Lawn Care After Winter – Essential Early Spring Lawn Care Tips (What to do NOW!)

Finally, the freezing temperatures of winter have broken, and… your lawn isn’t looking so hot.

Brown. Brittle. It’s half dead, desperate for some air, sunlight, and nutrients.

It can be challenging to restore your lawn to its former green glory, even if your region was lucky enough to avoid arctic-like temperatures.

But fear not, for there are plenty of easy ways to revive your turf after we say goodbye to the snow and gratefully welcome in the spring.

Here are the essential tips for lawn care after winter.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you shop through the links on YardThyme, we may earn an affiliate's commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. For more information, read full disclosure here.

Step 1 – Identifying Problems!

What should you be looking for?

The first thing you should do once temperatures rise, and you’re feeling warm enough to start yard work again, is to find out exactly what you’ll be dealing with.

Head out into your yard and make an inspection, looking out for the following problems.

green grass and dry dead grass

Snow Mold

Snow mold? Yup. It’s a real thing. Snow mold is a fungus that grows on the grass in patches where snow has fallen.

Look for areas of discoloration, which is usually gray but can also be pink, around 3-12 inches in diameter.

Snow mold can affect all grasses, but it’s more prevalent in some areas than others – depending on the type of grass you have in your yard.

Salt Damage

All those snow storms are a pain – even for your grass. The chemicals used to salt the roads can be harmful to the environment – and they don’t always stay on the pavement.

Check for dark brown patches – most commonly located near sidewalks and roadways, or anywhere salt might have been put down over the winter.

Critter Destruction

Animal pests can cause havoc to your lawn at the best of times, but they’re a particular nuisance when humans aren’t around to keep them at bay, and snowfall can keep them hidden.

Look for trail markings through the turf or lines of damaged, broken grass. Rodents such as mice and voles might have been having a winter feed on your lawn roots, away from prying eyes and predators.

Compacted Soil

All that snow weighing down on the turf for months on end could have seriously compacted the soil, which can be harmful to roots, prevent nutrients from getting through, and compromise the overall health and color of your lawn.

To check if your soil suffers from this problem – do the pen test. Take Biro or pencil and stick it into your lawn. If it goes in easy – then you’re good to go. If you meet any resistance, you need to take action.

Crabgrass Remains

Notoriously difficult to remove and control, crabgrass dies when the frost first hits and/or when it groups its seeds, but it might already have done its damage by then.

Crabgrass weakens the surrounding soil, and you might spot areas where it has infested, with unsightly sparse areas that will need taking care of.

Dog Urine

Spike’s urine can have a lasting impact on your lawn, especially after being frozen under the snow. Dog urine specifically contains high levels of nitrogen, which cause dead patches of grass.

So, if you have a four-legged-friend you let run wild in the yard, you might well see several sparse patches of discolored grass where your fur baby has done their business.

spring time concept - melting snow and growing green grass

How to Revive a Lawn After Winter

So, what do you do about all this?

After identifying the problems your lawn might be facing after winter, the next step is to actually get down and dirty.

With just a few hours of work for a few days, you will be able to bring your lawn back from the dead and transform it into a fresh expanse of green for springtime

Overwhelmed? Don’t worry. Step by step, here is what you should do:

Clear the Debris

Your yard will be filled with debris, such as scattered leaves and tree branches, that gathered during those times of winter storms.

The first step to bringing your lawn back to life is to clear your yard of this material. Put on a good pair of landscaping gloves and go around the garden filling a wheelbarrow.

Don’t forget to dispose of your yard waste responsibly.

If your plants and shrubs did not survive the harsh cold, you also have to remove them. If they can still be saved, you need to trim the branches to encourage new growth.

Literally, get rid of the dead wood, and life will start to return.

Dethatching

If you have dead grass that reaches over one-half inch, you’ll need to do a spot of dethatching.

This allows any water, weed killer, insecticide, or any other garden products you might apply to your lawn to actually reach the soil and roots for maximum absorption.

While you can do this by hand, or with an ordinary garden rake, if you have a lot of material or a larger garden, it can be a backbreaking job.

Check out this article on the best dethatchers on the market for some practical solutions.

Raking and dethatching is also a good way to clear up and remove any snow mold you might have on your lawn – so pay particular attention to those areas if that’s been a problem for you.

man dethatching lawn at backyard

Aeration

Your grass needs space to breathe in order to grow and get the nutrients it needs, especially after suffering under heavy snowfall.

Aerate your soil by poking holes in your lawn with a garden fork, or use one of these awesome lawn aerators to make short work of the job and restore your topsoil to its optimum condition.

Remember, a dedicated aerator will lift “plugs” of soil out of your turf, ensuring the soil spreads out and is allowed to breathe.

While using a garden fork might be cheaper, it’s actually compacting the soil underneath the tines, so a plug aerator is the preferred option. You can also hire a professional to do the job if you so choose.

This will make your lawn healthier and more resistant to weeds, and is an essential early spring lawn care tip.

