Spring Lawn Care Guide for MN

Get your lawn off to a great start this spring

By Garrett Anderson

As the weather starts to warm up, your lawn (and yourself if you live in Minnesota), begins its yearly ritual of coming out of hibernation and getting ready for summer. By following these steps, you can set you grass up for success in the upcoming months.

 

Raking/ Dethatching

One of the first things most people do in spring is pull out the rake and start going at the lawn. Generally speaking, a “light” raking is OK. The goal should be to pull up matted areas and remove some of the debris, such as non mulched leaves. 

If you follow some of my tips in  THIS blog such as mulching your leaves, you may find the need for raking your entire lawn is not needed. If you have late dropping trees, such as Oaks, you may not be so lucky.

Raking your lawn should really be about making sure full sized leaves are not matted into it, suffocating you lawn in the process. Doing too much raking can actually cause harm if your lawn is thinner and/or does not have a thatch issue. Let your lawn come out of dormancy on it’s own! Your lawn may not look pristine right away, but it’s better down the line.

Speaking of thatch, I highly recommend only power raking or “dethatching” if you have a very heavy that issue. Doing this each year when you don’t have much thatch may cause it to thin out and create more issues than being helpful. 

Spring Seeding

The Good
During spring we generally have very favorable weather for seeding as well as a lot of rain. Normally mother nature does a good job of getting seed to germinate and you can generally start seeding as soon as the snow melts. You can even “dormant seed” when there is snow on the ground. Spring is the 2nd best time to seed, but far from the best time!

The Bad
While your seed will germinate and start growing, chances are it will die out come summer UNLESS you are able to water very very often when it heats up. When you seed in the spring, your new grass does not have time to grow an extensive root system that it needs to survive the warm months.
Weeds. Spring is probably the #1 time for weeds to germinate as well. When you spring seed, you cannot use broadleaf weed control on those seeded areas for roughly 1-2 months. That means weeds galore. If (or when) that seed dies in summer, you’ll be left with an area with minimal grass and LOTS of weeds.
Crabgrass. In addition to broadleaf weeds, Pre-emergent cannot be used if you are seeding. 99% of Pre-emergents are non discriminatory. Which means they will stop ALL seeds from popping up, including new grass seed. The issue arises mid summer when crabgrass germinates. You may think you are in the clear if your lawn is looking good late spring, but once it heats up crabgrass is almost guaranteed to popup without pre-emergent, taking over those newly seeded areas.

My Recommendation
Seed only small areas, and do not expect it do to well! If you have a large bare area, it sometimes is best to try and get something growing there, however you need to expect that it may not do well and it will have to be re-done during the fall time. Also, if you have a healthy lawn, many times it will repair itself with the spring growth.
Plan ahead! Get any seeding you want to do planned for FALL time. There is a short time window in fall, so its best to schedule with us, or plan on seeding yourself when the time is right. Generally Aug 15th-Sept 30th are good dates to shoot for. I CANNOT tell you how many customers we have to turn away because they call us too late in the year! 
Doing it late in the year CAN work, but it turns into “dormant” seeding. This means the goal is to not have the grass seed germinate in the fall, but to simply get it down and prepped so as soon as spring rolls around, it will germinate. This is my preferred method vs. Spring seeding. This also allows for us to use Pre-Emergent late spring and be safe.
Shade. Shady areas are the one area I would say its OK to seed in the spring. This is because weed presence and crabgrass pressure is generally minimal in shade areas. They also tend to be cooler during the heat of the summer.

If you are doing any spring seeding, PLEASE LET US KNOW! Our guys know to stay away from seed, but it is always best to let us know so we can note your account. Also, if the area is large enough we may recommend doing starter fertilizer in those spots.

Check for Grubs
If you notice big areas that did not come back and are either completely dirt, or pretty close to it, you may have some grub issues. Once it has warmed up, go to the outer most area, were the lawn meets the dirt, and start pulling back sod. If you have grubs, you’ll find these little buggers feeding on your grasses roots, about 1-2″ down.
Take a stop at our Grub Blog HERE or our page dedicated to Grub Control.

Fertilizing

Something that many people are not aware of is that the way your lawn looks early/mid spring is due to the previous fall. Your lawn should come out of dormancy on its own, not through the use of tons of fertilizer. This is why our Late fall treatments have the most fertilizer out of any of our treatments, your fall turf will utilize these nutrients and store them, using them first thing in the spring.

Weed Control

Late Spring is a great time to treat for weeds. HOWEVER, did you know that the late fall treatment is actually best for spring weeds? If you treat in the fall time, the amount of weeds, specifically dandelions, will be minimal come spring.
Pre-emergent
PE (Pre-emergent) is probably the most important item in our spring treatments. This stops many weeds, mainly crabgrass, from germinating later on in the season. This is THE BEST way to take care of crabgrass!!

 

Aerating

Aerating in the spring time is a very popular thing to do. Core Aeration removes soil cores from the soil which intern relieves compaction and allows air, seed, and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil. Depending on your soil, I recommend you get and aeration anywhere from 2x per year (nasty clay soils) to every other year (nice sandy loam soils). It is important that you wait to do this until lawn has dried out, otherwise you with wreck your lawn!

Doing this in the spring time is the 2nd best time. You should NEVER aerate during the summer months! Aerating essentially stunts your lawn and stressed it it out initially. Then as it recovers, it will fill back in better than before. This is why spring and fall are best as your lawn is actively growing and in a unstressed state.

One issue with doing this in the spring time is it can open your weeds and crabgrass down the road. There are 2 trains of thought on this depending on who you talk to. First, it does not make a difference in your Pre-emergent as this product binds to your soil. The other, more often used idea, is that is DOES affect the Pre-emergent and should only be done if you can do it prior to the treatment. I personally like to leave the turf alone in spring, letting it come out of dormancy on its own and not doing anything to stress it out before summer. In either case FALL is the best time to do your aerations!

Our Organic Aeration
We love our Organic Aeration. We love it so much we do not even offer normal “Core Aeration” anymore, only in the fall and only if we are going to be seeding.
Our Organic Aeration relieves compaction just like regular aeration, but it does so much more; improves your soil, increase your microbial activity, improves drought/stress/heat tolerance, increase fertilizer uptake, and much more. I could go on and on about this service, but I believe in it so much I wish every single one of our customers did this yearly. To learn more about our Organic Aeration, Click Here.

Mowing

Spring time mowing is one of the few times it is OK to mow your lawn lower than 3″. If possible, stay off the lawn until it needs to be mowed! Usually this wont be until May. I like to tell customers the first and last mowing of the year should be around 2.5″ (note 2.5″ tall, NOT the 2nd level on your mower!). Then, over the coarse of the season you should be raising your mower so you are cutting at 3.5″ in the summer. Honestly, I’d even like to see 4″! 

Mowing tall is the single BEST thing you can do for your lawn in the summer.

Landscaping Beds and Mulch

Part of your spring cleanup should include getting your landscape ready as well.