1. Assess the Mess
“As soon as you can stand being outdoors for an extended period of time, see what hand you’ve been dealt by Mother Nature,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Case your property for thrown branches, dead leaves, and other debris. Clear it away so you’re able to do a general inspection of your soil, lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden structures. See what grass is coming back — or not. Get rid of broken tree limbs; call an arborist if they look dangerous. Now’s the time to take stock and make a plan.
Related: How to Tell If Your Tree Is About to Fall Over
2. Rake and Wake
Just as you like to hunker down on those dark winter days, so, too, do your grass and trees. “As soon as the snow fades, vigorously rake that grass to wake it up and begin to get it to grow,” says Walt Nelson, horticulture program leader for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Monroe County, N.Y.
Rake out areas of thatch — dried, dead grass that can be thick and deep. If you don’t, thatch will keep oxygen and sunlight from other plants and grass. Check for fungus and mold growth. Don’t worry if you run across “snow mold” — a pinkish or gray web over matted blades of grass, or possibly just a slimy brown mess. Despite its name, it’s rarely serious. Gently rake it out and it will dry. “You’d need 100 consecutive days of snow for snow mold to kill the grass,” says Tony Koski, extension turf specialist at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins.
The grass may be a bit brown, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. There are two types of grasses. “Cool season grasses green up in early spring. Warm season grasses green up really slowly in spring,” Koski says.
3. Weed Out Weeds
Finding a lot of crabgrass out there? It’s decision time. Will you avenge the scourge? If your crabgrass is out of control or you’re just hell-bent on getting rid of it, here’s what you need to know: Preventing crabgrass is all about timing. You want to nix the nasties before they start germinating. You need to use a preemergent crabgrass control before the soil temperature hits about 55 degrees and the crabgrass begins growing.
“But most people aren’t walking around with thermometers to measure their soil’s temperature,” Koski says. “Blooming forsythia is a good indicator you should put out your crabgrass preventer. That will be a different time in Michigan than in Virginia.”
You can choose a toxic or an organic preemergent such as corn gluten meal, but understand that with the organic, Nelson says, it will take two to three years of applications to be effective.
Oh, and if you’re eager to get seeding, note that you can’t put out grass seed until at least eight weeks have passed since you applied crabgrass control.
What Every Homeowner Should Do to Prep Their Yard for Spring
Preparing your lawn for spring is easy with these five no-sweat steps.
In recent winter months, snowmen were the only detectable “life” in your yard. But now that Frosty has succumbed to puddlehood, it’s time to get ready for spring! Jumpstart your lawn resuscitation as soon as the ground defrosts, and you’ll avoid a muddy disaster zone come April — not to mention ignite your neighbors’ envy. Here’s what to do:
1. Assess the Mess