Spring Lawn Care: Thatch, Aeration, and Fertilizers

Basement Flooding and Sump Pumps
March 23, 2009
Which Grass Seed to use for your lawn
May 8, 2009

We all love when spring finally arrives in Minnesota. That is, we love it after those first few weeks when the snow first melts
uncovering months of dirt, salt, and garbage. After that it’s great. And then it snows again and life sucks but you know that its going to be better just around the corner. We may have finally reached that “corner” and it’s time to start thinking about lawn work. So where do you start? Minnesotans are so anxious to get out and get their yard time in that we can end up wrecking the very thing that we’re trying to improve. My first advice is calm down you’ve got a solid 3-4 months of outside time, don’t burn out in the first 2 weeks.

Your Lawn:
My best advice is that you don’t touch it with a tool until it dries out. This happens in about mid-April in the Twin Cities. However, it may be earlier or later depending on your yard. If it’s dry you can start by raking (by hand, not power raking). You should rake to remove loose debris but not to remove thatch at this point. Your lawn needs to be well established (in other words green and mowed) before you do anything remotely close to dethatching. You can damage the root base by using a dethatcher this early. It’s best to do any power raking or dethatching in late summer or fall.
Lets take a minute to discuss thatch. Thatch is the dead mowed grass and leaves that are left on your lawn after you mow. Your lawn needs thatch. It provides shade for the root base and replenishes nutrients back into the lawn. It can get too thick and start to choke your grass. To determine whether you need to dethatch take a spade and dig out a section of turf(don’t worry you can simply put it back and it will be fine). If there is more than 1/2 inch of thatch, (like the picture to the left) then you can consider dethatching. During the spring and early summer months if it appears that your thatch layer is too thick (more than 1/2 inch) you should core aerate the lawn instead of dethatching. Core aeration is much gentler on your grass and it leaves that nutrient rich mulch on the lawn instead of taking it away.
Core aerators take a plug of turf out of your lawn and leave it on the surface. The holes allow for air, rain, and nutrients to better reach the soil. They also introduce tiny microorganisms back to the surface that aid in the breaking down of thatch. It is best to fertilize after core aeration.
Fertilizer:
Spring time is the time for crabgrass preventer. Crabgrass preventer can first be applied from late April to early May in Minnesota. Crabgrass preventer is what’s called a pre-emergent. It is meant to be applied to the lawn before the crabgrass already showing. It must be watered into the soil for it to be effective. The best fertilizer for attacking crabgrass is Scotts Super Turf Builder with Halts. Make sure you buy the “Super Turf Builder” and not the “Turf Builder” (see pictures below) that you’ll find at the big box stores like Home Depot. This doesn’t have the same amount of fertilizer in it as the Super Turf Builder (that is the reason why they can charge what they charge for it).

Weed and feed is a broadleaf weed killer and fertilizer. Broadleaf weeds include Thistle and the most common Dandelion. Broadleaf killers are post-emergent herbicides. That means that they must be applied after the weeds are already present. It is best to apply this fertilizer from mid May to mid June.
If you do not have crabgrass or broadleaves you can always use a fertilizer without weed killer in it to feed your lawn. The best defense against any weed, be it crabgrass or dandelion, is a thick lush lawn of healthy grass. The best fertilizer for this is the Scotts Super Turf Builder.
If you need fertilizer (get a free fertilizer spreader rental with the purchase of any of our lawn fertilizers) or to rent either a core aerator or dethatcher you can come in to our store at 12700 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove located in the Bass Lake Shopping Center. For more information contact us at 763-553-1222