You can also read this article on the differences between dethatching and aeration if you need more info.

Eliminate the Weeds

Life will start to grow back after you have cleared and aerated your yard, but not all of it is desirable.

The best preventative measure you can take against weeds is to apply a “pre-emergent” weed killer to your lawn.

The right time to do this is before the grass has resumed growing, in order to treat the problem before the weeds become established. Try one of these picks for the best pre-emergent weed killer in 2021.

When the soil reaches the temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit, weeds and other harmful grasses begin to sprout, so try to do this before things really start to heat up.

Check out this article on the best commercial weed killers if you’ve got a large area to cover, and/or particularly nuisance weeds.

If it is too late, and weeds have already begun to take hold, they should be pulled out the moment you spot them. This can be done by hand or by using a weeding tool.

You can also use weed killer spray or a homemade version if you don’t like using harsh chemicals on your lawn.

Alternatively, you can use one of these lawn-safe weed killers and avoid the toxic stuff – which is preferable if you have children and/or pets.

This is also a good time to tackle any critter problems you might have – so check out the video below for advice on how to get rid of mice and voles in your yard.

Resume Irrigation

AKA – watering your lawn.

Water your lawn once or twice a week during days when there is no rain to keep the soil moist up to six inches deep.

This will make the grass grow strong with deep roots that will survive the drought come the summer. Take a look at this article for some tips and tricks on how best to water your lawn.

If you’ve seen evidence of salt damage, (those brown patches close to pavements and patios) wash away the chemicals by heavily watering the affected areas.

The same can be said for the dog pee zones, and a good douse should remove the nitrogen Spike has deposited on your lawn. These areas might need reseeding depending on the extent of the damage.

Once the grass has resumed active growth, make it a habit to mow your lawn when the grass is already an inch taller than your mower blade height setting.

You should only mow when the grass is dry, but sometimes that is unavoidable, so check out these tips and tricks for how to mow a wet lawn safely if you absolutely must.

Reseed/Overseeding

If you’ve noticed bare spots, patchy grass, or areas of significant damage after the winter, it’s likely you’ll need to reseed.

Check if the soil is around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit before you start with the reseeding process. By this time, all the winter frost should have already thawed.

Till the area you need to reseed up to four inches deep. One of these front-tine tillers would be perfect for the job. Rake or remove the debris and weeds that you find.

For seeding, you can do so manually using your hands, or you can choose to use a mechanical seed spreader. The latter is more suitable if you have a larger area to cover.

Rake the area slightly to make sure that the seeds will not just sit on top of the soil, and remember to water your seeds two to three times daily to ensure healthy growth – if it’s not raining.

Remember to take care not to wash new seeds away before they’ve had the chance to take root.

If you don’t want to reseed, or it’s not suitable for a particular area/there is significant damage, you can always re-sod.

Sod is a piece of already grown grass that is woven together by an established root system. A carpet of grass, basically.

While sod might be a more expensive option compared to reseeding, it is an instant solution to get rid of those eyesore bare spots in your yard.

Watch this excellent video guide for more information on how to overseed a lawn and bring it back to vibrant life.

Fertilizing

You’ll want to begin adding fertilizer to your lawn once grass is growing strongly, and you have cut it about two to three times.

For your garden beds and any areas around trees, this is the best time to apply mulch in order to maintain a fresh looking landscape.

Mulch will keep the soil moist and allow for better plant growth, as well as reduce the growth of weeds.

You may have to do a soil test in order to get the right fertilizer for your lawn. Don’t hesitate to ask a professional lawn service if you’re not sure which fertilizer to use.

Remember that fertilization is necessary to make your lawn reach its full potential. Water your lawn after application to make sure that the nutrients will reach deep into the soil and roots.

Regular Maintenance

Your journey towards a beautiful lawn has only just begun, so don’t let all that hard work go to waste by neglecting it over time.

Upkeep is something you do no matter the season. Keep your lawn length maintained at around three inches, so it doesn’t dry out.

Mow regularly to keep the grass under control, and take care not to fertilize too much because this can result in uncontrollable weed growth and pest infestation.

It’s a fine balancing act, but you’ll get it right with practice.

Once you observe new grass growth, it is important to maintain watering during periods of no rain.

Usually, watering one to two times weekly is sufficient, but keep in mind that the soil should be moistened to around six-inches deep each time.

Avoid watering during the day, because the sun will dry out any moisture you have added. Stick to early morning or once the sun has begun to set.

If done right, you should have a beautiful green lawn just in time for summer, and you should continue to take care of it especially when it gets dry.

Read this article on how to keep your lawn green in the summer heat for more information.

Summary

Lawn care after winter is a labor of love in which you will reap your rewards when you see it return to its full splendor.

Using what you have learned and with a bit of TLC, you will soon transform your lawn into something you can be proud of.

I wish you the best of luck, and if you have other tips on caring for your lawn in early spring, please share them in the comments section and spread the love!

About the Author: Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.