Spring Lawn Care Tips for SE Wisconsin: Take Action Early! How to Fix Your Lawn

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Early spring is a great time to walk through your yard and inspect it. Spring lawn care in SE Wisconsin is essential for a strong start to the summer! Take the early opportunity to see what needs to be cleaned or raked up. Look for lawn damage from snow mold, voles, heavy shade, etc. Check for fallen tree limbs, and look for damage in your landscape beds. Do you have daffodils, crocus, tulips, etc. coming up yet? These, and a number of other flowers are a welcome sign that spring is on the way! That’s the perfect time to take action and follow our spring lawn tips for SE Wisconsin!

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Once the ground is completely thawed, there is much that can be done! The leaves, branches and other debris can be raked/cleaned up. Raking the grass helps the lawn “wake up” in the spring, stimulating the turf to begin growing. For an excellent spring lawn preparation and clean-up, we can de-thatch your lawn for you, if you would like.

Once the lawn is dry enough, we come and run our tine rake through the grass at least two times, and vacuum up all the dead grass we pull up, leaving you a clean lawn stimulated for spring health and vigor. De-thatching or raking helps address the damage from snow mold and meadow mouse trails.

Solving Spring Lawn Care Problems in SE Wisconsin

How to fix light gray or light pink colored lawn spots and matted down grass

Often when we get our first snow, the ground is not yet completely frozen. Even when it is frozen, the ground under snow is warmer than ground directly exposed to the winter cold. The longer the snow covers the ground, the greater the chance the snow mold will occur.

Once the snow recedes, you can see the lightly gray or pink colored spots in the grass. Sometimes the spots are small, and sometimes they can be huge, and usually the grass in the infected areas is matted down. After the snow has been gone for awhile, the colors of the snow mold disappear, and the spots are just light beige in color.

In some cases, the snow mold can be worst in shady areas, such as the north side of the house or north side of a line of trees, etc. Stimulating the grass to grow is the best thing you can do to enhance recovery from snow mold. This is done two ways: First, by vigorously raking (or de-thatching) these areas, and second, by fertilizing the lawn to feed the turf for early spring green-up. Unless the damage is extreme, these two steps will help your lawn to recover.

How to fix “trails” in the grass where snow was deep

vole - spring lawn care tipsDuring the winter, meadow mice (voles, not moles) like to eat the succulent stems of grass plants. Often they come from nearby fields, woods, or nests onto the lawn. They tunnel into the grass, and spend a good amount of time eating the grass stems underneath the snow. When the snow recedes, you see the results of their activity.

The good news is, they have not eaten the roots, so most of the grass plants will recover. To help speed recovery, it is very important to rake up the dead grass in these areas so it doesn’t choke out the fragile grass plants underneath.

How to fix light straw colored lawn spots or doggie damage

During the winter months, the grass is in a weakened, fragile condition compared with the growing season. When your dog urinates on the grass, his/her urine “burns” the lawn – the acidity of the urine is too strong for the grass to handle. Add to this fact that most dogs go to the bathroom in the same place many times, and you have a recipe for lawn damage (for some people, their dog’s urine is strong enough that is can cause damage even during the growing season).

Remember, every dog’s “internal biology” is different. Some people will talk to their Vet about getting pills to lessen the acidity of the urine (doesn’t necessarily work for every dog). We have some customers that give their dogs 1/4-1/2 cup of tomato juice every morning (again, this may not work for every dog). You can also try to spread gypsum on the burned out areas to help lessen the acidity. You can also try heavily dousing the ground with a hose several times to dilute the urine concentrated in the spotty areas. But in many cases, you will have to re-seed these areas (after diluting the urine) in order to get them to green up again.

How to fix bare spots in your lawn near or under trees, bushes and overhangs

As trees and bushes grow and mature, they thicken up and their shade blocks the grass from receiving the amount of sunlight it needs. Some of the grass will begin thinning out due to the heavy shade. This usually becomes noticeable in September/October. Other grass plants, though weak, are able to “hang in there” through the fall. Because they are already weak, the extreme SE Wisconsin winter weather might finish them off. Here are several options for you:

