Spring Lawn Care Quandary: To Seed or Not to Seed

Every homeowner has 'Take care of the lawn' somewhere on their spring to-do list. It might not rank as high as 'Fix hole in the roof' or 'File taxes on time' but it's there.

The thing is, what exactly should you do for the lawn?

Generally speaking, a lawn renovation is needed when the grass worth saving is 50% or less than the total area of your lawn.

Seed in the spring or seed in the fall?

If your lawn has bare spots, common sense dictates that seeding should be step one. However, unless these bare spots are the size of a minivan, you should pump your brakes before ordering that grass seed. In most cases, you would be better served to hold off on seeding until fall.

There are some important concerns you should have about seeding in the spring. The biggest is weeds. Growing grass seed and controlling weeds do not mix well. Generally speaking, you can do one or the other. If you choose to seed, you will have to wait until that young grass matures to a three-leaf stage (about six to eight weeks) before applying any weed controls. This includes pre-emergent herbicides aimed at controlling summer crabgrass and post-emergent herbicides designed to knock back spring weeds. This often ends up with a whole lotta weeds competing with that new grass. Advantage weeds.

Do you feel lucky punk? 

Knowing this, if you still choose to seed, at some point you should hear the voice of Dirty Harry asking if you feel lucky. If you somehow are able to dodge the weed bullet, there's still major concern number two for your new grass. Spring is usually followed by summer.

If your luck holds, and the seed fills in well with a manageable amount of weeds, your next hurdle is keeping that immature, shallow-rooted grass alive through its first summer. Unlike fall seed that has many more months to mature, young spring grass is more susceptible to heat, drought, disease and more. Spring seeding means extra summer work in terms of watering and additional chemical applications for weed and pest controls.

So think twice before seeding this spring. If you can live with the bare spots for a few more months there are a number of other things the lawn needs, such as the aforementioned pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control, modest slow-release nitrogen feeding and getting the soil tested. Obviously, there are situations that prove to be an exception where, after due consideration, you need to plant grass seed in the spring. If you do though, ask yourself in your best Dirty Harry voice … Do you feel lucky punk?