your grass may look sound asleep above ground, but below the surface is a hub of activity. For a healthy spring lawn, follow these quick and easy tips before winter hits:
Remove dead leaves and debris that cut off vital sunlight
- Don't begin raking until your grass is done growing. Your leaves can be mowed over and turned into mulch for non-dormant grass. But once the grass-growing season is over, it's time to face the leaves.
- Some leaves should be left alone. These include leaves in cool areas (under trees, around shrubs etc.,) that naturally compost while improving the tree's health and growth rate. This will also decrease the amount of mulch you'll need to buy and spread in the spring.
Open up your lawn so that it can take in more oxygen and nutrients
- Rent (from a local garden or rental center) or purchase an aerator.
- Make it a team effort: Cut costs by renting with your neighbors and spread out the use of the machine.
- Make sure the aerator you select has hollow tines (or spoons) so that the soil can be brought to the service. Heavier aerators allow for deeper soil penetration.
- Water your lawn in the days prior to aeration. This allows the aerator to penetrate more easily, and enables the soil clumps to more easily fall from the machine.
- Aerating too quickly after a heavy rain is a mistake though, too, and should be avoided.
- Leave soil "cores" on the surface of the lawn, where they will work back into the ground over time.
- Aerate in multiple directions.
- Be aware of shallow septic lines, underground utilities and marked or unmarked cables.
Choose a fertilizer high in nitrogen and potassium
- Develop a schedule for fertilization of "slow release" products that allow the soil to feast on nutrients at it's own pace. Home improvement stores have a variety of these products, and most come with detailed fertilization schedules and product recommendations.
- Be sure to follow on-bag instructions vigilantly. Different fertilization products are used depending upon the type of grass in your lawn.
- Use a broadcast spreader to fertilize. This allows the product to be dispersed more evenly. Avoid filling the spreader on the lawn, as an accidental spill of fertilizer will scar your lawn with "grass-burn."
To stimulate the fertilizer and boost root propagation
- When it rains it pours. This adage is advice for watering your lawn. Watering with a large amount of water on an infrequent basis is actually better for your lawn than a steady diet of water. A consistent pattern of watering will prevent your grass from developing a deep root system and will cause your grass to die if a watering restriction is imposed.
- Water at dawn and dusk (and even in the middle of the night) but don't water during hot parts of the day. This is an ineffective use of water as most of the water evaporates before delivering any benefit to your lawn.
- Wait until your lawn has dried from the last watering before proceeding with the next. Pushing a screwdriver or pencil into the ground and experiencing much resistance is an indicator that you can water again.