Be sure your mower blade is sharp. Dull blades can give a ragged cut and leave grass blades dull and brown.
Step outside and take a deep breath. That new season smell may have you itching to get started on yard-care tasks, but the best advice is to be patient.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to lawn care to starting too early. Raking and mowing when the grass is wet can actually do more harm than good. Early in the season, when the ground is wet, the roots of your grass can easily be pulled out of the soil. So, wait until the ground dries out.
Raking is the best way to help fight the effects of winter snow cover. It reduces matting caused by snow, allowing air, sunlight and fertilizer to reach more of the plants and roots.
Lucky or not? Clover is a common perennial weed.
Dandelion is a perennial weed that is best treated in the fall with a postemergent herbicide.
Spring is also a good time to begin the war on weeds. Different weeds require different treatments, so the first step is to determine what type of weed you are dealing with. There are two basic types of weeds. Annual weeds, such as crabgrass, sprout early in the season from seed. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, survive season to season.
If you have a small weed problem, the best way to tackle the situation is by hand weeding. If the problem is larger in scale, chemical herbicides can help. Spring is the best time to treat annual weeds.
“Annual weeds are best controlled with herbicides called pre-emergents,” says Van Cline, senior agronomist at The Toro Company. “Pre-emergents nip the new weed seedlings at germination, preventing them from maturing.” Pre-emergent herbicides can be found in liquid or granular form, and can also be an ingredient in spring fertilizers.
Iowa State University researchers say corn gluten has proven to be an effective, natural pre-emergent herbicide.
Perennial weeds are best treated either by hand weeding or with postemergent herbicides. Fall is actually the best time to treat perennial weeds, but if you have a crop of dandelions already growing in your yard, spot treatment with a post-emergent or broadleaf herbicide will do the trick.
The best defense to control weeds is a healthy, thick lawn. Remember to mow high (3-4 inches tall) and follow other good horticulture practices.
When it comes to fertilizing your lawn, experts say waiting until the fall works best. Feeding your lawn in the spring can create a lot of top growth, which may look nice, but can develop grass that is weaker and less able to handle periods of stress, such as drought or summer heat. Put fertilizing on your late-August, early September to-do list.
Don’t forget to tune-up your mower before the season starts, and make sure you have fresh gas in the tank.
Once your grass gets growing, you can turn your attention to your mower. A little spring maintenance can help your machine run smoothly throughout the season.
Nothing over E10
Sharpen your blade
Make sure to keep the mower blade sharpened for a clean cut and to reduce damage to grass.
A version of this article appeared in a March/April 2014 edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Sleven/Morguefile.com, craetive/iStockphoto, Kathleen Hennessy, The Toro Company/Toro.com