After a harsh Northern NJ winter, everyone is ready for the warmth of Spring. The Spring season brings much needed sunshine, rain and family fun outdoors, but it also brings abundant new growth to your landscape that requires extra lawn care. When warm weather arrives, it’s time to get outside and create a beautiful landscape for your home. Here are 10 important tips for Spring lawn care in NJ.
1. Clean Up Your Yard
Bergen County winters bring freezing temperatures with snow and ice, storms with high winds and abundant rainfall. Since most plant growth is dormant during winter, your yard usually looks barren and bleak by Spring. You may have dead grass, overgrown trees and shrubs and debris that’s blown onto your property over the winter months. As Spring approaches and the last signs of winter frost are gone, it’s important to focus on cleaning up your yard so new growth can flourish.
- Remove yard debris like trash, fallen tree limbs and branches, pine cones, acorns and rocks
- Remove dead plants and dead plant growth
- Rake up twigs and dead leaves
- Inspect your lawn for signs of lawn diseases
- Inspect your lawn, plants, trees and shrubs for signs of insects and pests
Once your yard is clean, you can focus on other important landscape tasks for good Spring lawn care in NJ.
2. Mow Your Lawn
Spring brings new growth, so your grass, plants, trees and shrubs will grow much faster in warm weather. Weekly lawn mowing is an essential part of proper lawn care. It helps to build thicker, stronger turf that’s less susceptible to damage from lawn diseases and outdoor insects and pests. Regular mowing is essential to a healthy lawn, but you need to make sure that you’re mowing correctly. Improper mowing is one of the most common causes of lawn damage. Using the wrong type of mower or incorrect mowing techniques can actually do significant damage to your lawn. Proper mowing has a big impact on the health and appearance of your lawn. Here are some tips:
- Each time you mow, only remove the top one-third of the grass blades. Taller grass retains more moisture, produces chlorophyll faster, keeps the soil cooler and reduces root stress.
- Don’t mow in the same direction every time. This can cause soil compaction and bad growth patterns. Mowing in a different direction each time will help the grass grow more upright.
- If your grass is overgrown, don’t try to mow it down all at once. This puts stress on the grass. Cut one-third of the grass height, let grass recover for three or four days, then mow again.
- Never mow wet grass. This will cause an uneven cut that leaves a messy looking lawn. Wet grass clipping will also clog your lawn mower and cause more mower maintenance.
- Make sure your mower blades are always clean and sharp for proper lawn care in NJ.
3. Test Your Soil
The texture and pH balance of soil is determined by the amount of sand, silt and clay in the soil. Sand, the largest particle, creates soil that drains quickly and doesn’t hold moisture or nutrients. Silt, a medium-size particle, feels smooth and powdery. When it’s wet, it creates a slippery surface that promotes drainage. Clay, the smallest particle, is smooth when dry and sticky when wet. Clay soils are usually referred to as heavy soils. They hold a lot of nutrients, but don’t let air and water penetrate well. As technical as this sounds, the type of soil you have has a big impact on your lawn care and maintenance requirements. To help determine your home’s soil type, take note of the color, texture, smell and consistency, then perform a soil test.
To test your soil, start by doing a test for pH balance to determine if you’re working with acid or alkaline soil conditions. You can purchase a soil test kit at a local garden or home improvement store and do your own test, or call a landscape professional to do a soil test for you. If you hire a landscape company for regular lawn care in NJ, a soil test is usually included in regular lawn care and maintenance.
4. Fertilize Your Lawn
Early spring is a prime time to fertilize your lawn. It gives your lawn a jump-start for new growth after a cold winter. Proper fertilization will provide necessary nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and iron which encourage healthy, green grass and strong grass roots. Nitrogen promotes new plant growth. Phosphorous promotes healthy roots, foliage and flower growth. Potassium improves overall plant vigor. It’s important to choose the right type of fertilizer for your specific grass type for optimal growth. A light, slow-release or organic fertilizer works well for most Northern NJ lawns. Your landscape professional can choose the best fertilizer for your grass type and existing landscape conditions to ensure the best lawn care in NJ.
When fertilizing your lawn, it’s important to follow proper fertilization schedules. How often you fertilize will affect your lawn’s appearance and maintenance requirements. Since fertilizer stimulates root and plant growth, the more you fertilize, the more frequently you’ll need to mow your lawn.
5. Mulch Your Landscape
Mulching is a simple, inexpensive way to provide great lawn care in NJ. It creates a protective layer of material on top of the soil that provides numerous benefits for your lawn, plants, shrubs and trees. You can choose from organic or inorganic mulch compounds, but both provide benefits such as:
- Moisture retention in the soil
- Even soil temperatures
- Protection from soil erosion
- Less soil compaction
- Less weed growth
- A “finished” look for your lawn and garden
Organic Mulches – Organic mulches help to improve soil conditions because they decompose and put natural matter back into the soil. This process keeps the soil loose and aerated, improves plant root growth and increases moisture in the soil. Organic mulches provide a natural source of nutrients and set up a perfect environment for beneficial earthworms and other healthy organisms.
