Simple steps and tools for the best looking yard on the block

Right now, is the time to start working on a plan for lawn care. 


Tips and tools to create a beautiful lawn

By Kathy Feist

It won’t be long before dandelions pop up, crabgrass takes over and bare spots in the yard take a life of their own. 

Chris Socha, store manager at Euston Hardware at Red Bridge, knows a thing or two about lawn maintenance as well as the latest tools to make the experience easier. And right now, he says it’s time to start working on a plan for lawn care. 

“Within the next month, you want to start preparing the lawn for the season,” he says. Here are the steps he recommends. 

Step 1: Thatch Removal

The first step in preparing the lawn is to rake out thatch, which is dried, dead grass that can be thick and deep. Thatch keeps oxygen and sunlight from the grass and other plants. You can use a strong metal thatching rake which runs around $35. Or, for $21 an hour (two-hour minimum), a motorized push power rake, or lawn comber, which can get the job done in a shorter time.  

Step 2: Aeration

After thatch has been removed from the yard, the next step is to aerate. An aerator pulls out plugs of dirt, which allows air to reach the soil. It also serves another purpose. “You want to leave the plugs of dirt on the ground, so its dirt and roots system expand out,” says Socha. 

An aerator can be rented for $21 an hour at Euston Hardware. 

Aeration can also be performed in the fall. 

Step 3: Crabgrass Prevention (and possible seeding)

Once the ground is prepped, the next step is crabgrass prevention. The best time to apply this herbicide is in late March or early April, as dogwoods and forsythia begin to bloom. The herbicide will prevent crabgrass seed from germinating as the ground warms.  The herbicide should be applied with a lawn spreader prior to rain.

In general, planting grass seed is not recommended at this time. The crabgrass pre-emergent would stop any seed from germinating. Most seeding is done in the fall. But Socha says a new product now allows for spring seeding.  Scott’s Step 1 for Seeding provides crabgrass prevention while you plant grass seed at the same time. It is not recommended for an entire yard, but for small bare spots. 

Step 4: Weed Pre-Emergent

In May, about 30 days after the crabgrass preventative has been applied, it’s time to spread a weed killer and lawn feed. Most are combined in one package. 

Step 5: Fertilizer

In June, 30 days after the weed killer has been applied, the final step in the spring process is fertilizer, or lawn food, which will create a greener, lusher lawn. 

Chris Socha, manager at Euston Hardware at Red Bridge, strikes an iconic pose with a Garden Weasel cultivator. Photo by Kathy Feist 

Garden Tools

Socha recommends other fun and handy garden tools that keep your yard looking tidy. 

Weed poppers  – long handle tools with a sharp end that you poke at the base of a dandylion to pop it out, thus ending back breaking weed pulling. 

 Nut gatherers –  an easy rolling tool that picks up nuts, crab apples and other debris that land in  your yard.

Garden Weasel cultivator – a rolling tool with sharp blades that works in a garden bed to bring weeds to the surface, replacing both a hoe and space. It can also be used for planting grass seed in bare spots by scuffing up the soil about a ½ inch.

Tillers – help break up the soil, a must for spring gardening. Hand tillers or garden claws are useful in tight spaces while rentable power tillers help dig a larger garden for planting. 


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