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Spring Lawn Care Tips: How to Bring Your Yard Back to Life After Winter

If you take a look at my back yard right now, you’re going to have some explaining to do, because you can only see the yard from inside my house or from neighboring private property. Instead, how about I take a look for you, and then I’ll tell you what I see.

person mowing lawn with long grass

I see plenty of work needed. Grass lawns don’t just grow back healthy and hearty year after year, not without help, anyway. We laid down brand-new sod on our property just four years back, and for the first year following, the yard looked pretty great with minimal effort. In all the years since, however, the effort needed to keep the lawn healthy has grown every spring.

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The fact is, in most parts of America, a grass lawn will be all weeds and moss after just a season or two unless it receives concerted effort and upkeep. The good news is, with proper guidance and tools, you can revive your lawn with just a few hours of work on a few weekends followed by routine maintenance like mowing, light weed killers, and proper irrigation.

What You Need

With the right garden tools, you can breathe new life into your lawn in no time. OK, maybe in like an afternoon of work. As it happens, breathing life into the lawn is quite the apt metaphor.

Here are some tools you’ll want before you start:

  •  Thatching rake: Thatch is that layer of dead stuff — mostly grass — that builds up between the blades of grass and the soil and prevents the roots from getting enough water or air. You can dig into the thatch pretty aggressively as you rip it away from the healthy green blades.
  • Lawn aerator: Just like you, your grass needs to breathe to grow. (Unlike you, it doesn’t need oxygen, but still.) Aerating the soil allows air to get down to the roots and leads to a healthier lawn better able to resist weeds.
  • Weed remover: Weeds compete for water and nutrients, so you need to get rid of them. If there are only a few about, just pull them by hand. If you have lots of weeds to contend with, try a weeding tool like the one shown at the link.
  • Broadcast spreader: Whether you use it to spread “weed n’ feed” for a yard with a serious weed problem or to spread lime or fertilizer to help the grass thrive, a broadcast spreader is a cheap, reliable way to make your yard maintenance easier.
  • Transfer shovel: Usually used for moving stuff like mulch and fertilizer around (transfer, see?), this type of shovel is also great for cutting beds or cutting out patches of yard that can’t be revived.
well groomed lawn

What to Do

  1. Some patches of your yard just aren’t coming back, buddy. If you have areas where moss has fully taken over or where it’s all weeds or all grown grass without a hint of green shoots, the best thing to do is tear out those sections entirely. Use a shovel with a broad blade (and a pick if needed) to cut out the sections of lawn that aren’t coming back, then prepare the area of removed material for new sod by raking across the exposed soil or by added enough peat moss to hold the seeds you’ll soon be sowing.
  2. It’s time to get to the de-thatching. As noted above, if your yard is relatively healthy, you can be pretty aggressive as you pull out the thatch. Go in one direction across the yard, then switch and de-thatch in a perpendicular direction to make sure you get it all up. Or most of it, anyway.
  3. Now it’s time to do some weeding. Hopefully you caught some of the weeds with that thatch rake of yours, but take the time to remove as many more as possible, as they will thrive along with your grass if you don’t.
  4. Finally, use your aerator to make sure that lawn can breathe. The yard should now be prepped for the final steps: new growth.

A Note About Over-Seeding Grass

Few lawns not comprised of sod laid within the last year are so healthy that they don’t need further improvement. Over-seeding is the process of adding more grass seed to a yard where plenty of blades are already growing. To over-seed, you need to have a ready supply of peat moss on hand as well as, of course, grass seed.

Spread a thin layer of peat moss all over the yard — just a quarter-inch or so, a little something to hold the seeds and some moisture but not so much that it covers any existing blades — then spread grass seed evenly everywhere. If you can see a lot of the seeds, add another thin layer of peat moss.

Now water the yard daily with a lawn sprinkler for at least the next month (unless it rains, of course), and remember that single long watering sessions are much better then multiple short sessions, as long watering encourages deep roots, which means healthier grass more readily resistant to weeds.

And go ahead and apply some fertilizer, but not until late spring when the grass has had the chance to toughen up some.

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Get to Know the Local Housing Market
It’s time to do your homework on the value of your home. Search comparable sales in your neighborhood to figure out the appropriate listing price for your home (sites like Trulia and Zillow are helpful here). Things to consider from comparable homes are square footage, features, and location. Once you have your price in mind, consult with a reputable realtor to assist with finding comps and determining a final and appropriate listing price for your home.
Find the Right Listing Agent

This is the time to ask your friends for their recommendations. Sometimes the best agents are found simply by asking a friend or neighbor. You can also search online for agents to consider. When interviewing a listing agent, make sure you ask about their personal experience in your neighborhood, connections to potential buyers, and social media expertise. Your new potential realtor should be able to present a game plan on how they are going to sell your home.
Stock Up On New Light Bulbs
When your home is being shown to potential buyers, all light fixtures and lamps should be turned on. So stock up on light bulbs to ensure that all lights have working bulbs and so that you have backups just in case a light fizzles out.
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Pay Off Your Debt and Build an Emergency Fund

Owning a home is much more expensive than renting, even if your monthly payment will be similar or cheaper than what you pay for rent. When you own a home, you are responsible for all the maintenance and those costs can add up quickly. Having an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses will help with unexpected expenses that will for sure pop up at some point.
Determine How Much House You Can Afford
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Save For A Down Payment
Paying cash for a home is most likely not an option, therefore you should plan to save for a down payment of 20% or more, which will help you avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance, which protects the mortgage company in case you can’t make your payments and end up in foreclosure. Private mortgage insurance typically costs 1% of the total loan value and is added to your monthly payment.
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A well-manicured lawn is a point of pride for many a man, and all the more so if he mows and tends the property himself. Those who don't understand why need not be addressed; the burden of proof is on the non-lawn guy, not on the man who appreciates fine, healthy grass. (Now for the record, if you prefer another type of landscaping such as a drought-friendly rockscape, that's more than acceptable, too, especially if you live in a dry area.)

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Know your mower
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