University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Planning Spring Lawn Care

March 1, 2001

With spring starting later this month, attention will again focus on yard and garden activities, including lawn care. Early season care has a big impact on lawns, so start making plans well before maintenance actually starts.

As conditions allow, start spring lawn care with the removal of debris that has accumulated over the winter. Raking lawns will remove matted accumulations of dead grass, but will do little for thatch problems. True thatch cannot be readily raked out by hand, but requires power equipment. Aerifying is the best way to deal with thatch.

Avoid applying large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer to lawns in spring, as serious lawn problems can result. Fertilize in moderation. March is not the time for fertilizing, wait until the lawn has been mowed a few times before fertilizing, typically late April or early May.

Choose a quality lawn fertilizer that contains controlled release, slow-release, or water insoluble nitrogen. All of these terms refer to nitrogen sources that will release small amounts of nitrogen to the turf over an extended period of time, which leads to more uniform and healthy lawn growth. These materials are especially important to use in spring.

Crabgrass control is another spring lawn care concern. Crabgrass will not start germinating in lawns until late May or perhaps June, so there is plenty of time for applying preemergence herbicides. May 1 is a good target date for application. Many preemergence crabgrass herbicides come mixed with fertilizer.

Spring also is a popular time for seeding new lawns, although it is not the most favorable time. If it can be delayed, early fall is actually the optimum time because the upcoming weather conditions are more favorable for the new turf and weed pressure is much less. Spring seeding can certainly work out very well, but oftentimes hot weather sets in before the new lawn is well established. If starting a new lawn in spring, try to seed it by mid-April.


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