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Extension > Extension in your Community > Rice > County Agriculture Educator > Articles > Lawn care checklist: spring edition

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Lawn care checklist: spring edition

The April snow has melted and our turfgrass is finally revealing itself again, reminding us that we have some work to do to prepare our lawns for the growing season. We are lucky that the cool-season turfgrasses we use in our Minnesota lawns can survive harsh winters, because this past winter was a doozy. Our turfgrasses endure the changing seasons because they grow rapidly during the cooler temperatures of spring and fall and then become less active during the heat of summer and frigid cold of winter. Our lawn care routine should support this natural life cycle of cool-season grasses to ensure that our lawns stay healthy. 

Cool-season grass root growth is stimulated by soil temperatures above 32°F, and is optimal with soil temperatures between 50 and 65°F. In early spring, grass roots are long and full of nutrients stored from the fall. Shoots, or the aboveground parts that what we call blades of grass, use this stored energy for growth. In the warmer summer temperatures, shoot and root growth slow down. Plants rest during times of heat and drought.

Keeping the biology of our grasses in mind, there are ideal times of the season to perform different lawn care practices. Your spring to-do list should include crabgrass control, sodding and seeding if necessary.

Pre-emergence control of crabgrass is most effective, so try to target this weed before it comes out of the ground this spring. Mid-April to mid-May is the best window for controlling crabgrass with an herbicide. If you miss that window, you can target it post-emergence when the crabgrass is small. This usually falls between mid-May to early July. If you have broadleaf weed issues, May through June is an okay time to target them, though fall is better. In the fall, weeds are allocating their resources to their roots, making herbicides more effective during that time.

Early May through June is the best time to lay sod, and it is okay for seeding grass, too. This way, you’ll get some root growth before the grass slows down in the summer. It is actually better to seed grass in August through September or mid-November, but if you missed those timeframes, then you can seed in the spring.

Note that adding fertilizer too early may encourage grass to grow when it should be slow or dormant – wait until May to start fertilizing. The best time to fertilize is August through October, but May or June are okay times as well.

Mowing also begins in the spring. Proper mowing practices contribute to a healthy lawn and minimal weeds, and, if you leave grass clippings on your lawn, contribute to lawn nutrition. For a typical residential lawn, maintain a height of 3 inches or higher. Taller grass shades out weed seeds and keeps soil cooler. As a rule of thumb, don’t remove more than 1/3 of the leaf tissue when you mow.

It is important to schedule your lawn care maintenance during times that match the grass’ life cycle.


-Claire LaCanne, Extension Educator, Rice and Steele Counties