Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Lawn Care by Donna Duffy

Spring has finally arrived and it’s time to start thinking about spring lawn care again. Here are some basics to get your lawn off to a good start.


Check the website of your local water company to find out your watering days and amount of time allowed. Most companies also provide guidance on hand watering gardens, shrubs and trees.

When water was more abundant, many of us became accustomed to watering frequently – probably more often than necessary. There are advantages to watering less often, including less loss to evaporation. A hardened or toughened lawn, attained through less frequent, deep irrigation, often withstands minor drought and generally has fewer disease problems.

The watering guidelines prohibit watering during most daylight hours, so many of us will end up setting sprinklers to water at night. Be sure to check your sprinklers occasionally during daylight hours to make sure they are working properly, not stuck in one position or broken.


The two most important facets of mowing are height and frequency. The minimum height for any lawn is 2 inches – less than this can result in decreased drought tolerance and higher incidence of insects, diseases and weeds. Mow the lawn at the same height all year and mow often enough so no more than 1/3 of the grass height is removed at any single mowing.

Let grass clippings fall back onto the lawn, unless they are used for composting or mulching elsewhere in the landscape. Grass clippings decompose quickly and provide a source of recycled nutrients and organic matter for the lawn. Grass clippings do not contribute to thatch accumulation.

Power Raking

This method of thatch removal has been used for years, although it may not be the best choice. Light (shallow) power raking may be more beneficial if done often. Deep power raking of a thatchy lawn can be damaging, and often removes a substantial portion of the living turf. 

Photo courtesy
This is more beneficial than power raking. It helps improve the root zone by relieving soil compaction while controlling thatch accumulation. Aeration removes plugs of thatch and soil 2 to 3 inches long and deposits them on the lawn. Disposing of the cores is a matter of personal choice. From a cultural perspective, there may be an advantage to allowing the cores to disintegrate and filter back down into the lawn.


Nitrogen (N) is the most important nutrient for promoting good turf color and growth. Do not overstimulate the turf with excess N, especially during the spring and summer. Overfertilization can contribute to thatch buildup and increased mowing requirements. Balanced or complete fertilizers contain various amounts of phosphorus, potassium, iron and sulfur. They are a good safeguard against a potential nutrient deficiency, especially if you remove clippings after mowing. If you leave clippings on the lawn, these nutrients are recycled from the clippings. Check out CSU Extension’s Fact Sheet on Lawn Care for a fertilizer application schedule for established lawns.