The snow is mostly gone, you may even have a few lingering snow banks that refuse to leave, but for the most part, your lawn is begging for some attention. Here is a handy spring checklist for your home lawn as you prepare for spring.
1. Plow damage. It’s been a snowy, rough winter and if you had your driveway plowed, you are likely going to have plow damage. Chunks of sod and lawn likely got plowed up along the edges and pushed further back onto your lawn. These pieces of turf chunks may be close to their original location which is now just a scar in the dirt. If possible, try to put the lawn puzzle back together and place the grass pieces back onto bare soil. It may well be weeks before anything else can be done and during that time frame, those pieces of grass will start to break dormancy and grow. Having them at least touching soil is better than mulching your unharmed lawn where they currently reside. You can always move these grassy sections later and seed as needed into surrounding bare areas.
2. Debris. You may well find gravel, junks of asphalt, branches, leaves, and other debris that simply don’t belong on a grassy surface. The sooner you can rake and remove this debris, the better. If the debris is left in its current location, you may not see it during your first mow. Nothing is more painful than hitting sticks, rocks, and gravel with your mower having been placed onto your lawn by a plow truck. Leaves left in piles or allowed to matt, especially in shade, will simply mulch any existing grass depending upon its health and density. The less debris the better.
3. Raking. There are two ways to rake a lawn, one is intentionally damaging- power raking/dethatching, the other is just plain hand raking or using a pull behind tractor implement. I do not recommend power raking/dethatching unless the lawn has a severe, and by severe I mean a thatch problem- over 1” thick. Most lawns do not have this kind of depth when it comes to thatch. As a result, if the average lawn is power raked, it is actually damaged by the process of tearing and cutting. Since the grass is dormant, and likely stressed by winter ice/snow/cold damage, power raking tears up roots and actually thins a lawn which in most cases is not a desired outcome. If seeing piles of dead grass blades makes you feel warm inside, you might want to look at a coffee or hot cocoa instead, it certainly will do less damage to your lawn. I have seen perfectly healthy lawns nearly destroyed by well intended landscapers, only to be called in to repair the damage by overseeding and other processes. Stick with a hand rake and fluff the lawn up to help it warm and start to grow, or hire someone to do a spring cleanup which includes light raking. If your lawn has a thatch issue, consider core aeration later in the spring or fall after it has recovered from winter damage.
4. Fertilizer/Crabgrass control. If you are going to use either fertilizer and crabgrass control blended together- don’t put it down too early. A crabgrass barrier/inhibitor has a limited life span and can easily thin out turf already in a weakened state from winter. Your best bet is to apply a plain balanced fertilizer to enhance recovery in April, than follow it up with a crabgrass inhibitor in May for maximum results. This order will accomplish the best of both treatments while not subjecting your lawn to further stress, thinning, or damage.