Raking your lawn is normally not a necessity if you cared for it properly the previous fall, but after the double-tough winter we’ve just had here in the Midwest, almost everyone will need to do some raking in order to avoid persistent dead areas this summer.
The Spring dead turf patches are caused by several factors, but the most common are from winter foot traffic on frozen turf, and heavy snow-pack that crushes the grass crowns. Other factors could be snow mold, ice melter and salt burn or grub worm damage from the previous year. Here is an article on “Is Your Lawn Dead or Alive After Winter?”
When to Rake Your Lawn
Lots of people decide to rake or even completely de-thatch their lawns just as soon as the snow in gone in March or early April. The problem with this practice is that the lawn is still in it’s winter dormancy (it’s brown), and it is tough to tell which parts are dead and matted, and which parts are just still dormant. When de-thatching too early, you end up ripping up lots of your healthy turf! (I very rarely recommend machine de-thatching anyway. You should get out and rake by hand and get some exercise!)
But you don’t want to hand-rake your entire lawn do you? That’s why you should wait until later April when your lawn is naturally waking up and turning green. Once this happens, you can easily see the areas of the lawn that are not recovering, and those are the spots you will rake out! Easy and simple!
Why Rake Your Lawn
Severely matted turf will cause an unnecessary buildup of thatch. Some thatch is good, but too much will cause problems in later Spring and Summer. Dead, matted turf will also prevent healthy turf from thickening naturally. Finally, fungus can grow in the dead areas and infect the rest of the lawn.
How to Rake Your Lawn
You can view the step-by-step pictures below to learn about raking dead lawn areas. Remember, we are not attempting to completely de-thatch the lawn. We want to expose the matted areas to the air so nutrients and water can penetrate and the existing turf can fill in the areas naturally.
After raking, I recommend you put down an application of Milorganite Natural Lawn Fertilizer to add slow-release nitrogen and iron to your lawn for the warmer temperatures to come in May and June. You may also want to spread some grass seed in severely damaged areas and water completely. In addition, you may need to rake out some areas a second time as the season progresses, and that is just fine. Remember, you don’t want to stress out the turf, so light raking a couple times is better than ripping out everything in one swoop!
You can also find information on which type of grass seed to buy here.
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