Reviving your lawn after a long winter slumber
By Phil Bull
Be careful when raking
As soon as the snow is gone, you may find a few piles of leaves left over from the fall, depending upon when your area had its first good snowfall. While it is important to remove any debris to allow sunlight to reach the grass plants, it is equally important to avoid a vigorous raking of the lawn until it has become fully green.
As your lawn wakes up, its grass blades are quite tender. Metal or plastic leaf rakes can cut or bruise these newly awakened plants. Even so, many people rake up piles of ‘dead’ grass in the mistaken belief they are helping to prevent thatch buildup. Instead they are ripping out grass plants that haven’t fully ‘woken up’ yet. Instead, wait until your lawn is fully green; then, any remaining dead patches can be gently raked to remove loose debris.
What about fertilizer?
One task left conspicuously off my spring to-do list is the application of fertilizer. While this may initially seem like an oversight, it is actually quite deliberate.
The fact is, in cooler climates like ours, there is no need to worry about fertilizing in the early spring. In fact, in many regions of Canada, any fertilizer applied in April is simply wasted. Scientific studies have shown that grass plants do not take in any nutrients from the soil until the soil temperature is above 7 C (45 F). Generally, it takes until at least the middle of May for this to occur.
This doesn’t mean your lawn will look brown and withered once it emerges; in fact, it might be quite green and healthy-looking. However, all of the green you see in early spring actually comes from the hard work you did the previous fall, applying fertilizer before the weather turned cold. The grass takes these nutrients into its root system and stores them through the winter to promote growth as soon as the weather begins to get warmer. For this reason, late fall fertilization is one of the best ways to give your lawn a great start in the spring.
Phil Bull, a certified horticulturist with 23 years of experience, works for Turf Revolution, a company that manufactures organic fertilizers for the lawn and garden. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (800) 823-6937 or via www.turfrevolution.com.