Lawn care basics to prepare your yard for spring

Lawn care basics to prepare your yard for spring

I think it’s safe to say, Washingtonians are ready for the spring. By April, most people get the itch to get out and green up their lawn, but before you do, you first want to find out what your particular grass requires to grow at its best. A soil test is the best way to determine the state of your soil and the nutrient deficiencies that may be in your soil. 

Soil Testing

The soil test will yield the level of nutrients in your particular soil and its pH level. A pH level between 6.5 and 7.0 is considered neutral and ideal for the grass plant to grow. A pH below 6.5 shows your soil is considered acidic and will need lime to raise the pH to a more ideal level. 

If your pH is above 6.5, the soil is alkaline and will need a treatment of sulfur to lower the pH to the ideal range. Another advantage of the soil test is that the results will provide a general guideline on your lawn’s fertility. Call your local county extension agent for all the information on how to take a soil sample of your lawn and get it tested.

Fertilizer application

In the Washington area, it is important to apply the first treatment of fertilizer/crabgrass control by mid-April. This treatment should be of the slow release variety because you do not want to encourage top growth of the plant at the expense of the plants roots. 

Also, a slow release fertilizer will feed the lawn over the spring time period. Keep in mind, you should always follow the product label before any application is applied. In relation to fertilizer, you do not want to follow the age-old advice that, “If some is good, more is better.” Too much fertilizer will damage your lawn. 

Managing crabgrass

Another application of crabgrass control is in order when late May rolls around. This is considered a split application of crabgrass control, which is ideal to prevent crabgrass and to protect the lawn for this dreaded weed through late August. 

This is provided you are mowing the grass height at three-and-a-half to four inches. The application of fertilizer is not necessary at this time. More than 60 percent of the nutrient needs for the grass plant are best applied in the fall. 

Weed control

The May time period is also a great time to control weeds in your lawn. Make sure you follow the label rates and only mix up the amount needed to spray the weeds. The best temperatures to effectively control weeds are between 60 and 90 degrees. You may need to periodically spray weeds in the lawn every six to eight weeks. A thick turf will keep out most weeds.


The Washington area usually does experience drought-like weather come summer, though not typically until after May. Watering your lawn can be delayed until then. You will see drought effects on your lawn as it will start to slowly brown out and you will be able to see your foot prints remain in the lawn long after you walk on it. 

The best way to water the lawn is infrequently, but for at least 45 minutes to an hour per sprinkler spot once a week. This should provide the lawn with up to one inch of water a week.

Get ready for fall

Following the directions above should help you make it through the hot and difficult summer without too much damage to your lawn. If not, September is a great time to seed your lawn with an improved variety of tall fescue. 

Tall fescue is the best grass to grow in our area. Once again, the fall is also the best time to fertilize your lawn, since your lawn is recovering from the summer stress and needs the nutrients to strengthen the roots and add new top growth in the fall. 

Again, you will want to use a slow release fertilizer in the early fall and once more in the late fall. The late fall fertilization acts as a winterization treatment for the grass and helps it green up quicker in the spring.

Provided you follow the above recommendations, your lawn should be doing great by the middle of October. However, if you overlook or forget to apply these important lawn-care tips, fear not – you have a new year coming up to do it all over again! 

About this Experts Contributor: Gregg Basse is the area manager at Professional Grounds, Inc., providing landscaping services in Alexandria, Va. Since 1974, Professional Grounds has specialized in planting, patios, walkways, retaining walls, hardscapes, water features and more. You can follow this contributor on Twitter @ProGrounds and on Google+.

As of April 17, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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Lawns that receive an annual aeration will be healthier, more vigorous and easier to maintain with less weeds and insects, says Basse. (Photo courtesy of Professional Grounds, Inc)
Lawns that receive an annual aeration will be healthier, more vigorous and easier to maintain with less weeds and insects, says Basse. (Photo courtesy of Professional Grounds, Inc)

Start preparing now for a beautiful green lawn next summer. Fall is the perfect time to core aerate your lawn to fight compaction and promote grass growth.

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