Winter, the time of dormancy and damage from cold, may end at different times in different places, but the clues, chores, and preparations for springtime can be easily done if you know what to look for and, at the right time, what to do.
First off, there’s more to winter’s damage than the cold itself. Road salt and other runoff can be poison to your springtime lawn, so it is a very good idea to test your soil beginning around February or as soon as the soil thaws. Not only will this give you guidance for any soil improvement, as soon as the ground will take water, but you can also flush the salts (and any areas of persistent pet damage) thoroughly out of the soil to reduce potential damage.
Next, as soon as the soil is fairly dry as March comes in, you’ll want to rake any dead leaves or debris from fallen limbs or twigs to avoid “snow mold” as they rot. Fungal diseases can play havoc with a beautiful lawn, and this raking will also improve airflow and release any trapped moisture still in the upper layers of the soil. This is also the time to act on those soil tests you did and add lime or any other amendments they indicated–a good practice is to test at least once every two to three years. Be sure to treat any lawn moss now before it can take hold, too.
April brings more than spring showers–now is the time to start mowing and to be very careful disposing of any clippings because residual mold might be in the first few cuttings and needs to be safely placed far away from your springtime lawn growth. Treating your lawn now with pre-emergent herbicides such as crabgrass preventer is the key to effectiveness, getting to the crabgrass before the seeds germinate as the weather warms up. This is also a good time to seed any patches that need new seed, filling in any gaps or cracks so they all grow in evenly and beautifully once springtime growth begins to flourish.
Now you can mow and leave the clippings as they’ll add their own nutrients to the soil free of mold. When weeds begin to sprout as they inevitably will, application of broadleaf treatments, if done promptly, will nip them quite literally in the bud and prevent larger outbreaks. At last, as lawn growth begins to fully get going, it is time to fertilize–doing it earlier may be a waste of money and energy because this is when the resurgent lawn that will make your summers sweeter really needs that nutrition to grow it’s finest and greenest.
Of course, if all of this sounds like a major time and effort, finding a professional landscaper who knows their stuff might be the best decision of all. The cost if you do get a pro may be cheaper than the cost if you don’t, and let you enjoy your lawn all summer long.