Spring Lawn and Garden Checklist: 10 Steps to a Beautiful Summer Yard

Brian Hogan
Apr 22, 2021 7:43:25 AM

Your spring home maintenance checklist isn’t complete unless it includes seasonal garden and lawn management — outdoor living spaces are as important as interior ones, especially when the warm weather arrives to turn the world green once again. 

Tulip Garden with trees in bloom and home in the background

Just as you take steps in the fall to prepare your yard for the winter, proper care in the spring can give you gorgeous flower beds and lush green grass to enjoy all summer long. With a nod to Earth Day, here’s the final installment of our two-part spring home maintenance series:

Pre-Summer Lawn Care

It’s amazing how quickly sunshine and warmer temperatures can turn brown winter grass into a green springtime lawn. Take these steps to give your lawn the healthy start it needs to thrive all season long:

1. Rake deeply

Deep raking, also known as dethatching, prepares your grass for new growth by removing any dead grass or leaves that became matted down into the thatch through the winter. Going over your lawn with a stiff-tined lawn rake or a special dethatching rake helps protect against fungal growth and pest infestation, too. 

2. Mow high

Given that grass grows very quickly with a bit of springtime warmth, sunshine, and rain, you’ll be mowing before you know it. As soon as it’s about three inches high, set the blade height on your mower to two or two-and-a-half inches and give your lawn a trim. Mow your lawn when it’s dry; wet grass forms clumps that don’t cut evenly. 

3. Seed early

If your lawn has bare patches, seed them as early as possible — preferably before May — to give new grass enough time to establish itself before hot weather sets in. If you don’t have time to get the job done in April, wait until late August or early September. Early fall is actually the best time of the year to reseed a lawn.

4. Fertilize later

Because most turf fertilizers promote green leafy growth at the expense of root development, you shouldn’t fertilize your grass before mid-May. In the spring, it’s best to use a slow-release product that’s less likely to burn your turf as the days grow hotter. If you use regular fertilizer, you should plan to water your lawn regularly throughout the summer. 

5. Control crabgrass

Crabgrass germinates when soil temperatures reach 55 to 60 degrees for longer than a week. To get rid of this stubborn annual weed and foster a well-maintained lawn, apply an effective crabgrass control product by mid-April, and reapply four to six weeks later in mid to late May. 

Home lawn in spring with freshly mulched beds

Springtime Garden Prep

Although your specific landscape plantings, beds, and containers help determine what kind of tasks and chores you should tackle each spring, the average garden requires you to:

6. Prune shrubs

Now is the time to remove dead, damaged branches from woody shrubs, perennial vines, and rose bushes. While you can thin and shape some plants as soon as new growth appears, you shouldn’t prune spring bloomers until after they’ve flowered. If you’re unsure, research proper pruning techniques and timing for each variety. 

7. Clean existing beds

Clean out your existing flower beds, starting in areas where spring bulbs are peeking up out of the ground. Before any other new growth appears, gently rake out any leafy surface debris and cut back last year’s perennial and ornamental grass foliage before new growth appears. If your beds aren’t as full as you’d like, now’s the time to choose new plants and fill the gaps.   

8. Create new beds

If you plan to make an existing flower bed larger or create a new one altogether, spring is the best time to clear the planting area. After you remove sod, weeds, and debris, dig through the soil thoroughly, turning it to add oxygen and relieve compaction. Spread a four-inch layer of soil-enriching compost across the bed, “cultivating” it down into the soil with a spading fork.    

9. Divide perennials

If your garden contains established perennials, divide them soon after new growth appears. Dividing perennials every two to three years gives their roots more space to grow, making it easier for them to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. This simple strategy rejuvenates your plants and keeps them healthy for years to come. 

10. Replenish mulch

The single most effective thing you can do to refresh your garden in the spring — functionally and aesthetically — is to dress it with a fresh layer of mulch. Whether you choose wood chips, finished compost, or something else, mulch makes your beds look tidier, suppresses weeds, and helps soil retain moisture.  

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