University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
SPRING LAWN CARE
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
lawn has just survived another long winter. In order to restore it
former green glory, it will need to be raked, renovated, repaired,
and then mowed properly.
starting a new lawn, make sure there is good drainage. You cannot
grass in standing water. Drainage may consist of ditches or, if
underground, drainage pipe or tiles. Then rough grade the area.
inches of topsoil, if needed, for new lawns and depressions in
A normal, well-drained soil may be adequate if fertilized
If not a fertile or well-drained soil, add organic matter. Figure
three bales of peat moss per 1,000 square feet, or the equivalent of
product such as compost. Then mix it thoroughly into the top six
of soil. If poorly drained, you may need to add sand or even bury
perforated plastic drain pipes.
need to add limestone if the soil acidity or pH is below 6.0. To
out, you can do a soil test either with inexpensive kits from garden
a more in-depth test from your state university. Kits for the
latter are available at many
garden outlets, and Extension offices.
These university results are much more accurate than the home kits,
give you results on various fertility needs as well as
recommendations. Soil testing can save you money by not
applying fertilizer that’s not needed, which in turn can help
a smooth seedbed free of stones, hollows, and ridges for new lawns.
Raking off the old leaves, sticks, and other winter debris gives
your existing lawn
a chance to breathe, as well as makes it easier to repair and reseed
dead spots (or those areas scraped by winter
a complete fertilizer, or one of the commercially mixed fertilizers
lawns. Use enough to supply two pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000
square feet. This translates, for example, to 10 pounds of 20-0-12
(nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) or 20 pounds of 10-0-10. Or use 15
to 20 pounds of the organic 6-0-6. Since phosphorus (the middle
number) is often
present in sufficient amounts, and restricted for lawn application
areas due to water pollution concerns, many lawn fertilizers no
fertilizer application at the proper rate is essential for good end
results. If you are using a spreader, follow the setting on the
fertilizer bag or ask your lawn and garden dealer for the proper
are reseeding or sodding the lawn, the earlier you do it in the
better. Remember to prepare the seedbed well, and water the lawn
thoroughly. A less frequent, heavy soaking of the lawn is better
than frequent, light
watering, but don't let the germinating seeds dry out initially.
reseeding, choose the right mix for your growing conditions.
example, is not a good choice for northern New England as it will
turn brown in
cool weather. A common good mix may have Kentucky bluegrass, a fine
fescue such as red fescue, and a perennial ryegrass. The latter
grows quickly, so is good to
overseed worn areas or to use in areas with lots of wear, as are the
newer tall fescues. Kentucky bluegrass prefers sunny lawns in good
soil, while fine fescues tolerate some shade.
seeds with a mechanical spreader using three or four pounds per
feet. Any more than that is wasteful. Rake the seedbed lightly,
using just the tips
of the rake
teeth. Go over the area with a lawn roller if
convenient. Sprinkle the soil gently, and keep it moist until the
once the grass starts to grow. Grass kept at a height of two to
can withstand heat stress better than closely cropped grass. This
height encourages deep rooting, so you don't have to water or
aware that if you are using a combination fertilizer and herbicide,
this may be
taken up by any tree and shrub roots under the lawn, and injure
too. If you use residual weed killers that linger in the soil to
future weed growth, these may kill many soil microorganisms. This
sometimes results in poorer soil, and thus, poorer lawn growth and
applying weed killers, be sure to properly identify your weed
you select an herbicide. Then select the least toxic product for
looking at application rates and potential toxicity to plants,
humans. Read and follow all label directions carefully. Always use
these products judiciously to avoid contamination of water supplies
streams, and other surface waters.
pests, such as chinch bugs and Japanese beetle grubs, can be a
northern New England. The often advertised milky spore product is
very effective on soil grubs in cool climates.
Instead, you should check into beneficial nematode products for
pests, or seeds enhanced with “endophytes” – beneficial fungi that
some pest resistance.
healthy lawn is the best cure for weeds and pests. If problems
such as insects and diseases, check with your local garden center
answers. Also check with your local Extension Master Gardeners, as
states have hotlines for questions (1-800-639-2230 in Vermont, or
firstname.lastname@example.org). For special
lawn treatments such as vertical cutting, dethatching, or coring to
compaction, you might consult a lawn care professional.