There isn't much more satisfying to a homeowner than a well manicured, emerald green lawn. For the past few months, your lawn may have been blanketed in snow, or it may have just turned brown from the cold, gray winter weather. Early spring is an excellent time to get a head start on your lawn care. Whether you're a home seller trying to boost curb appeal, or a new homeowner eager to take control of your new lawn, now is the time to break out your green thumb and give some love to your turf.
Layers of dense, heavy snow can, over time, cause permanent damage to your lawn. Though turfgrass is extremely hardy, when ice or snow covers the crown of the plant (the crown is the short stem at the base of the grass plant out of which the grass blade grows) turfgrass can be killed.
There isn't much you can do to prevent ice or snow from covering your lawn, but once winter ends, you should be especially careful not to walk on your lawn until it has time to dry. Your lawn may have been compacted the winter, either by snow or by heavy foot traffic, in which case you should consider aeration.
Aeration shoes are a good option for healthy lawns that aren't overly compacted. These are spiked pieces of rubber that you strap to your shoes as you walk across your lawn. They create narrow holes in the soil to let in air and nutrients without removing any of your lawn. For densely compacted lawns, homeowners should use a rotary spike lawn aerator, which can penetrate soil that's too dense for aeration shoes.
Once your lawn is aerated, you can add a thin layer of compost to boost the nutrient levels of your soil. You don't want to overdo it, of course, because you need to ensure your grass has access to air and sunlight, but a blanket of compost can help make up for any nutrient deficiencies in your soil.
Once your lawn is dry and you're past the last freeze, you should mow your lawn to get rid of the dead grass blades. Lower the mower blade to its lowest setting and give your turf a trim. This will prime your lawn for new growth—just be sure to throw out that dead grass!
Finally, fertilizer. When to fertilize your lawn will vary depending on the type of grass you're growing and where you live in the country. Lawns in the northern part of the country should be fertilized in the early spring and again in the early fall. Southern lawns should be fertilized as soon as the grass begins growing vigorously. Of course, each lawn will very in its nutrient needs, so it's a good idea to test your soil to measure its nutrient needs. Test kits can be found at your local hardware or home improvement store.
About the Author: Drew Johnson is a writer living in Washington, DC.