Spring is the time to get the grass off to a good start so don't cut the grass too short.
Get the lawn off to a good start with some common sense spring maintenance that helps the grass plants to grow to their full potential.
Test Your Soil:Before adding anything to alter pH of the soil, test the soil first. A professional soil test provides a wealth of information including recommendations, and is a handy tool when your lawn is struggling. Check for your local testing labs in your area by doing a search for ‘soil testing near me’.
Soil pH: Yearly applications of lime are not be necessary especially if the grass is healthy, growing well and not mossy. For weak, mossy lawns, the soil is often too acidic with a pH below 6.0. To increase the pH apply Dololpril lime. It's gentle to the soil, doesn't burn and is easy to apply. To reduce the pH of alkaline soils with a pH over 7.0 apply aluminium sulphate.
Aerate: To increase the drainage and to help compacted soils, use an aerator to extract soil cores from the ground. Rent a core aerator or hire someone to do it for you.
Topdress: It’s not necessary, however, it’s a good idea to spread up to an inch of fine compost, or a good garden mix on top of the lawn. Avoid lawn mixes as they are too sandy and have very little organic matter.
Reseed: Use correct seed for conditions: sun or shade, select one with fertilizer included and follow instructions. For more info click on Lawn Reno, Seed & Sod
Moss killer: Liquid works faster than the granular. Follow the instructions for effective control. After raking up the dead moss, rake the soil then sow some lawn seed and keep moist until they germinate. For more on mossy lawns click on Moss in Lawns.
Mow: Set the mower at 2.5 to 3 inches, only take off a third of the grass blades at each mowing.
Clippings: Leave the lawn clippings on the lawn, but only if they are small and don’t clump. This means, frequent mowing is necessary.
One-inch of water is all that is needed during the summer.
One of the biggest mistakes in lawn care is not watering the lawn. A dry lawn falls prey to chafer bugs, sod webworms, leatherjackets and other lawn grubs. Weeds will become a problem as they take hold wherever they can. Just one-inch of water a week is recommended to keep the bugs and weeds at bay.
Feed: In late May, fertilize with a high nitrogen (ex: 7-3-1) organic or slow release fertilizer. Avoid excessively high nitrogen lawn food, especially quick release ones. The grass will green up and grow very quickly, however, it will become susceptible to Brown Patch and their roots will be diminished. Excessive nitrogen results in leaf burn and plant death so don’t over apply and use organic or slow release types only.
Watering: Due to summer water restrictions in Metro Vancouver, lawns are only permitted to be watered one day a week. This means you must make the most of that one day. Keep the sprinkler on for one hour on each area of lawn. I have my sprinklers set up on a timer (from Canadian Tire) that switches from one zone to another. The hoses are left out on the lawn attached to a timer to make watering the lawn easy.
Rotting leaves will damage the lawn, so rake them off, especially before snowfall.
Autumn is an ideal time to renovate and install new lawns; just wait for it to cool down and the rain to return. Here’s a rundown of what to this month to get your lawn fighting ready for winter and healthy for the upcoming year.
Fertilize: Lawns are hungry and tired after months of heat and drought. They need an organic or slow release nitrogen fertilizer (high first number: 10-5-3) before October to stimulate active growth and vigour. Before your first frost date and when the lawn stops growing, apply a winterizer fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen: 3-5-10 to promote winter hardiness. Click here for more on ratios and here for Fertilizers 101
Lime: If you didn’t apply lime in spring and have lots of dandelions and moss, it’s a good idea to check the pH of the soil. If it’s under 6.0, then apply dolomite or dolopril lime. Don’t apply fertilizer within 3 weeks of applying lime, as the nitrogen is lost to the air. For more on mossy lawns click here.
Aerate: To relieve compacted soil and to reduce thatch, aerate first before fertilizing and liming. Rent a core aerator or hire someone; it’s hard work.
Topdress: Spreading up to ¾ inch of fine compost on top of the lawn after aerating or raking.
Mow: Mow at 2 to 21/2 inches then lower the height to 1½ to 2 lawn when the lawn stops growing. Mow often, only removing 1/3rd of the leaf blades off at a time
Kill Weed Seeds: Apply corn gluten to kill seedlings as they germinate. Avoid areas you’ve just seeded as it kills all seeds.
Fix Sparse Lawns: To thicken sparse lawns, topdress with an inch of compost, then spread grass seed overtop. Water the day before, especially if it’s dry and water again after sowing. Water daily until seeds germinate.
Fix Bare Patches: Rake any bare spots, add approximately ½ inch of compost or a garden blend soil mix. Spread the seeds, preferably with a starter fertilizer (high middle number), press them into the soil and gently water. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
Rake fall leaves onto garden beds or mow and bag them, then place on garden beds.
Frost: Keep off the grass when it is frozen as it breaks off the crowns, killings the plants, and certainly don’t mow.