It snowed two days ago at my house. Yet, poking through the white blanket was the green blades of grass from my lawn. Seems like we’re having a typical Colorado spring!
Despite the unpredictable weather, here are four things you can do to get your lawn off to a healthy start.
Start to Mow
As soon as the new green leaves reach four inches tall, it’s time to break out the lawn mower and give the grass a cut. It’s okay to mow it short for the first cutting of the year in order to take off some of the straw colored blades from last year, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Mowing short just gives the lawn a cleaner appearance in the early part of the year. If your grass hasn’t truly geared up yet, you can cut your lawn short before it starts to grow in order to take off the brown leaves.
Don’t let the new green grass get too high before you start mowing. If you grass gets to tall and then you chop it off, it shocks the grass and it takes a few days for the root system to recover. It’s better to mow it when it’s 4 inches tall or shorter.
After this first mowing, raise the height of your mower for the rest of the year. It’s best for the grass to be about 3 inches tall after you cut it. For most mowers this is usually the highest setting. This practice allows the roots of the grass to grow deeper than if you cut your grass short on a regular basis.
Now is the time to call a lawn or landscape maintenance company to have them come and core aerate your lawn. They should come out in April or early May while the air temperature is still cool and the grass is growing rapidly.
If you like operating power equipment and have a truck, you can certainly rent an aerator and do it yourself, too. I find it’s not much cheaper to do it yourself, but it does allow you can go over the yard twice without extra cost to get a denser aeration.
Don’t bother power raking. Core aerating is much more beneficial. Here’s why.
First, it helps break up any compacted soil from people and pets trampling your yard last summer. Next, aeration punches holes in what may have become a water-repellent soil layer over the winter, which can help moisten the soil more easily. Last, it can help fertilizer and grass seed (if you’re overseeding any bare patches this spring) move down into the soil, which makes them more effective. Power raking, on the other hand, is too hard on the grass and doesn’t address the soil issues.
One or two days before aerating is scheduled, make sure you water your lawn thoroughly. After aeration, I usually mow over the cores to break them up, leave them on the grass for about a week to let the soil drop into the thatch layer, then rake up any leftover cores and toss them in my compost pile. Letting the soil from the cores drop into the thatch layer helps break down any thatch that has accumulated over time.
Even though your sprinkler system might not be turned on yet because of the persistent snowstorms, it’s important to water your grass once or twice per week in April. It really needs water regularly to get off to a good start. Taking the extra effort to make sure it has enough water will help it green up beautifully and develop a deep healthy root system.
Think about Fertilizing in May
Although it’s tempting to bust out the fertilizer and spreader at the first sight of green growth, it’s best to fertilize during the first two weeks of May. This allows the grass to grow a set of healthy roots before it starts growing a lot of leaves. This is a good thing, because the grass will need strong roots to withstand the heat and dry spells of summer. So, hold off for now and let your grass be the tortoise rather than the hare.
If you haven’t yet bought fertilizer this spring, you may want to read my post on choosing a fertilizer.
So in between the Easter egg hunts and delicious dinners this weekend, invest some energy into your lawn. At long last, spring is here!