Early spring lawn activities

This time of year it may be difficult to resist the urge to go do something to the lawn just to get outside. Here are some do’s and don’ts for early lawn care.

I’m writing this article from half-a-world away in Beijing, China today (that would be night for you). I’m here finishing up teaching as part of the MSU China-Turf program. When I flew from Michigan almost two weeks ago (early March), the snow was still on the ground and I was only imagining that by the time I return the turf might at least be thinking about growing. Well since then there have definitely been some spring teasing temperatures, but now looking at the weather it appears that spring is still just toying with us and I don’t think I need to worry about mowing the lawn when I return. This time of year it is difficult to resist the urge to go do something, anything to the lawn just to get outside. Here are a couple do’s and don’t for early season lawn care activities.


As usual there is some snow mold injury on lawns and there are definitely areas where the turf is very matted and ugly. For an early spring activity, consider doing some light raking of the lawn with a leaf rake to help stand up some of the matted tissue and help the new emerging turf break through from the snow mold and matting type injury. Don’t get too aggressive, you don’t want to rip up turf, just clean up debris and remove dead tissue.

Time to get the mower out, but not to mow – rather to do some maintenance. Now would be a good time to fire it up to make sure everything is working properly before you actually need to mow. Also, it’s a great time to sharpen the blades. The mower service shops are probably not swamped yet, but give ‘em another couple weeks, and it could be a long line and long delay if you need any work done on the mower.


It’s not quite time for preemergence crabgrass herbicides. Check out the latest version of MSU’s www.gddtracker.net for guidance on when we’re in the optimal application timing for preemergence herbicides

For early season fertilizer applications I would suggest you resist the current urge and wait until the turf has really greened-up and actually started to grow. This might be about the same time as the preemergence herbicides are recommended for application.

Be careful on rolling lawns this time of year as there are still many soppy, wet areas where rolling might actually do more damage than good. Rolling saturated soils can result in soil compaction. Rolling is popular this time of year to flatten out mole tunnels and mounds and from what I’ve observed, the moles have definitely been active over the winter.

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