When it’s mid-winter in Michigan, the snows continue to pill up and below zero temperatures have forced you to hibernation for weeks at a time, but, even though this should be the farthest thing from your mind, you just can’t stop thinking about getting started on all those wonderful lawn projects.
Believe me, there are few things which can be accomplished in the frozen winter months into spring to get an advanced start on landscaping before coming warm weather. Unknown to many, cool-season weeds thrive and if you leave them unchecked they can be plotting a takeover of your yard.
This is bad news. In the dormant warm-season grass anything green stands out like a sore thumb so if you only have a few evil broadleaf weeds, you might want to spot-treat them using an herbicide.
Your first step is to fertilize (using a spreader) before winter even sets in. There are a push as well as hand spreaders available. Never exceed the recommended amount of fertilizer. If you do, it can burn your grass. Next (still before the snow flies) keep mowing your lawn regularly as winter weeds won’t survive repeated cutting but be sure to capture any seeds before they get a chance to spread across your yard. (Note for next year: application of a fall herbicide should provide the same results with far less hassle), that is what I did.
Aeration of your lawn, this is another hugely beneficial practice. This delivers plenty of air to the grassroots which aid in spring growth. It’s also a good idea to limit your lawn foot traffic. (Use sidewalks if you have them available), and this is doubly the case during the winter, early spring months. Heavy traffic can severely damage or even kill your grass, and that leads to bare spots which will need fixing down the road.
Take advantage of an unexpected thaw during cold months. You should seriously consider removing any leaves that slipped through the cracks from last fall. However, rake with care, at this point in the season your grass is dormant and fragile; vigilant raking can damage or pull out the needed roots, rendering your efforts pointless.
After all your careful prep, seeding is essential in the spring. Be sure to purchase “cool season” or “cool weather” grass seed as regular warm weather seed will likely not take root this time of year. Even distribution of the seed always shows the top results. Winter weather can be a mixed bag so its important to stay on top of your lawn and keep the new seed moist. However, you never want to over water your seeds. Too much or too little moisture can leave you with a lot of work with little return.
Winter salt and snow plow damage is common and tough on Michigan grass lawns. Take time for necessary repairs. Reseed the damaged areas should become a priority. However, if you are planning to apply a pre-emergent weed control please be extra careful, as it will prevent all seed from germinating and haphazard application could make for lasting lawn damage.
The arrival of early spring often provides a tantalizing opportunity for a head start if you take advantage of it. Disease, insects and snow mold are your first items to consider, yet thorough raking, which increases airflow throughout the grass, can go a long way to reducing lawn threats.
Continue your raking (endlessly it seems) to clear leftover leaves from last fall, this can yield great results. Start with matted sections of the lawn and work your way to the rest of the lawn. This will go a long way to encourage new grass to grow with the least difficulty.
Crabgrass will quickly become the next target. Apply a crabgrass control early is helpful. Timing is important as the application should be done before the ground reaches temperatures in the mid-50s or 60 degrees. Be ready, because if you miss this opportunity crabgrass germination can get out of control fast.
Fertilize in the early Michigan spring. This helps your yard get a head start towards shaking off its long northern winter hibernation. You want to provide necessary nutrients which allow for common summer weather such as heat and exhausting drought conditions, which invariably slows the growth of your yard during the growing season.
Aeration (again) is also good practice in the springtime for all the same reasons as before. It allows for air and moisture to penetrate deep down to the grass roots. There is one special concern to consider here, though, which is temperature related. Similar to the issues which surround crabgrass, if you don’t aerate before temperatures creep above 60 degrees you will invite weed seeds which can and will wreak havoc on your lawn.
Although tempting as it’s, there is never a time of the year to neglect your yard. Especially if you strive for lawn perfection. Every season offers several opportunities and projects which can make your yard stand out as perhaps the most beautiful in your Michigan neighborhood, assuming you are willing to put in the time and effort.