How to Prep Your Lawn for Spring
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Jonathan Green.
When we bought our house two years ago, I was really nervous about taking care of a yard. We were moving from a small condo to this big house with grass, bushes, and space! How would we manage it? Luckily, Finn told me he had it covered and he’s been great about mowing every week during the summer.
But besides mowing, we really haven’t done much to our grass. Our lawn hasn’t been the shaggiest on the block, but it certainly isn’t the greenest or lushest. We’ve never really figured out a good system for seeding or weeding and we were a bit overwhelmed with where to start. When do you seed? How do you fertilize? What products are best? It was a bit intimidating, so we didn’t do anything.
However, this past winter was really rough on our grass. There were feet of snow piled up in our yard for months and once it finally melted, we were left with brown spots, weeds, and many dead areas of grass. Now that Rory is here and we plan to spend even more time outside playing in the grass, we knew it was finally time to figure out how the heck to maintain a healthy lawn.
Choosing Jonathan Green
I’m excited to partner with Jonathan Green on our grass because they’re a family business that has been helping homeowners with their lawns for over six generations. (You can read more about their story here.) Instead of fixing symptoms of poor soil, like just targeting weeds, their products are all about creating a good soil foundation. Once that is addressed, a healthy lawn will follow. So that often means a bit of work upfront, but that effort will have a lasting impact! I liked the sound of that.
Their products are sold at local garden centers and independent hardware stores. You can check out this store locator to find their products near you. I found their website to be really helpful as we figured out a game plan for our particular lawn situation.
While we’ve been itching to whip our lawn into shape, Jonathan Green recommends that the soil be about 55 degrees, which means that we needed a good stretch of weather where the temperature was at least in the sixties. Spring in Chicago is all over the place – we had an 80-degree day followed by a 40-degree day – so we had to be patient and wait for a nice stretch of weather in the sixties with no rain. That finally happened a couple of weeks ago and we were able to give our lawn some TLC!
Our Yard Before
Before we get to the steps to prep your lawn for spring, let’s take a look at our sad grass after the rough winter. We’ve got weeds. We’ve got brown spots. We’ve got patches. It certainly isn’t the prettiest looking lawn around. While some of the grass will be removed when we renovate the deck area, the grass in the front of the house and the side yard will be staying and we want it to look its very best.
Tips to Prep Your Lawn for Spring – Video
Finn and I took a day to tackle the lawn and we recorded our step-by-step process. We had a blast and we created a little video tutorial showcasing the entire day. You can watch it below or on YouTube right here.
Lawn Care Product List
Here’s a look at all of the products we used on our lawn.
- Mag-I-Cal Plus Acidic
- Green Up for Seeding and Sodding
- Black Beauty Ultra
- Lawn Weed Control
First, Clean It Up
I’ll admit that in the fall we didn’t do a great job preparing our lawn for winter. We were pretty lax on the leaf cleanup and just let them pile up a bit. Then the snow came; it melted; and we were left with a messy-looking lawn. Old leaves, sticks, trash…there was a lot to clean up before we could even think about applying any products to the grass.
Once we got all of the garbage outta there, Finn mowed the lawn on the lowest setting and I went around with a metal rake to loosen up the soil and get rid of any dead grass or leaves. Jonathan Green says rigorously raking is a must before applying their soil food, so don’t skimp on that step! We ended up having about two full bags of dead grass and leaves after raking our entire lawn. I told Finn that it’s kinda like exfoliating your skin before applying your night serums. You’ve gotta prep the surface so the good stuff can penetrate. (He basically just gave me a blank stare back!)
It’s All About the Soil Food
As I mentioned, Jonathan Green is all about creating healthy soil, which leads to healthy grass. The first product we applied is called Mag-i-cal Plus. This soil food helps to quickly raise the pH of the soil and relieve compaction so it can absorb nutrients.
To apply it, we used a spreader. It’s vital to use a spreader so your grass grows in evenly and you apply the product to every part of your lawn. Spreading these products by hand is kinda like painting a wall with your hands instead of a paintbrush! So it’s very important to use a spreader to get the job done right.
This was our first time using a spreader and it was actually pretty easy to use! We checked the back of the Mag-i-cal Plus bag to figure out the right spreader setting for our lawn. Once we got it set at level 5, we just poured in the soil food and went to town.
We started by doing a lap around the outside perimeter and then continued inside that area, overlapping as we went. You don’t want to skimp any spots, so try your best to keep it as even as possible.
Time to Fertilize
With the soil food in place, it was time to add some fertilizer. For this step, we used Green Up for Seeding and Sodding. It can be applied the same day as the Mag-i-cal Plus. (We spread one right after the other!) This product is rich in phosphorous, which is key to growing deep roots.
We followed the exact same steps as the Mag-i-cal Plus, using the spreader and overlapping to ensure even coverage.
Apply Grass Seed
Finally, we were ready for the last step – the grass seed! For this, we used Black Beauty Ultra. This grass seed works in both full sun and partial shade, which is perfect for all of the grass we have at our house. It’s designed to help fill those bare spots and help with a thin lawn, which are exactly the issues we have right now!
For the Black Beauty Ultra, we used the spreader again, but this time we applied half of the seed in one direction (north to south) and the remaining half in the other direction (east to west). Once it was all on there, I took the metal rake and lightly raked the ground. We also used light footsteps to walk around and make sure the seed was firmly in the soil. On a couple of dead spots in the grass, we added a bit more seed by hand.
With everything officially applied to our grass, I took a broom and swept any excess from the sidewalks into the grass. Then it was time for the sprinkler! We gave everything a good soak that day and then continued watering daily for a few weeks until the grass was about two inches higher.
Weed Control in 5-6 Weeks
In 5-6 weeks, it will be time to apply Jonathan Green Lawn Weed Control product. If you apply it too soon after seeding, it can kill the grass, so make sure you wait. This will kill hard-to-control weeds, which seems to be what we have going on in our lawn. Unlike the other products, you’ll want the ground to be a bit damp, and again you’ll use the spreader to apply it, but just in those areas where you see weeds growing.
Looking Better Already!
While I don’t have official “after” photos for you, the grass really does look better already with just a good cleanup. I’m so excited to see what it looks like after a few more weeks of growth.
I hope this post was helpful to figure out how to prep your lawn for spring. I know we’ve always been intimidated by this stuff, but after doing it, it really wasn’t scary at all! Now is the time to apply these products before the temps heat up too much, so I’d recommend getting on it soon. Personally, I’m happy that the hard work is done and we can now just mow and water when needed.
I’m planning to do a follow-up post this summer, or maybe even more into the fall season, to showcase our lush green lawn. I’m hopeful we’ll have a very dramatic before and after on our hands. In the meantime, we’ll be out there playing with Rory and watching her take her first steps in our new grass.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.