Lawn Clippings – Lawn clippings provide a lot of benefits for your lawn. When mulched back into your lawn, they add great nutrients and beneficial organic matter to the soil. Since grass clippings are mostly water, they break down quickly to provide fast benefits for your lawn care in NJ.
6. Prune Your Trees and Shrubs
Overgrown trees and shrubs create an ill-maintained landscape and invite diseases, insects and pests to your home. When Spring arrives, take time to prune your trees and shrubs, but make sure you do it correctly and at the right time of year. Although pruning may seem like a simple task, you can cause serious damage to your trees and shrubs if you do it wrong. If you have a lot of tall, large trees in your Bergen County landscape, pruning them can be dangerous. You’ll need a tall ladder or pole-type pruner to reach upper limbs and branches. It’s best to leave this pruning to a landscape professional with pruning knowledge, skill and proper equipment.
Most pruning is done in Spring or early Fall to maximize flower and foliage production for the following year. Prune Spring-flowering plants in late Spring immediately after blooms fade. They typically produce flowers only on old growth from the previous season. Prune Summer-flowering plants and trees in late Spring before they start to bloom. In late Spring, bare limbs will make it easier to examine the structure of the plant and make proper cuts, and pruning mistakes will be hidden by with new summer growth. For random-branching conifers, it’s best to prune once new growth is visible.
7. Control Weed Growth
Spring and warm weather brings abundant new growth, but it also brings lots of weeds. Proper lawn care in NJ is essential in the Spring to prevent weed growth. In the right conditions, aggressive weeds like dandelions, thatch, crabgrass and foxtails can quickly take over your landscape before you even realize there’s a problem. Once they pop up, they are very difficult to get rid of without some type of weed control.
Weeds fall into two main categories: broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds. Broadleaf weeds have wider leaves and include varieties like dandelions, chickweed, purslane and clover. While some broadleaf weeds may flower and look like pretty plants, they are still weeds. Grassy weeds, like crabgrass and thatch can quickly take over your entire lawn. One of the problems with grassy weeds is that they grow under the very same conditions as regular grass, so they are hard to control in your lawn. There are hundreds of weed varieties that are common to Northern NJ, so it’s important to include a pre-emergent herbicide in early Spring to prevent all types of weed growth.
8. Control Insects and Pests
Professional lawn care and regular maintenance will keep your lawn looking its best, but without some type of pest control your lawn is susceptible to numerous outdoor insects and pests. Not all insects and pests cause lawn damage, but those that do can quickly destroy your lawn. Small, hard-to-see insects like aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars and beetles can invade your lawn, and underground pests that are hard to spot like grubs, chinch bugs, sod webworms, wire worms, slugs and fire ants can invade your soil. Once this happens, it’s very difficult to get rid of them without the use of herbicides and pesticides. To keep your lawn green and healthy year-round, pest control should be a part of your regular lawn care in NJ.
An Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) focuses on safe, gentle pest control solutions that keep your lawn and landscape insect and pest free. If you have existing insect and pest problems, a professional lawn care company can identify the pests and offer the right pest control solutions to clear up the problems. Talk to a professional Bergen County landscape company about an Integrated Pest Management Program for your home.
9. Aerate Your Lawn
Spring is a good time to aerate your lawn. After a harsh, cold winter, soil is usually dry, depleted of nutrients and compacted. None of these things promote new grass growth or a healthy lawn. Lawn aeration, a process of perforating the soil with small holes, loosens the soil and allows water, air and nutrients to reach grass roots. Aerating your lawn helps to promote deep root growth and thicker grass. When you aerate your lawn in the Spring, your grass has adequate time to recover after soil plugs are removed. Cool-season grasses, typical in Northern NJ, should be aerated in the early Spring or Fall, while with warm-season grasses should be aerated in late Spring.
Lawn aeration can be done with two types of tools – a spike aerator that punches holes in the soil and a plug aerator that removes plugs of grass and soil. You can aerate your own lawn, but you probably won’t get the best result. It’s best to hire a landscape professional with aeration knowledge, experience and proper equipment. For a healthy, green lawn year-round, you should aerate your lawn as part of your regular lawn care in NJ.
10. Plant New Flowers, Plants and Shrubs
When warm weather is approaching and new growth is beginning, it’s the perfect time to create a beautiful landscape with new flowers, plants and shrubs. There’s a wide variety of plants to choose from, but it’s important to choose varieties that will thrive in your existing landscape conditions. Soil type, light conditions, water requirements and planting locations will all impact plant growth. You need to select plants that will grow well in Northern New Jersey planting zones.
New Jersey separated into four different planting zones – 6a, 6b, 7a and 7b. Bergen County is located in planting zones 6b and 7a.
In addition to low winter temperatures, the USDA plant hardiness zone map also takes elevation levels, urban heat effects and the closest large body of water into consideration. Planting zone information serves as a planting guide to give landscape plants optimal opportunities to thrive. Whether you want to plant a colorful flower garden, an edible garden, container gardens or border plants and shrubs, select plants that will do best in your specific planting zone. A professional landscape company can help you choose the best plants for your existing landscape conditions to ensure proper lawn care in NJ.