Spring Organic Lawn Clean-Up Checklist

This past winter was brutal with all the snow we got in the Northeast. April has started out cold as well and when it seemed like the weather finally broke there was another week of cold and even more snow! After this weekend though, we should be in the clear.

While the blistering cold should now be behind us it's still not shorts and t-shirt weather but it is warm enough to work outside comfortably and get the lawn and garden ready for spring. The grass is already starting to perk up and buds are growing on the perennials. The weeds, well, as always like they like to get a head start.

Here's a list of tasks to get your organic lawn and garden ready for the season.

1. Turn on Water and Prepare Hose Reels

First things first. We'll need water for a number of different tasks and clean-up so let's get that out of the way. Before winter I remove all the water from my Suncast Sidetracker hose reel, shut off the water and cover it for the winter. To get it ready for use I remove the reel from the hub and liberally apply silicone grease with my fingers like I described in my article on how to fix a leaking hose reel. The silicone grease lubricates the O-rings to keep them from wearing out and prevents leaks.

The best deal I found for silicone grease is this 2 oz Jar of Trident Silicone Grease from Amazon. It's 100% pure food-safe silicone grease that can be used with drinking water. I got a lot more silicone grease than I could find locally and it was much cheaper too. I've had this jar for close to 5 years and still have plenty left. Because the jar is larger than the little pucks or tubes available locally I haven't lost it like I have the others.

After lubricating the O-rings I mount the reel back on the hub and turn on the water to make sure there are no leaks. If the hose reel is leaking the O-rings will need to be replaced and can be purchased from the manufacturer of the hose reel. In my case I was good to go and just had to attach my sprayer.

2. Clean Up Large Debris

The wind (and thoughtless people) will dump some trash in your lawn and garden. Go around with a trash bag and pick up any large bits of trash you find.

3. Rake Your Lawn

Smaller bits of trash as well as twigs and rocks can be removed with a spring tine rake. Remove and bag as much as you can so they don't wind up damaging your lawn mower blade.

4. Kill Weeds

Dig out or otherwise kill any weeds you see in your lawn or garden beds. I pull up larger weeds and smaller weeds get sprayed with vinegar on a sunny day to kill them.

5. Reshape Garden Bed Edges

Using a garden spade I touch up any rough edges between the lawn and garden beds to give it a crisp look after pushing the mulch back. To get a nice straight line, tie garden string between two stakes to guide you.

A good edge between your lawn and garden beds not only looks good but it keeps the grass out of your beds and the mulch out of your lawn. For more details see my article on why you don't need plastic lawn edging.

When done, use a bow rake to reposition the mulch and add new mulch on top if necessary.

6. Edge, Mow, Trim and Blow

Do your regular edging, mowing and trimming lawn maintenance followed up with blowing the debris off your walks.

If you're lawn has overgrown the edge see my tips on edging an overgrown lawn.

I normally mow my lawn high but for this first mowing I'll be mowing it a bit short so I can overseed.

7. Check Soil PH

I have this 3-in-1 Moisture Meter with Light & PH Test Function which I use to check my soil's pH. It's fairly accurate provided I remember to clean the probes with steel wool before using them and wet the soil. In the past I had used Luster Leaf Rapitest pH Soil Test Capsules which also work well but aren't as fast. They're not as good as sending a soil sample to a lab for analysis but they do a decent job without having to wait for lab results.

If the soil shows the pH is low I'll apply lime with a garden spreader. Around some berries I apply sulfur because they have different pH requirements.

8. Fertilize Plants and Shrubs

Before getting to the lawn I grab a bag of organic plant fertilizer. It's usually Espoma Organic Plant-Tone 5-3-3 or Espoma Organic Flower-tone 3-5-7 whichever I have handy.

One of the best things I bought last year is this long handled Norpro Stainless Steel 2 Tablespoon Coffee Scoop. The long handle makes it easy to fertilize plants and shrubs and I use it when mixing liquid products in my garden sprayer. 2 Tablespoons is 1 ounce. 1/4 cup is 2 scoops (4 tablespoons.)

9. Fertilize Lawn

I was really looking forward to trying out this Green it Turf Maize Liquid Corn Gluten Fertilizer this spring but I need to overseed my lawn and it would inhibit germination. Everything I've read about liquid corn gluten meal indicates it's more effective than spreading dry corn gluten mean (CGM) at preventing weeds and it's much easier to apply.

Instead I'm using Phosphate Free Ringer Lawn Restore. I'm going to be applying it at a rate of about 0.62 lbs per 1,000 Sq Ft. Since I know the square footage of different areas of my lawn I picked up an affordable digital postal scale so I can measure out exactly how much fertilizer I need.

The Jonathan Green Black Beauty Tall Fescue seed I planted doesn't require that much nitrogen and last year I started spraying fish fertilizer regularly which minimizes the need for dry fertilizer. I'm going to have a post soon on fish fertilizer and other bio-stimulants coming up. The results have been very good.

10. Overseed

Over winter there were issues with digging animals and all the snow. The is the first time I had to use salt in a while it caused some damage in some areas which means I'll need to overseed to repair those areas as well spots where I dug up weeds.

In areas that I dug up weeds or are very bare I'll apply some compost.

I was very happy with the Black Beauty Tall Fescue but it's not doing that great in one spot under a tree where the previous Kentucky Bluegrass did well. It's also a spot that had frequent ice and thus got a lot of salt. Spring is a horrible time to overseed with Tall Fescue. Last spring when I tried I wound up having some disease issues in some of the overseeded areas. This spring I decided to overseed with Certified Midnight Kentucky Bluegrass Seed.

Midnight is a very popular grass seed. It has a very dark color and slow growth pattern. It does well in my area. I think it will blend well with the Black Beauty which is also a very dark green grass. In the past I used Jonathan Green's Sod Maker which used to be a very good blend of KGB seeds which included Midnight KGB. When I looked at the package last year the seed mix had changed and I'm no longer that impressed with it. It used to just be the Blue Panther seed they sell to sod farmers just packed in smaller retail bags but now it seems it might be different with less BluTastic and no Midnight.

I'm going to wait a few days to overseed just to let the soil temp rise a bit. Grass establishes better when the soil is at least 65 degrees F.

After seeding all that's left is lightly watering 3 times a day for about 4 weeks until the new grass comes in.
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