In this article, I have put together an actionable spring lawn care guide to show you how to help your lawn recover from the stresses of winter.
Spring can be a busy time in the lawn care calendar so I’ll show you which jobs can and should be tackled.
Doing these jobs in the spring will make your summer lawn care a breeze.
Generally, ‘Spring starts in April’.
However, if it has been a mild winter, the temperature is good and grass is showing signs of growth in March, start your spring lawn care then.
That said, if it’s still cold and the grass hasn’t shown any signs of growth, hang on until it does.
Where you live will also have an impact on when you’ll start. If you’re in the Scottish Highlands then chances are you’ll have to wait a little longer than if you live in the south of England, simply because it’s colder.
Before you embark on your spring lawn care program, you’ll need to have the correct tools in hand.
Again, you might choose not to do all of the jobs listed, in which case you won’t need all of the tools.
So figure out which jobs are essential and create your toolkit based on the jobs you plan to do.
Here’s what you’ll need (or not):
Springbok or Plastic Garden Rake
You’ll need some kind of rake for clearing up and leaves, moss or thatch.
If you rake or scarify your lawn you’ll be amazed at just how much debris will come out.
Either a springbok or plastic garden rake will do the trick.
If you plan on raking your lawn to remove moss and you don’t have a powered lawn rake (recommended) you’ll need to do it with a springbok rake. The metal tines are perfect for ripping out moss.
In order to cut the grass, you’ll need your lawnmower.
It’s a good idea sharpen the blades or get them sharpened at your local lawn mower shop at the start of the season.
Try to get in early as they get really busy in the spring.
If you have a rotary lawnmower with a collection box, you can use it to hoover up any debris as you go.
Selective Weedkiller Concentrate
Spring is the time when weeds start to germinate.
If you’re not careful they can take over quickly so you need to stay on top of them. I prefer to treat the whole lawn in the spring with a selective weed killer concentrate.
I recommend you use Weedol Lawn Weedkiller.
In the UK we can experience a lot of rain over the winter.
This rain often leads to the growth of moss, especially if the soil in your lawn is compacted and doesn’t drain very well.
If moss is present in your lawn you’ll need to kill it before removing it. In which case, you’ll need a moss killer.
Watering Can or Knapsack Sprayer
Talking of moss killer, you’ll need a way to apply it to your lawn.
Either use a watering can or knapsack sprayer.
I much prefer a knapsack sprayer as it helps apply moss killer more evenly.
That said, they’re more expensive than a watering can so use what you have.
If you are using a watering can, invest in a sprinkle bar for it. This will make your application of moss and weed killer much more even.
Scarifier / Lawn Rake
If you have moss and thatch in your lawn and you plan to remove it, you’ll need a lawn rake/scarifier.
You can hire commercial machines from your local hire shop but it’s often cheaper to buy a petrol or electric lawn rake that doubles as a scarifier.
If you choose to do it by hand, you can use a springbok rake for raking out moss and a hand scarifier for extracting lawn thatch but it;
a) Takes a lot of time, and
b) It’s almost guaranteed to give you blistered hands a sore body
If you can afford it and you have the room to store it, invest in a powered tool. It’ll pay you back in no time.
Lawn Aerator / Garden Fork
You should always aerate your lawn as part of spring lawn care.
However, the type of aeration you use will depend on how compacted the soil in your lawn is (we’ll cover this later).
If the soil is compacted you’ll need to remove cores of turf to give the soil room to ‘relax’ in to. In which case you’ll need a hollow tine aerator.
Hollow tine aerating is one of those jobs that I prefer to do in the autumn because it’s more invasive than spiking. You’ll have less issue with weeds afterwards if you do it in the autumn.
However, if the soil is compacted (lots of moss is a sign of compaction), you’ll need to do it now.
If the soil isn’t suffering from compaction you’ll want to spike the lawn with a garden fork, aeration sandals or rolling lawn aerator. This will allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate.
Half Moon Edging Iron
If the edges of your lawn are in bad shape you’ll want to neaten them up with an edging iron.
A half-moon edging iron is the perfect tool.
