First step: Know when to start bringing your lawn back to life.

By Lauren Phillips
January 30, 2020

If you take pride in your grassy green lawn, you probably dread the long, cold months of fall and winter, when your yard turns brown and dull. Bringing that greenspace back to life every spring can be exciting—if you’re itching to try out a natural weed killer for lawns or practice organic lawn care, you know the feeling—but it’s not something you can start working on whenever you want. Despite all the smart gadgets and innovations in lawn care, you still have to wait for warmer temperatures (and the promise of no more winter freezes) to get started on your lawn.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until the first day of spring (March 19 in 2020) to start your lawn care efforts. Spring lawn care tips are great in March and April, but February can also be a good time to start putting them to work, especially in warmer climates—but not always. Temperatures may be rising, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can go out and start seeding or fertilizing your yard right away.

“Once the air temperatures start warming up and the ground starts drying out, most lawn-owners begin itching to get outside,” says Kim Ridel, product marketing manager at John Deere. “But the biggest factor in knowing when to get out in the yard is seeing the signs of plants waking up from their winter rest. This is determined more by soil temperature, rather than air temperature.”

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New lawn-owners (or casual ones) probably don’t have a tool to measure soil temperature on hand, but Ridel says you can typically find information on current soil temperature on your local county or university extension website. Another option: Look for yellow Forsythia blooms, which bloom when soil temperatures are around 50 degrees, Ridel says.

“When you see yellow Forsythia blooms, you’ll know that other plants, including your lawn, will soon follow,” she says.

Use your best judgement, though: Even if the soil and air temperature say it’s time to get your mower out, make sure your lawn is dry, otherwise you risk damaging it and making your yard a muddy mess, Ridel says.

Once you’re sure it’s time to start working outside, start by removing fallen debris to start your spring lawn care efforts with a clean slate. (This will also ensure you have a safe place to work outdoors.)

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There’s always the chance that one last freeze will hit, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on your hands and wait to start reviving your lawn; Ridel says late winter is a great time to service your mower, so it’s ready to go when you are.

Change the oil, check for loose or cracked belts, sharpen the blade, and check safety guards. (Always check the manual before doing any service on your lawnmower.) If something’s cracked or damaged, you’ll have time to get it fixed before you need to mow.

Late winter and early spring are important (and popular) times to start working on your lawn, but they’re not the only seasons where good lawn management is necessary.

“No work in the spring will help overcome poor management in the previous year,” Ridel says. “It is important to create a management plan that’s appropriate for your region and plant varieties, and execute each task throughout the year while you also enjoy your yard.”

It may be a few weeks yet before you can start working on your yard, but now you know when it’s safe to get out there. Start making an action plan now, and your yard will be lush and green again before you know it.

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