It’s official: spring is here! And spring brings the possibility of all kinds of outdoorsy house things, like planting flowers, gardening, and lawn care. Good old lawn care.
I’ll admit to being a complete newbie when it comes to proper lawn care. Growing up, it was just “cut the grass whenever it gets too long,” and who cares about the details? As long as the weeds are mowed nice and short, we’re good. That was our attitude last summer, too — with all the baby preparations and everything going on, it was all we could do just to keep the lawn mowed and sometimes watered.
But this year, energized by the possibility that things could be different, I started reading about what to do in spring to optimize your lawn for the summer season. I found some detailed articles here and here which give a lot of tips and suggestions, but the main things seem to be as follows:
- Fertilizing – Only lightly in the spring, though; apparently fertilizing too much early on makes it harder for the grass to stay healthy through the hotter summer months.
- Seeding – To fill in bare spots and build up a thicker lawn. Some sources seem to say this is better done in fall, and recommend frequent watering to help any new grasslings survive the summer.
- Weed control – Using herbicides (or the organic equivalent) to stop the weeds and dandelions early on, although this seems to be a bad idea if you’re planning on also seeding.
- Raking – To control the “thatch,” the layer of dead grass and other organic matter that can build up; while some seems to be okay, too much can lead to problems. More info on that can be found here.
I gravitated toward that last one. Since we’ll need to watch the budget for a while due to the major and expensive electrical work we need to have done on the house — that’ll actually be starting next week if all goes well — it seems outright wasteful to go around spending money on things like fertilizer. But raking is practically free! So so far, our entire spring lawn care expenditures have looked something like this:
- Big paper yard waste bags to collect leaves and grass: $2.54 for a 5-pack
- Rake: free (ours came with the house)
So I set to work on the raking on Sunday afternoon while Joe tended to Lily. Just looking at it, it didn’t seem like there was that much “stuff” to rake up, but once I actually started all these big piles of leaves and grass just started coming out of nowhere:
And over by the bushes… well, lots of leaves had built up. We admittedly didn’t do any raking at all last fall (we were kind of busy at the time) so all these dead brown leaves had been sitting there all winter.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but raking just the front yard filled up two entire bags, and left my muscles aching for days. And the front yard of our narrow city lot is small — I don’t know how people manage with larger suburban lawns.
One nice thing was that after removing all those leaves from around the bushes, you could see those tulip bulbs we planted last year starting to come up. I think they look a little bedraggled, probably from being buried in dead leaves for so long, but they’re definitely growing:
But that wasn’t all that was revealed. When the raking was finished, it became obvious that there were some pretty large bare spots on the lawn:
I’m not sure if these were hard to notice before, back when two giant bags of leaves and debris were scattered over the lawn, or if the raking made them bigger, or if I just wasn’t paying enough attention. (Looking at the sort-of-before photo at the top of this post, it seems like you can see at least one of the bigger patches toward the bottom left.) Here’s a closer view of these bare dirt patches:
So I guess that may require some seeding, unless the rest of the grass magically grows in to fill up those bare spots or something.
Anyway, that’s the state of the lawn this spring — stay tuned for more hapless attempts at lawn care as the season continues! And in the meantime, have you guys been outside doing any lawn care, gardening, or landscaping this spring? Any tips that you’ve found really helpful for keeping a lawn from turning into a dead and/or weed-filled wasteland? Feel free to share in the comments!