Spring care tips for your yard
The birds are singing, the crocuses are blooming, and you just can't wait to start gardening again. You might have the urge to run outside with your rake and trowel and start digging in, but there are some things to consider before you start your outdoor spring cleaning.
- Dormant grass- raking while the grass is dormant can cause damage by accidentally pulling out healthy grass
- Sleeping pollinators- many native pollinator species (bee, butterfly, and hoverfly) will spend the winter months in leaf debris or in the thatch of your lawn. Robins will also thank you for leaving the worms undisturbed
- Fertilizing too early - feeding your lawn before it is ready to grow will lead to runoff
If you're still itching for things to do, here are some tasks you can sink your teeth into while we wait for the weather to warm up:
- Sharpen your tools: A dull blade causes more damage than you'd think! A dull lawnmower will cause rips and tears and will make your grass more prone to infection and stress.
- Lawn mower maintenance: Check on your mower before you intend to use it. Change the oil, check for rust, clean the filter, fill the fuel tank (or charge the battery), and raise the height of cut to approx 3 inches.
- Aerate: Use a core aerator to improve drainage in your lawn. This will also help air and nutrients reach the grass roots.
- Get a rain barrel: You can set up a rain barrel at a downspout from your eaves to catch water. Rainwater is perfect for watering your lawn and plants! The City of Guelph hosts an annual spring sale of rain barrels: guelph.ca/living/house-and-home/lawn-and-garden
- Start a compost pile: Many cities have a weekly organics collection, but you could turn your kitchen waste into nutrient-rich compost.
- Clean your bird feeder: If you have one, it is recommended to give it a good scrub every two weeks.
- Pick up debris: Spring is a great time to pick up any animal waste, garbage, or sticks that have collected over the winter.
When can I start mowing?
Great question! That depends on the weather and your location. We should be past the risk of frost, the ground should be thawed, and the soil should be well-drained. Running a mower over a lawn that is saturated with water will cause damage and could result in lower height-of-cut than intended. Your first cut should be high, and you should never cut more than 1/3 of the shoot length at one time. The grass should be at least 3 inches tall before your first cut.
In southern Ontario, lawns are usually ready for the first cut in late April. That being said, delaying the first mow as long as you can will benefit native birds and insects. The Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests waiting until the end of May to start your lawn care maintenance. You can read more about the Now Mow May initiative here: https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/saskatchewan/news/no-mow-may.html
Should I seed my lawn this spring?
Another great question, and it depends! The best time to seed is early fall, but you can seed in the spring if you're seeing some bare patches or winter damage. The soil should be thawed and not saturated with water because germination may not occur if the soil is too cold and damp. The best species to seed depends on your environmental conditions, but we often recommend a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass and Perennial ryegrass.
Generally, the best time to establish a lawn from seed in Ontario is mid-august to mid-September.
Where can I buy good grass seed?
You can typically find good quality seed at your local nursery.
How do I sharpen my lawnmower blade?
With caution! If you're unsure of how to do it, there are many small engine repair and sharpening services offered by local small businesses.
What kind of rake should I use?
Always rake the lawn before the first mow! A spring tine rake (pictured below) will be gentle enough to untangle the matted leaf blades and loosen up the thatch.