If you need to cut straight edges, use a long, straight plank of wood as a guide. For curved edges, a hosepipe is a good guide.
Top Dressing Topsoil
If you’re in the pursuit of perfection and only the flattest surface will do, you’ll need some top dressing topsoil.
This not only helps to even out any undulations, but it also adds important nutrients to the soil which helps growth and aids germination of new grass seed.
Landscapers Rake or Lawn Lute
If you do top dress your lawn you’ll need a way of spreading the soil evenly over your lawn.
The back of a wide landscaping rake is a good tool.
You could also use a lawn lute but they’re expensive.
It’s always a good idea to overseed your lawn in the spring.
If you have raked, scarified or aerated your lawn it’s essential that you overseed to help the lawn recover as quickly as possible.
Now, depending on the type of lawn you have, how you use it and/or how you want it to look will dictate the type of grass seed you use.
Grass Seed and Fertiliser Spreader
The best way to spread grass seed (and fertiliser) is to use a spreader.
If you have small lawns you can do it fairly accurately by hand. If you have large areas of grass, however, spreading by hand will result in an uneven application and you’ll use more grass seed than you need to.
You can buy little hand spreader for smaller lawns or wheeled, drop spreaders or broadcast spreaders for larger lawns.
Spring Lawn Feed
After the stresses of winter, your lawn will need topping up with vital nutrients.
Mainly Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous.
A good quality, slow-release spring fertiliser will provide your lawn with all of the nutrients it needs.
Hose and Sprinkler
If the weather is on your side you won’t need to water your lawn.
That said, the weather rarely does what we want. If rainfall is lacking you’ll need to water your lawn to activate the fertiliser and aid in germination and growth.
Use a sprinkler with a fine spray setting. This will add moisture to the soil without drowning the grass seed or washing it away.
Now you’ve got your tools together it’s time to start.
Understand that (depending on the weather) you’ll normally have a good 8-10 weeks to complete all of these jobs.
Don’t be in a rush to do them all at once. Take your time, wait for dry days and be as gentle as possible. Your lawn will look beautiful heading into the summer.
We’ll go over these steps in more detail below but for now, here they are again;
- Clear your lawn of any leaves or debris
- Cut the grass
- Kill any weeds
- Kill and remove any moss
- Scarify if there is excess lawn thatch
- Aerate your lawn by spiking or hollow tining
- Tidy up the edges with an edging iron
- Top dress to create a flat surface
- Overseed with new grass seed
- Fertilise your lawn with a spring lawn feed
- Water if necessary
Like I said at the beginning of this article, depending on how your autumn lawn care and winter lawn care jobs went (or if you even did them) you probably won’t need to do every step on this list.
For example, if you scarified in the autumn, there’s no need to do it again in the spring. Also, if the weather is on your side and it rains when you want it to, you won’t need to water.
Here are the steps in more detail.
If your lawn has any leaves or other debris that has accumulated over the winter, you’ll need to clear them up.
Simply take your plastic or springbok rake and rake it all up. You can either dispose of it or compost it.
Cut the grass as soon as it starts to grow.
On the first cut, however, keep the mower on the high side and just take the top off it. Then wait a week and reduce the height by one setting. Wait another week and reduce the height again.
You shouldn’t cut any more than a third off the grass leaf at any time. If you do you could risk shocking the grass, stunting its growth and ability to recover.
If you have lots of moss in your lawn, keep the grass an inch taller than the moss.
As you get into the middle of April and May when growing conditions are at their best, you might need to increase the mowing frequency to once every 5-7 days.
If you kept on top of your weed population last year then chances are you won’t have many (if any) weeds in your lawn.
That said, chances are that one or two have snuck in. If your weed discipline has been a bit slack, you might have more than one or two.
After application, the weeds should be dead within a week. However, killing weeds is an ongoing task, so it’s a good idea to keep a spot spray weedkiller to hand to blast any new weeds that up during the spring and summer.
Resolva Spot Spray Weed Killer is my top choice. It has a different active ingredient to Weedol which means you can kill a wider range of weeds.
If you have gotten away with it and there is no moss present in your lawn then congratulations, skip this step.
However, for most of us, there will be at least some.
