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Spring Lawn Care

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 1, 2015        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Spring Lawn Care
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (04/01/15) — Due to the early spring, many want to get a jump start on lawn care. Be sure to assess your lawn before getting ahead of yourself. Turf plants are very sensitive in early spring, and it is important to know when to do what for the healthiest lawn.  Many may discover that the optimal time for several lawn care tasks is not actually spring, but rather late summer.

First step in doing spring lawn care should be assessing your location. Regardless of good practice calendars, each spring is different and each yard’s conditions can be different. Before doing any lawn care be sure the frost is out and the ground has firmed up. Due to the dry conditions we’ve had this winter and spring, some lawns have already firmed up, but you want to ensure that the soil is no longer cold and muddy before doing work. 

Some might still have leaves to clean up; be aware that raking too early may cause damage. Raking might uproot the grass plants or simply walking on your lawn may cause compaction to the soils.  In nearly all yards there are likely different conditions in different areas. Monitor all parts of your lawn, and selectively work in areas that are ready before doing mass work across your whole yard.

Some may notice narrow, twisting ridges of loose grass or uprooted grass.  Likely meadow voles have tunneled these small trenches.  The best method to remediate meadow vole damage is to rake up the loose grass and any clumps of uprooted plant material.  Most of the damage caused by the meadow voles is actually confined to the grass foliage rather than the crown of the plant, which is the part of the plant responsible for regrowing new shoots and grass blades.  However, if there is extensive damage, re-leveling these spots and possibly adding topsoil and overseeding may be necessary.

That brings up the question, when I should fertilize, seed, apply pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide and dethatch?  Recently the University of Minnesota Extension released a new lawn care calendar that can be found at

Dethatching is best performed from mid-August through the end of September but also is acceptable from the third week of April to third week of May. Aeration is best performed from mid-August through the second week of October; however this activity is also acceptable in spring during the month of May.

Fertilizing, despite our old practices, is best performed from the second week of August through the first week or so of October. A spring application from May to mid-June is acceptable, but for those who would like to decrease the inputs on their lawns, switch to a late summer, early fall application.

Weed control such as pre-emergent herbicides for crabgrass should typically be applied in the last week of April through the second week of May. Crabgrass seeds germinate once the nighttime soil temperatures are around 52° to 55° F. This means you should monitor your soil temperatures, which can be done with a soil thermometer, and then apply the herbicide following all label directions when soil temperatures are nearing crabgrass germination temperatures. The best time to control crabgrass is in early spring; however post-emergent herbicides application is acceptable from mid-May through the beginning of July.  Regarding broad leaf control, the best time is September through third week of October, with May through third week of June being an acceptable time.  If weed population is low, removal by hand or tool is always a good practice to minimize the use of pesticides.

For more lawn care activities, visit the complete calendar. Breaking old habits might be hard to do, but to improve the health of your turf, and maybe save you time and money, follow the lawn care activity chart.


Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
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