How to bring a fried lawn back to life after winter
After a tough winter, you may look at your lawn and ask yourself: Will it ever come back? It looks fried!
Lawns do come back every year and there are lots of things you can do to help them along. With a little spring care, your lawn will green up by May, will weather the heat of July and August and still look good in October. And, a healthy lawn is better able to withstand attack by pest such as lawn grubs.
As soon as the ground is dry enough, rake up the thatch. The thatch from last year is plugging up this year’s new grass shoots, so rake it up as soon as possible. Thatch also provides homes for insects.
Aerate the root system. Most residential neighbourhoods have very little topsoil on top of very poor soil, whether that is clay or sandy loam. In other words, there is very little organic content to help your lawn retain moisture. Even worse, many developers don’t pick up debris such as cardboard, glass bottles and tin cans, broken cinder blocks and bricks in subdivisions. Underneath a very thin veneer of topsoil is a smorgasbord of junk. To thrive, grass must have a root system of between 4 and 6 inches.
Apply a top dressing, or topsoil and compost. Adding organic matter after you have aerated your lawn is a good thing; you’re adding organic matter to the root system. This will pay off in the summer and fall.
Apply fertilizer. You can use a quick start fertilizer in the early spring, which encourages fast growth and greening. Water the fertilizer in well, meaning about 2cm or run the sprinkler for 15 minutes, to prevent burning your lawn. Fast release (all mineral) fertilizers tend to be inexpensive, but much of them leaches off and is not actually used by your lawn. You can fertilize your lawn in late spring with a slow release fertilizer, which encourages stronger root development. This helps the grass survive summer droughts. (Never fertilize during a drought; this will only stress the grass more.) Fertilizers contain a series of three numbers, separated by dashes. They are always listed on the package in this same order; it’s industry standard for ease of use. The first ingredient is nitrogen (for fast growth and lush green colour), followed by phosphorus (development of a healthy root system), and finally potassium (for overall health, drought tolerance and winter protection). Mow to 6 cm (3 inches). Cut off about one-third of the lawn height. If you cut your lawn frequently (every 5 days), the clippings will be fairly short and you can leave them on your lawn, where they will fall to the roots, decompose and feed the lawn again. If you mow your lawn every 7 to 10 days, you will need a grass catcher or you’ll need to rake up the clippings. A lot of long clippings will turn to thatch. Keep lawn mower blades sharp.
Pull weeds after a good rainstorm. It’s good to remember the old saying “Pull when wet, hoe when dry.” Don’t try to deal with major weeds, like dandelions, when it is dry. You’ll only get part of the root at best and many more weeds are likely to sprout in the same place.