We can’t control the weather, but we can have a healthy lawn in spite of it! And the first days of spring are the ideal time to plan a strategy for trouble-free days ahead. The best rule of thumb is to begin your lawn care when your forsythia blooms. Those brightest of yellow flowers are like a starting gun for lawn enthusiasts. So roll up your sleeves, because spring is here!

Grass closeup

A lush, healthy, green lawn starts with the right spring care.

Photo Credit: Lynn Means

Kids on lawn

Enjoy a healthy lawn throughout the season!

Photo Credit: Sarah Landicho

Weeds in lawn

Common lawn weeds are early risers in dormant winter grass. Don’t give them a chance to grow – stop them with a preemergent!

Photo Credit: Lynn Means

Crabgrass

Get rid of crabgrass before it invades your entire lawn.

Photo Credit: Lynn Means

First things first – you need to get yourself acquainted with the different types of lawn-care products available. As always, carefully read and follow all instructions on any package label so you can be safe and have that lawn of your dreams!

Crabgrass preemergent herbicides help kill and prevent this shallow weed from spreading from late spring on through fall. They form a long-lasting chemical shield in your soil that stops sporadic germination of seedy crabgrass characters so they won’t become a problem later. Most products kill other weeds too, and that’s great. Apply this type of herbicide early, and follow product guidelines for repeat applications in the months to come. It’s wonderful stuff!

Pelletized lime may or may not be necessary. In the Southeast, typically heavy rainfalls leach the alkaline minerals from our soil, so it does have a tendency to be acidic. If your soil test does call for lime, however, the good news is that it’s inexpensive and used frequently. Some gardeners feel comfortable spreading a light application every other year for good measure, but soil testing will confirm whether you really need it or not. An optimum pH level of 6.2-6.5 is ideal for healthy lawns.

“Weed & Feed” is a general term for multitask products that make standard lawn care a breeze. It’s a combination of a broadleaf weed (dandelions, clover and thistles) herbicide and slow-release lawn fertilizer – hence the term. (Some brands have a preemergent in them, which can make them an even better buy.) Apply weed & feed faithfully in spring and fall, and you can feel good about it every time. A happy lawn is one that’s been well-fed and has a good defense system against aggressive weeds trying to make a move on your turf!

Spring lawn fertilizer is another slow-release fertilizer, but it doesn’t have an herbicide. It’s for lawns that already are in pretty good shape and don’t have the weeds. I know folks who like to use this either before or after they use a broadleaf herbicide with preemergent. It’s all about what suits your situation. (Whether you say “tom-ay-toe” or “tom-ah-toe,” it’s still a tomato.)

Iron + stress relief can be used anytime to revitalize your lawn with a quick lift of nitrogen and iron. It acts like a mild tonic that makes lawns green for six weeks without accelerated growth. I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve heard it’s very effective.

Broadleaf weed herbicide helps protect against public enemy No. 1 when it comes to lawns – and with broadleaf weeds, there’s a lengthy list of suspects. But thick, healthy lawns crowd out weeds so they can’t get a foothold to multiply. The nice thing about a broadleaf weed killer is you can apply it anytime weeds are actively growing – and it comes in a variety of easy-to-use formats that don’t hurt your lawn.

Insecticides are a matter of choice. Spiders, ants, fleas and ticks are a nuisance, especially when they hitch a ride on a shoe, the hem of our pants or a pet and then join us inside the house. Most insecticides provide effective, long-term protection and are environmentally safe for birds, mammals and even reptiles.

Grub insecticides can either be applied to prevent grubs or to treat an active problem. (Check the product for specific uses.) Early detection and number are the keys. Watch for off-color or brown areas in your lawn in July and August, and pull back an edge of the lawn to inspect more closely for grubs if you’re suspicious. If you see more than 10 white grubs per square foot, run – don’t walk – to the nearest lawn-care product shelf. Pretreating in May is an option if you think your lawn may be prone to them, and treatment in fall is always helpful. Just remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to these ground-level lawn destroyers!

Systemic lawn fungicides protect your lawn from the inside out, stopping the problem before it becomes one, and fixing a fungal problem that already exists. But prevention costs just a quarter as much as the cure (a familiar theme by now, for sure)! Less product and fewer applications make prevention a smart option if you lawn is prone to a common fungus problem. (Granular formats are easy to apply once a year at the same time you fertilize in spring or fall.)

Growing a beautiful spring lawn isn’t just for the pros. It can be a reality for the do-it-yourselfers, too! (And the products get better and easier to use every year.) By learning what to do now (and throughout the rest of the season), you’ll have a healthy, carefree lawn that makes you proud to mow…and show.