  1. “I like my trees/bushes more than the grass underneath.” Then you will either need to get used to thin or nonexistent grass in these shady areas, or, you can lay down mulch in these areas. Mulch is good for the trees and bushes, and will keep the area looking attractive. So adding mulch is a good option. We can even do the mulch installation for you if you would like.
  2. If you have not tried before, you (or we) can re-seed the damaged areas with a shade (or dense shade) grass seed mix. If you have already laid down shade mix, and the grass has come up and thinned back out, this approach will not be effective.
  3. Trim tree and bush branches to allow sunlight to better penetrate the grass. For young to middle-age trees, you can trim the lower branches up high enough to allow sunlight in (usually 10 – 15 feet high). For very thick trees like Maple, or more mature trees, the canopy (crown) of the tree needs to be thinned out and lower branches may need pruning to allow sunlight through. If you have multiple trees in the yard that are creating significant shade between one another, you may need to take out one or two trees to get the sunlight your grass needs.
  4. If you don’t want to trim or remove trees, thre is one more potential option to try. Scientists have recently developed a new grass hybrid that is supposed to handle heavy shade, called Poa Supina. You (or we) can attempt to work up the soil in these areas, and seed the area with Poa Supina seed. We have some customers who like this grass, and some who have not had success. It is an experimental option that does not work in every situation (please note that Poa Supina is very expensive.

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How to fix bare spots in your lawn where they receive plenty of sun

First, ask yourself several questions to rule out potential issues when beginning your spring lawn care:

  • Was there anything laying on the ground late in the fall or through the winter that could have choked out the grass? It’s common to realize that plant debris, leaves, or something odd like a shingle, plastic bag, or other debris can choke your grass.
  • Was anything possibly spilled on the lawn (gasoline, oil, Round-Up, snow salt or ice melt, etc.) in the past 12 months in the damaged area? PLEASE NOTE: If it was granular fertilizer, you would still be able to see some of the fertilizer in the damaged area. It takes a long time for a concentrated amount of granular fertilizer to disintegrate.
  • Do the spots look like there are a significant amount of stones in the soil (too many stones for grass to fill in). Or is there moss or algae growing in the bare spot? That would indicate you have heavy clay or poor soil. Is there anything else that has been hindering grass growth in this area?
  • Did tree branches fall and lay for awhile? Or was heavy equipment used on the lawn? Was a lawn mower or lawn tractor parked on the lawn for awhile?
  • Did you have grub damage in your lawn last year?

If none of these are the case, then most likely, it is the result of a lawn disease. If the ground is bare, and the spot is circular or ring-shaped, then we encourage you to think back to last summer, or even the last two summers. Did the lawn have patches that died off in the summer? Or did it have spots that changed color from green to a bright straw color, then turn grayish brown? If so, the dead spots are likely a result of a lawn disease that attacked the grass in those areas, and the grass disintegrated over the winter, leaving the bare spots.

The best long term solution is to work up the bare ground and re-seed these bare areas. That will replace the diseased grass with more virile, younger grass plants. If you have an ongoing lawn disease for more than 2 years, your existing grass may continue to contract disease on an ongoing basis. In that case, we recommend aerating and overseeding a section of the lawn or the entire lawn (we can do this for you if you wish).

In many cases, when grass contracts disease, there are factors that weaken the grass and make it more susceptible to disease in the future. Conditions that may cause problems include soil with low nutrients, compacted soil, a layer of thatch, heavy clay soil, very sandy soil, significant amounts of stone in or directly under the topsoil layer, aging grass or grass that is disease prone (especially fine fescue). We can inspect your lawn and soil, then discuss with you solutions for the problems you are facing.

One other option is to switch to Organic Lawn Care Services. Organic lawn treatments make your lawn more healthy and helps fight lawn diseases.

How to fix spring wide blade grass

Crabgrass and foxtail are both summer annual grasses that do not germinate until the weather warms up significantly (late April to early May). These are generally not an issue in spring lawn care until late May or June when plants are larger. If you are seeing mature wideblade grass before May 15, you are more likely seeing a perennial grass that has been there for several years already.

Perennial grasses behave like the bluegrass/ryegrass in your lawn: Once it comes up, it is there permanently. The only way you can get rid of it is to spray a Round-Up type product on the wideblade grass, and about 12 – 18 inches beyond the grass you see to kill any plants that have spread. Please know that it will kill ALL the grass that is sprayed. Glyphosate (Round-Up) is systemic, which means that when you spray the grass blades (get them good), the weed control will move all the way down to the roots to kill the plant. Wait about 10-14 days and check to be sure none of the wideblade grass is still green (if there is still green, you will need to re-spray it). Then you can tear it out, add topsoil and re-seed the area. It is a lot of work to do this, so it may be wise to do only a section of your lawn at a time over a couple years.

Vital and Green prevents crabgrass and foxtail in the spring with our crabgrass pre-emergence prevention – the longest lasting on the market. If you would like us to control crabgrass in your lawn, please let us know!

Get Spring Lawn Care Help from a Pro

Since 1983 Vital and Green and been fixing spring lawn care problems for SE Wisconsin home and business owners. If you have any questions about the condition of your lawn this season, please contact us online or give us a call at 262-966-0739 any time. We would be happy to schedule a free consultation and give you an estimate so your lawn will look its absolute best this year!

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