As the weather warms up, everyone wants to go outside, so make sure your lawn is in great shape for the upcoming sun-filled months.
Raking: Start by raking the area hard to dislodge any materials that have been left over by the winter such as leaves, thatch, sticks and dead grass. Doing this helps to expose the bare soil. The best time to rake your lawn is after the dormancy period of winter when the grass starts to green up. Dead turf patches in the spring are often the result of winter foot traffic on frozen grass or heavy snow pack that crushes the crowns of the grass. Turf that is severely matted will cause a large build-up of thatch. While some thatch is beneficial, too much of it can destroy your lawn. Decomposed matted turf is a breeding ground for fungus that can spread and infect the rest of your lawn. Use a metal-toothed thatch rake to properly loosen dead, matted turf.
Seeding: Over-seed with the correct type of grass seed for your area. The seed needs to come into direct contact with the soil surface for optimum growth. Prior to seeding, apply a 1-inch thick layer of topsoil into the ground. Use your hands to evenly sprinkle on the grass seed.
Perform a pH Test: Do a pH test to determine if lime is needed. Lime allows the soil to be less favorable for weeds to grow. A pH test determines the amount of acidity and alkalinity within the soil. You can purchase a pH testing kit online or at a garden-themed store. You may want to contact your local county extension office to determine how much lime is needed for your lawn. Fill your lawn spreader with lime, then set the spreader dial on the valve so that an adequate amount of lime will spread over the grass, bringing the pH level to the correct range. With the spreader, start at the outer corner of your lawn, carefully following the edge. Continue working your way back and forth until your lawn is completely covered.
Fertilizer and Lawn Food: An application of low-fertility organic fertilizer or lawn food should be used in conjunction with seeding. Select a fertilizer designed for your type of grass by researching labels. Use “starter” or “new lawn” formulas for a lawn that is less than two years old. With a more established lawn, use a slow-release, granular fertilizer, instead. Fill your lawn spreader with fertilizer and walk behind it at a steady pace, ensuring that no areas are skipped over. Since water-soluble lawn food doesn’t last long, reapply it as needed.
Compost: Next, apply a thin layer of compost to nestle in around the seed and hold the seed into place. Composting helps to prevent the seeds from washing away while holding in moisture. It also protects the seed from being eaten by birds. Before composting, run over your lawn with a core aerator. The purpose of aeration is to remove plugs of soil to the depth of 2 to 3 inches. Aeration helps water and other vital nutrients to reach into the soil, past the dense thickness of the grass. After aeration, evenly distribute the compost onto your lawn with a shovel, then rake it into the lawn so that the compost covers the lawn at the depth of 1/2 inch.
Watering: A daily light watering is necessary for seed germination. Germination is not an exact science as the process can take anywhere from 10 to 25 days, depending upon soil temperatures and available moisture. The water should penetrate at least 6 inches into the ground, for at least 20 minutes. To prevent messy mud puddles, water the grass for 10 minutes, then allow the water to penetrate into the ground for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes have passed, continue watering for an additional 10 minutes. Repeat this watering process every day for up to two weeks. If you live in a rainy climate, reduce the amount of watering accordingly. Once the grass reaches 1-inch in height, reduce the watering to every three days.
Maintenance is Key: With a little effort now, you can have your lawn looking great for the whole season!