Before removing it you’ll need to kill it by applying a moss killer. There are a range of moss killers available. See what I think are the best lawn moss killers.
Apply it with a knapsack sprayer or watering can and wait for a good 7-10 days while it gets to work.
You’ll see the moss turn black as dies off.
Once it’s dead, rake it out with a powered lawn rake (if you’re sensible) or a springbok rake (if you’re a sucker for punishment).
Scarification should normally be done as part of an autumn lawn care program.
The reason being is that scarifying opens up the soil which is not only perfect for sowing new grass seed, but it’s also perfect for weed seeds to germinate in. By scarifying in the autumn, you’ll miss most of the years weed seeds, of which there are many in the spring.
And for most lawn owners, it doesn’t need doing every year.
That said, if you haven’t scarified for a long time you might as well do it now. Excess lawn thatch will prevent your lawn from being as healthy as it should be or look as good as it could heading into the summer.
To test if your lawn needs scarifying, take a trowel, bulb planter or hollow tiner and take samples from your lawn. If you have more than a quarter of an inch of lawn thatch you’ll need to scarify.
When it comes to aerating your lawn in the spring I’d normally recommend spiking with a gardening fork, rolling lawn aerator or aeration sandals.
Spiking 2-3 inches deep will let air, water and nutrients penetrate the soil and get into the root zone of the grass to aid growth.
Do this every year, at least once. You can’t spike your lawn too much so do it often,
However, if the soil in your lawn is compacted you should hollow tine to remove cores of turf. This will create lots of 10mm wide holes in your lawn which create space for the soil to relax into and ‘de-compact’.
This will help the grass to root more deeply as well as providing all of the same benefits of spiking.
Like scarification, I’d normally advise hollow tining in autumn for the same reasons but compacted soil will prevent your lawn from recovering as well as it should. So if your soil is compacted, do it now.
If the edges of your lawn are already in good shape then skip this step. However, if they’re a bit tatty, now is a good time to tidy them up with an edging iron.
To create a straight edge, I use a long, straight plank of wood as my guide. For shaped edges, I use a hosepipe.
If you have lawn edging in place, maintaining the edges will be much easier.
Top dressing is one of those jobs that’s normally undertaken by serious lawnsmiths who have ornamental, perfectly flat, bowling green type lawns.
Or, as part of a lawn restoration project.
It can be expensive to do and it can also be time-consuming, but, if you have an ornamental lawn and you’re in the pursuit of the perfect lawn, then top dressing is a must.
However, if you don’t consider your lawn to be a work of art you can save yourself the time and expense by skipping this step.
I’d advise that you overseed every spring – especially if you have raked out moss, scarified or hollow tine aerated.
These are invasive treatments and can leave your lawn looking pretty beat up.
Spreading new grass seed will help your lawn recover much quicker than it would without doing it.
If you don’t overseed you’ll leave lots of room in your lawn for weed seeds to settle and germinate. Often replacing a moss, thatch or compaction problem with a weed problem.
After a long, hard winter your lawn can come into spring lacking in essential nutrients like Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous.
These nutrients help with root establishment and growth. If your lawn lacks these nutrients, your grass won’t be as healthy as it should be which could lead to problems in the summer months.
It also won’t look as good as it could.
Apply a spring lawn feed for a thick, lush, green lawn.
Watering your lawn will depend on the weather forecast.
If the weather is on your side then you’ll not need to water at all. However, if you experience a dry spring and rainfall is nowhere to be seen, you’ll need to turn the sprinklers on to activate the fertiliser and provide the ground with the moisture it needs to germinate new grass seed and establish new root development.
Spring lawn care is simply a series of individual tasks which is very similar to those you’d do in autumn.
Some tasks like scarifying and hollow tining are better suited to the autumn. That said, if they weren’t done the previous autumn they will need tackling in the spring to give your lawn the best chance of health heading into the summer.
Now it’s Over to You
Which jobs will you be doing as part of your spring lawn care program?
Are you a perfectionist that’ll top dress your lawn or will you just stick the essentials?
Let me know in the comments below.
If you have any question or you have something to say then again, leave a comment and I’ll jump in and answer you.