Our Midwest Grows Green providers offer their favorite spring lawn care tips
As the temperature gradually creeps up, it’s time to emerge from winter hibernation and get back outside. With the thought of cookouts and block parties on the horizon, many of us want both attractive and healthy lawns for our children and pets. Whether a natural lawn care expert or trying to cut down on pesticides for the first time this season, these tips from MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green providers will help your lawn grow strong this Spring!
Wait to aerate – Soil aeration reduces soil compaction, improves nutrient uptake, and strengthens grass roots, but only if done at the correct time.
“The most important spring tip is to wait to aerate soil until May or June. The benefits are far greater if you wait until soil temperatures are warmed and the grass is actively growing. Too many people aerate during their Spring clean-up in March or April. May and June are far better and of course fall aeration is great too.” –Steve Neumann, Logic Lawn Care
Hold back on the fertilizer – To ensure your grass makes the most of fertilizer applications, wait to apply an organic fertilizer until later Spring.
“Don’t fertilize too early! When the daffodils and tulips pop up and the lawn starts to green up, don’t be too eager to fertilize! For the first month or so, the lawn consumes nutrients stored in its roots from Fall. Fertilize May 1st or later. Fertilizing too early means excess nutrients that can feed weeds and run off into our local waterways.” –Darrell Smith, The Green Team of Wisconsin
Choose your grass wisely – A grass variety that works for you is the strongest ally in establishing a healthy lawn without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.
“If you’d like to have a nice traditional looking lawn without using the chemicals, regularly seeding with modern grasses like Turf Type Tall Fescue is a big help. Turf Type Tall Fescue is durable, tough, and doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer to look green. If you’re lawn is full of a patchwork of grasses that don’t stay green, sometimes it makes sense to start over. If it isn’t too bad, regularly seeding in the late summer will help your lawn look great.” –Alec McClennan, Good Nature
“Don’t use cheap seed from a big box store as they may contain undesirable grasses that look and perform poorly.” –Bob Dahm, Organic Bob
Apply corn gluten – This byproduct of corn processing contains proteins that can naturally inhibit the root growth of many common weeds, as well as provide nitrogen to the adult grass plant.
“Apply corn gluten meal early to naturally suppress weeds!” –Marc Wise, Greenwise
“The most important early spring application is corn gluten meal. Not only does this provide nitrogen for growth, but it is also a natural pre-emergent weed control. With proper timing and rates, it can successfully prevent many broadleaf and grassy weeds from germinating by inhibiting the root of weeds from fully forming. The best results occur after 3 full seasons of early spring application.” –Shay Lunseth, Organic Lawns by LUNSETH
Stick to light equipment and rake carefully – When clearing your lawn of winter debris, use a gentle hand. Heavy equipment can damage the emerging grass and compact the soil.
“Remove any debris such as trash, branches, anything that can smother grass like piles of leaves. Don’t rake or use heavy equipment. You will damage turf in its delicate state and compact the moist soil. Lightly rake leaves only when soil is warm and dry. Don’t power rake or de-thatch your lawn as it does more harm than good by cutting into the crowns of the grass plants.” –Bob Dahm, Organic Bob
Assess weed tolerance – Even the most astutely managed lawn can develop weeds now and again. Lawns managed chemically for many seasons may need time to adjust and thrive. Understanding weed and chemical tolerance levels in your community can help you head off any concerns from neighbors.
“Measure your customers’ weed tolerances with dialog and a “pain chart”. Then measure their level of chemical aversion. You’ll need both data sets to determine how and what to provide for pre-emergent weed suppression in particular, and weed management tactics throughout the year in general.” –Jeff Swano, Dig Right In