Project Guide

How to Ready Your Lawn for Spring

Rake or Aerate
Someone aerating a lawn with a garden tool
  • When the temperatures start to rise, avoid damage by staying off your lawn until after the spring thaw. 
  • Thatch is a layer of living and dead materials like roots and leaves that builds up between live grass and the soil. Over time, microbes break thatch down into useful organic matter, but if it becomes too thick, it can keep water and air from reaching the grass. 
  • To remove it, rake the grass and/or aerate it with a core aerator, a machine that removes plugs of soil so more air, water and nutrients can reach the grass roots. It’s best to aerate cool-season grasses in early spring or autumn. Warm season grasses should be aerated from late spring to summer. Aerator rentals are available.
  • Aerate yearly in clay soils or in parts of your lawn that get a lot of traffic. 
  • If your lawn is thriving, aerate every two or three years. 
Man using a push spreader  to fertilize a lawn.
  • Wait until your grass is actively growing before applying fertilizer.
  • Water your lawn a few days before you apply feed it. This will help avoid burning the roots of the grass. 
  • Selecting the right fertilizer depends on your lawn’s needs and any persistent problems. Your Home Depot Lawn and Garden Center associate can help you find the right fertlizer.
  • When your lawn is thick and healthy, it should crowd out most weeds. The roots of the grass should also stay shaded, so they can better withstand the summer heat.
  • In the spring, use a fertilizer with a crabgrass preventer. Later, use a weed and feed product to eliminate common and broadleaf weeds. Read the directions on your product to know how long to wait after using the crabgrass preventer before you can apply a weed killer. 
  • Use a spreader to ensure you apply the right amount of fertilizer and distribute it evenly across your grass. Read the directions on your spreader to know what settings to use.
  • Walk back and forth in straight lines on each pass when you apply the fertilizer. 
  • Follow the directions on your product for how much fertilizer to use and when to reapply it.
Seed and Lime
Man using a hand spreader to sow grass seed.
  • Plant grass seed in bare spots in your lawn or wherever growth is sparse. Early spring and fall are ideal times for reseeding. 
  • Lime should be applied to lawns in some parts of the country. Lime increases the soil’s pH, which helps grass better utilize nutrients from the soil and from fertilizers that you apply. It’s not a substitute for fertilizer, however. 
  • To determine whether your lawn needs lime, do a soil test. Most grasses grow best when the soil pH is between 5.8 and 7.2. If your soil is too acidic, moss, weeds, diseases and insect pests often show up and the grass declines. 
  • Use a soil test kit to find your soil's pH or ask a county extension agent if he or she can test for you. 
  • Soil pH changes over time, so retest yearly until your results are balanced. Afterwards, an established lawn can be tested every three years or so.
  • If your lawn needs lime, fall and spring are usually the best times to add it. Use soil test results to know how much lime to apply and follow the directions on the lime package. 
Man watering with a garden hose to care for and maintain a lawn.
  • When you water your lawn, water deeply to encourage long, deep roots. 
  • In general, grass needs an inch of water per week, whether it’s from rain or a garden hose, sprinkler or irrigation system. To avoid evaporation in the heated air during the summer, water early in the day, or at least before 10 am. 
  • Not sure if you should water? Step on and off your grass and then watch how fast the blades bounce back. If the blades take more than a moment to bounce back, or they're wilted, curled or dull in color, it may be time to water.
Mowing and Ongoing Lawn Care
Man mowing a lawn with a lawn mower with a bagger attached.
  • Make sure your lawn mower blade is sharp to guarantee a clean cut. Be safe, and always remove the spark plugs before doing any work on your lawn mower. 
  • Set your mower high enough to remove only the top 1/3 of the grass blades every time you mow. This usually means you’ll have to mow more often, but longer blades develop deep, healthy roots that can take up more water and nutrients. Check the manual that came with your mower to see if it has a recommended setting for your specific type of grass.
  • Mow early in the evening, when the temperatures are usually cooler, and any fog or dew has dried. Don’t mow when it’s raining or just after a rain, when the mower will not cut your lawn evenly and may become clogged with clumps of wet grass. 
  • Vary the pattern each time you mow. This helps prevent ruts from forming and keeps the grass from always bending in the same direction. 
  • Mowing should be done when your grass needs it, not on a set schedule. Grass usually needs to be mowed more often than the temperatures heat up in spring or summer than at the end of the growing season.
Use Lawn Clippings
Someone raking grass clippings off a mowed lawn.
  • It’s fine to leave grass clippings on your lawn unless or until they build up too much and form a thick thatch layer. Refer back to step one for dethatching care. 
  • It’s also fine to bag clippings and add them to a compost pile as long as you haven’t used any chemicals on your lawn.