October 9, 2016

Begin prepping your lawn while spring is still just around the corner


It’s Valentine’s Day so it’s perfectly understandable that prepping your lawn for spring is not a priority today. However, that won’t be the case in the coming weeks.

Although the first day of spring and the annual turning back of the clocks are weeks away it’s time for homeowners especially those marketing their homes this year to dust off the lawn tools.  Keep a close weather watch to ensure you don’t get into some pre-spring care too soon.

Staging a home’s exterior doesn’t get as much attention as staging the interior, but that doesn’t lessen its marketing value. It's a fact that a great lawn is a powerful curb appeal factor.  Studies have found it can increase a property's value by as much as 10 percent.  That's a good return on a little sweat equity, and getting an early start makes the chore an incremental process that makes it easier on you and your lawn.

Winter is rough on lawns and although this year’s punishment has not been as severe as years past now is prime time to begin a gentle reawakening process.  According to lawn pros, the first step is with the rake. Nothing too vigorous, just a good once-over to remove twigs, debris and some thatch build up, which helps you focus on areas that need attention.  It's a good idea to give your lawn a week's rest after the first grooming.

The next step is to loosen up the soil with some aeration.  That gets more water, air and fertilizer to the grass' root base.  Unless you have a large yard, a manual aerating tool is all you need.  If you have a big yard, think about renting a power aerator.  Be sure what you’re getting is a machine that pulls plugs out of the lawn instead of just punching holes in it.

Once the lawn is aerated revisit those areas that need some tender, loving care.  The easiest way to heal winter-damaged spots is re-seeding.  After the damaged areas are cleaned up sprinkle grass seed on the soil.  Then add fertilizer and keep it moist until the seeds sprout.  This is also a good time to top dress the yard.  The goal of top dressing is to strengthen the grass and condition it so it doesn't need as much water and fertilizer.

Top dressing involves adding a fine layer of compost.  If you mix compost with soil or sand, be sure to match the existing soil.   Any golf course greens keeper will tell you top dressing builds up the soil quality.  It also stimulates the grass to produce new shoots and helps produce a denser grass cover.  Local home improvement and garden center employees can offer a wealth of information and advice on this process.

Homeowners who take the time to cultivate and maintain a healthy lawn are also crowding out weeds, but that doesn't mean they won't pop up.  Go after weeds early and keep it up.  It's an on-going effort, but there are techniques that will make the battle easier.  For example, when it's time to begin mowing raise your mower’s deck, somewhere in the area of three inches will do the job.  The goal is to let the grass grow taller and thicker because a thicker growth of grass helps choke out weeds. You'll have to mow more often, but you won’t be pulling weeds as often.

Another task that pays off as the mowing season begins is defining the lawn by edging the sidewalks and around planters or flower beds.  Besides making mowing easier, a good edging job makes the entire lawn look sharper.

There are benefits to all this lawn work besides boosting the curb appeal.  Healthy lawns absorb sound, produce oxygen, trap dust particles, prevent soil from eroding and fight pollution.  A wealth of tips and guides for lawn care and landscaping can be found at  It’s a free service of the National Association of Realtors® to help home owners enhance their home’s value and enjoyment of it.

Marsha Stowell is the 2016 president of the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors. The real estate education and trade group is the voice for real estate in the Tri-Cities and has over 1,000 local Realtor® members and almost 60 affiliates