My only credentials for saying this are the three decades of dirt under my fingernails. But I think we will have the earliest lawn-mowing season since the spring of 2010. However, I well remember waking up to nearly a foot of snow on April 16 three years earlier. Needless to say, the mowers stayed silent for a few weeks longer that spring. But I predict this spring’s first mowing will be in early April.
So you have a few weeks to prepare your lawn equipment. (By the way, every repair shop I know gets flooded with mower repairs in April, so get your mechanical needs addressed yesterday.) If you take my warning, you may want to think through some lawn chores to do while you burn off the last of your cabin fever (and before you are self-isolating with a different fever).
Although not as early as in 2018, winter came early last fall. So you may not have been able to rake up your oak and fruit tree leaves. While it is not necessary to remove each fallen leaf from your lawn – and in fact you can mulch many of the fallen leaves – leaves that lay on the grass, especially in layers, can suffocate it and spawn disease. So rake the piled leaves.
Speaking of diseases and quarantines, if you know that your tree has a fungal disease, it is probably best to remove all fallen leaves. The leaves will not sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing their hands or cover their coughs, so they will pass last year’s disease on to this year’s new leaves, especially if the spring is wet or the tree is left un-pruned. So while you can’t quarantine a tree, you can sanitize its feet by removing its fallen leaves.
Dethaching and aerating
If you plant to dethatch your lawn, you don’t have to rake it. If you rake or dethatch your lawn, it provides surface aeration. Purdue and the University of Illinois recommend dethatching if thatch accumulation reaches half an inch. Most lawns do not have this much thatch, but dethatching both aerates and looks nice, especially in early spring.
If you have a herd of children who trample your lawn, or if you treat your lawn to a regular chem-o-therapy, your lawn will benefit from core aeration. The running children’s feet will smash the macropores in the soil, so the lawn will suffocate. The chemical bath will reduce tunneling worms and insects who keep the air moving in the soil.
Fertilizing and Seeding
If GreenChem will be paying your lawn a spring visit, you won’t be able to overseed your lawn until nearly summer. The pre-emergent herbicides indiscriminately disable seed germination of all types. But you can overseed and apply organic fertilizer to thicken your grass and prevent weeds naturally.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.