Spring has officially arrived! And many of us have been venturing outside to do anything after being captive to our homes this winter. I’ve seen quite a few of those early blooming plants getting bigger by the day, and some unsightly snow mold *shutter*. So, with Spring starting off it’s always nice to get a refresher on what to do with the lawn.
Upon first sight in the spring, many lawns look less than perfect. Similar to last spring, many of the same culprits were at work over winter destroying or at least blighting turf . Traditionally, we’re told that gray snow mold becomes problematic in regions when snow cover is in place for three months or more, that’s you Southwest Michigan!
To facilitate quicker regrowth, lightly rake the turf with a leaf rake, not a garden rake. Raking will remove some of the dead, blighted leaf blades and facilitate turfgrass recovery from snow mold. However, even if you decide you’d rather watch the basketball tournament than rake the lawn, the turfgrass will recover as temperatures warm.
In addition to raking up some debris and generally cleaning up the lawn, another item to check off your list would be mower maintenance. If you didn’t sharpen the mower blade at the end of last year prior to tucking the mower safely away in the garage for its long winter hibernation, now is the time to sharpen blades. You might even want to consider a mower tune-up. Scheduling an appointment now will result in quicker service turnaround than the first couple weeks when everyone starts mowing and realizes they have a problem. Planning ahead always pays off.
Summer annual grasses such as crabgrass require proper soil temperature and moisture to germinate and establish. Eighty percent of germination occurs when the 0- to 2-inch depth soil temperature is consistently reaching 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some consistency in the weather will help move those temperatures to where they need to be.
For early season fertilizer applications, I would suggest you resist the urge to apply now and wait until the turf has fully greened-up and actually started to grow to the extent that mowing is necessary. Soils are still very cold and until they warm, the turfgrass is not going to be actively growing nor taking up nutrients.
Be careful rolling lawns this time of year as there are still many soppy, wet areas where rolling might actually do more damage than good. Rolling saturated soils can result in soil compaction. Rolling is popular this time of year to flatten out mole tunnels and lumps and bumps from frost heaving during winter. Although rolling will definitely help with mole tunnels, a good rainfall after soils have completely thawed is as effective or more so than rolling for smoothing out the irregular surface that winter often creates.