When it comes to Northern California lawns, SFGate.com sums up the situation nicely: “Even the best-laid lawns can go awry without a schedule to keep important tasks on track.” Timing matters.
Spring is a busy time for those with natural grass lawns – or it should be. If you haven’t gotten started yet, here’s what you need to be doing now to get your grass off to the best start for upcoming warm-season activities.
Resist the temptation to apply “weed-and-feed” products
Who wouldn’t want to accomplish two tedious lawn care tasks at the same time?! Unfortunately, the problem with this product is timing. You want to head off weeds as early as possible in the spring, and the pre-emergent in the mixture does that, literally killing the weeds before they come up. But it’s too early to fertilize your grass.
Technically, live grass can get by without fertilizer. However, if you want a consistently thick and verdant expanse, you’ll need to augment the nutrients Mother Nature has provided in the soil. But you should do that later in the spring, when the grass can make good use of those nutrients. So separate the weeding and feeding tasks as well as the products you use.
Yep, it’s time to get out the mower
Natural grass goes dormant when it gets cold enough. With our relatively mild Bay Area winters, though, grass gets growing early in spring. And you know what will happen if you don’t get out in front of it. Trimming off more than a third of the blades’ length can make the tips turn brown and give your lawn that unattractive “scalped” look. So prepare your mower:
- Give it a tune-up
- Flush the tank and start with fresh gas
- Sharpen the blade (experts recommend doing this monthly through the mowing season)
Better yet, trade in that gas-guzzling, noisy, polluting mower for an electric model that’s lightweight and easier on the environment.
Thatch the grass, when necessary
The trimmed-off blade tips that accumulate at the base of the grass blades over time aren’t something to worry about – until the debris gets so thick it starts to choke the grass. The threshold here is about a half-inch. If you’ve arrived at this point, spring is the time to get rid of that thatch, so your lawn can get plenty of oxygen.
Aerate, when needed
Over time, soil can become compacted, especially if your yard features the heavy clay so common in Northern California. Drainage is less than ideal under the best of circumstances, and when the soil is compacted, your grass can’t get enough to drink. An aerator punches holes to break up the soil.
Make a watering plan
You’ll be doing plenty of that, but over-watering is socially unpopular, environmentally wasteful, and expensive. In the South Bay Area, your grass needs about one inch of water per week.
You could leave all this to someone else, by hiring a professional lawn care service. But we have a better idea.
Hottest tip of all: Switch to artificial grass
Instead of paying endlessly, and a lot more than you may realize, to hire out lawn care or go the DIY route, investing in artificial grass is a single, long-term solution. Fake grass will pay for itself in surprisingly few years. Meanwhile it needs next-to-no care, in any season.
With artificial turf, your spring to-do list could look vastly different:
- Play fetch with the dog
- Play ball with the kids
- Snooze by the pool
- Fire up the barbecue
- Practice your short game on your new backyard putting green
- Take a hike, enjoy a swim, or leave on vacation
- Go surfing, beach-combing, sailing . . .