The grass is growing steadily and the days are getting longer and warmer. It’s time to turn attention to the lawn. A few spring chores now will help ensure a healthy, lower maintenance lawn this summer. A healthy lawn is extremely beneficial. Strong grass growth helps keep the groundwater clear by filtering and removing pollutants as the water flows into the soil. Lawns also trap dust and airborne particles, while reducing noise levels. And healthy lawns improve the structure of your soil and prevent erosion. Lush grass keeps the neighborhood cooler, too, because it does not reflect heat like concrete or paved areas.

If you haven’t done so already, rake the yard well, removing any twigs, debris and dead material. This is the second best time to over-seed any balding areas (with autumn being the best time). Choose a seed that’s appropriate for the area where you will be sowing, such as a mix for shade, full sun or combination of both. When re-seeding, try to disturb as little of the soil surface as possible, because digging deep into your soil can disturb dormant weed seeds and accelerate their growth. Scratch down the top 1/4 inch of soil. Plant the seed and water according to the package directions. Early May is also a good time to install sod.


If the soil in your lawn is heavily compacted, you may have a problem with thatch. Thatch is a thick, sponge-like layer of decomposed grass, roots and stems. A smaller layer of thatch can is not harmful, but a layer of thatch that’s more than an inch thick can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots of the grass. To measure your thatch layer, remove a pie shaped wedge of your lawn, 2 inches deep. Measure the amount of thatch between the soil surface and the green growing vegetation. Consider core aeration if thatch is a problem. This process removes plugs of soil in your lawn, so water and light can seep in and the thatch can break down. Most lawns can benefit from core aeration every 1 to 5 years. Fall is the best time to aerate, but late spring is also acceptable. Be aware that the process of aeration in spring may cause weed seeds to come to the surface. The Garden Weasel Core Aerator allows you to hand aerate smaller lawns. For larger areas the Agri-Fab Plug Aerator attaches to your lawn tractor.

Weed control

If crabgrass is a problem, a good rule of thumb is to apply a control product when the lilacs are blooming (when the soil temperature reaches 50º). A broadleaf weed killer will help control weeds such as Creeping Charlie. The University of Minnesota Extension has a page to help you identify the variety of the weeds present in your yard. Identification is important before using herbicides. Try to determine the underlying problems that are causing the weeds to thrive. If you do choose to apply herbicides, read labels and choose the correct product for your particular weed problem, and always remember to follow the label instructions. To avoid damage to the lawn, do not spray to control weeds when temperatures are warm.

The best defense against weeds is to keep your grass healthy. That means mowing to a height of no less than 2 1/2 inches. Longer grass will shade the soil and help keep weed seeds from germinating. It’s satisfying (and good exercise) to get out and remove weeds by hand, and it’s so much better for the environment. Tackling the weeds early in the season will prevent them from taking hold this summer. There are so many tools available.

Fertilization and watering

Late May and early June (around Memorial Day) is the time to apply the first round of fertilizer to your grass. Always wait until the grass is green to fertilize. If you apply fertilizer too early, you will encourage the grass to grow at a time when it should be dormant. Use a controlled release fertilizer, taking care to choose the right product for your growing conditions. Be sure to follow label direction closely.

Because there is usually adequate rainfall early in the season, there should be no need to irrigate your grass until it gets dry, usually not until mid-late June. If the normal rainfall is less than an inch per week, it’s time to water your lawn.

Trees and turf grass

The roots of trees compete with the roots of turf grass for nutrients, light and water. If you have newly planted trees, do not plant grass under them. Mulching around trees allows the tree to absorb moisture and reduces the chance of damage to trees from mowers and weed whacking tools. For established trees, eliminating grass around the base of the tree improves their root density. When mulching around trees be sure to keep the mulch pulled away from the base of the tree.

For more information on your specific lawn management needs, refer to this helpful link.

And when it’s time to get out there, your Fleet Farm Garden Center has everything you need to maintain a healthy lawn and a healthy environment.