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Early Lawn Activities to Consider

Spring came a little early this year and work has begun in many home landscapes. Here are some early lawn activities to consider.

I wrote previously about applying pre-emergent crabgrass controls. If you haven’t yet done that, that’s an ASAP task. Controls should be in place before crabgrass seed germinates and emerges. Track the estimated best application timing of preemergent crabgrass controls at

Spring seeding of turfgrass is sometimes a hit-or-miss operation, due to cool soil temperatures, longer periods before emergence, and summer stress of newly emerged, weak seedlings. But, if you have small bare spots, you may wish to give spring seeding a try. Disturb the soil to ensure seed-to-soil contact, seed, and water frequently.  If you need to re-seed bare spots, skip crabgrass controls as they will likely interfere with desired grass germination and growth. Seeding of cool-season turfgrass varieties like Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue is best done in late August through early September.

Basic preparations for lawn mowing include picking up sticks and fallen limbs and raking to remove leaves, twigs, and trash. Sticks left in the yard can hasten the dulling of mower blades. Give your mower a tune-up, including an oil change, and sharpen the blade. A sharp blade produces a cleaner and healthier cut, leaving a more attractive lawn. Plus, it puts less stress on the engine.

Although many have had their mowers busy already, the first mowing should be slightly lower than normal to encourage green-up. Then, move to the season-long mowing height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Although optimum mowing height will vary with turf species, 3 inches is a good average target height to shoot for. The more leaf area, the more capacity the plant has for photosynthesis, which results in carbohydrate products used for plant maintenance and growth.

Other things you may consider this spring include thatch control and aerification (or aeration) of turf. Thatch is a layer of dead grass stems on top of the soil surface that limits water and air penetration into the soil. Power rakes or core aerators can help with thatch. Aerification (thatch or no thatch) also helps relieve soil compaction, improves water and air movement into the soil, increases rooting, and can greatly improve turfgrass health. The turf should be actively growing (usually in April) for these operations.

Lawn weeds are another concern. Homeowners electing to apply weed killers to lawns may have mixed results in spring. For dandelions, apply herbicides when dandelions are in flower and some are in the puffball stage (just past flowering). Of course, one disadvantage of this timing is that so many dandelion seeds have been produced and dispersed. Fall is the best time for control of lawn weeds in general.

To follow current issues with home landscapes, access the Purdue Landscape Report, at

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