Spring lawn care checklist – 7 steps for healthier grass

A good spring lawn schedule needs to include some, or all, of these steps each year

A lush green backyard lawn backed by trees
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Many homeowners aspire for a lush and green lawn for their family to enjoy during the summer months. It may look far from ideal after winter, however, spring offers the ideal time to prepare your lawn for the year ahead. Some key steps in spring lawn care will help any lawn grow thick and healthy, able to withstand all the rigours of a summer of heavy use. 

Lawn care has played a large role during my years in horticulture. For example, I led on turf maintenance across historic gardens I worked in and that included planning the spring lawn care schedule each year. I also spent a period working as a greenkeeper and assisted in looking after sports pitches. 

Using my experience of managing lawns that had to withstand a large amount of footfall every season, I have compiled a list of seven spring lawn care steps that can help get the health of your lawn off to a great start each year.

Front of house with a driveway and lawn

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When to start your spring lawn care steps

When you start working on your lawn will depend on your climate and US hardiness zone. Once the temperatures start to increase, and the risk of frosts is over, then the grass will start to actively start growing again. 

Only then should you start on a spring lawn care schedule. Avoid walking on, or working on, frozen or very wet grass, as this will be a lawn care mistake that can damage the lawn itself, as well as the soil underneath, and the grass will take time to recover. 

1. Clear debris

Collecting fall leaves off a lawn

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The winter weather can leave a mess behind and even what was a green and thick lawn last summer may seem less than desirable come the start of spring. So now comes the time to start that spruce up. 

Any branches, twigs, pine cones, fallen leaves, or any other debris, that remains on the lawn needs to be collected up and removed before doing any other spring lawn care steps. Not only will this material suffocate the grass by smothering it and blocking out light, but matted leaves and debris can also be a breeding ground for diseases.

2. Gently mow

Close up of a red lawnmower cutting grass

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There is no rush to start cutting a lawn again. You can start mowing a lawn in spring once the grass is actively growing, but avoid going out with the lawn lower when the grass is wet or the ground moist underfoot. 

The lawn will benefit from a high mower height in spring, aim to simply remove the the straggly length off the top and do not be tempted to go too low. A gentle mow is recommended around a week before starting the other spring lawn care steps. Always ensure that lawn mower blades are sharp before heading out for the first cut in spring.

3. Remove thatch

dethatching a lawn

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Scarifying, or dethatching, the lawn is an essential spring lawn care task that removes all the thatch from inside the lawn. That thatch is made up of lots of organic material, both dead and living, that sits on the soil surface and underneath the grass blades. 

If you dethatch a lawn in spring you will also get rid of moss that can build up in lawns. Thatch can restrict airflow and the amount of water that gets down into the soil, while it is also where fungal diseases can become rife - so removing it boosts the overall health of a lawn. 

You will often see the terms scarifying and dethatching used interchangeably, however, the main difference is that dethatching only works through the top surface layer while scarifying is a more aggressive way of removing thatch and moss. When it comes to how to scarify a lawn, it can be done with a garden rake or a mechanical machine.

4. Get spiking

Aerating a lawn with a garden fork to improve drainage

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Aerating a lawn in spring offers several benefits that can help give you a healthy lawn come summer. The process relieves compaction, boosts drainage, and increases airflow into the lawn which can help the development of strong roots - this means you benefit from a lawn that can withstand all the rigours of lots of usage once the warmer weather arrives. 

Again, like with dethatching, there are options for how to aerate a lawn - and it may depend on the size. You can get machines to do the task, or it can simply be done with a garden fork by spiking. 

Alternatively, you can get shoes with spikes on which means you can walk the lawn and aerate as you go. It is advised to aerate before fertilizing and also aerate before seeding a lawn

5. Spread seed

Sowing grass seed over a bare path on a lawn

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Spring is a great time of year for overseeding. Whether it is to cover bare patches in grass, or to overseed an entire thinning lawn to thicken it up, seeds can germinate quickly once the ground warms up come spring. 

Getting the timing right to overseed a lawn in spring can help you get successful germination. The soil temperature wants to be 50-65°F for many fast-growing grass seeds to germinate and the ground also wants to be kept constantly moist. The seeds can then either be scattered by hand or a push-along machine can be used to overseed a lawn

A soil thermometer can help you pick the right time and it may be advisable to use covers or a deterrent to stop birds eating grass seed after you have sown it.

6. Apply feed

Fertilizing a lawn

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The addition of a slow-release spring lawn fertilizer can provide a lawn with all the nutrients required to grow strong and healthy. 

Take care not to over-fertilize a lawn in spring, however, as it will result in lots of leafy growth at the expense of root development, weakening the grass overall. Just like with overseeding, the feed can be applied by hand or with a push-along spreader - and the lawn does want to be watered afterwards. 

It is advisable to wait around a month after seeding to fertilize the lawn unless you use a fertilizer designed for use when planting grass.

7. Combat weeds

killing lawn weeds

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Weeds are unwanted sights in many people’s lawns. If you strive for a pristine lawn that is free of weeds, then spring can be an ideal time to deal with any unwanted plants before they start to establish. Large perennial weeds can be removed by hand using a knife or garden fork and it is important to remove all the roots to prevent the weed from simply resprouting. 

Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied in spring to prevent weeds from sprouting, or post-emergent herbicides can be selectively applied to weeds that are actively growing as they are designed to kill weeds but not grass

If you want to combine treatments, then you can get products that both weed and feed a lawn in spring - such as this weed and feed lawn fertilizer available at Amazon.


Can you top-dress a lawn in spring?

Yes, you can top-dress a lawn in spring. Top dressing can help level the surface of the lawn, deal with thatch, and improve drainage when done in association with aeration. It is a task that can be done anytime when the grass is growing, ideally in spring or fall along with other lawn care tasks.

As well as spring, fall is another busy time for lawn care. The likes of mowing, scarifying, aerating, and feeding are also important parts of a good fall lawn care maintenance regime to help protect the grass from any potentially damaging effects of winter.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.