Everything you need to get your lawn ready for spring – National

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Spring Contest


With the first day of spring just around the corner, many homeowners are counting the days until they can get outside and begin preparations for a lush, green lawn.

To help you get that grass into great shape, we consulted with three horticulturalists from the University of Alberta Botanic Garden for some tips on creating an impressive suburban greenspace this summer.

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“I think for your average lawn, the first thing you want to do is get that rake out and dethatch it. That would be my recommendation,” says Barry Greig, of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden.

The team also advised raking up dead brush or tree limbs that may have fallen among shrubs and along edges during the winter months. Colleague Len Chambers says once the yard is cleared, assess for any winter-kill, areas of grass killed off by exposure to cold conditions.

If you’re raking a large area, you want a product that’s easy to use and won’t cause you to tire out while working. The Detachable Leaf Rake is not only super light, but also splits into two halves which allows for quick leaf and debris pick up.


Get the kids involved in spring cleanup too with this lightweight rake for tiny hands. Comes in a variety of colours.

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Once the grass begins to grow, U of A horticulturist Duncan Giedelhauf suggests checking for salt damage around the edges of driveways and sidewalks. If salt has been sitting on top of the ground all winter, grass will have difficulty taking root.

“In May, when your lawn starts to green up, if the edges of your lawn aren’t green, it’s probably salt damage. You’ll want to give it a good soak to rinse that off,” says Giedelhauf.


Gone are the days of lugging heavy, inflexible hoses around the yard. With a flexible length that extends to 50 feet and eight different spray functions, reviewers love the fact that it doesn’t kink and folds compactly for storage when not in use.


The joy of seeing those first blades of grass pop up is often tempered by the next lawncare issue — those pesky weeds.

There are a number of solutions to the problem, but the No. 1 recommendation from the U of A team is to consult your local municipality if considering using herbicides.

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“Check with local provincial or municipal regulations or bylaws about what you can use for weed control,” says Giedelhauf.

While weeds like dandelions are mostly nuisances, some are classified as noxious in each province. For example, Ontario and Manitoba maintain noxious weed lists. There may be specific instructions for discarding certain weeds, says Giedelhauf. They may need to be discarded in a trash bag rather than thrown into a leaf bag or compost. He recommends checking the laws in your local area.

If you prefer an environmentally friendly way of controlling weeds, the team recommends either hand weeding, if you’ve got a small city lot, or using a stand-up weeder for a larger area.


Let’s face it, crouching down to pull weeds is tough on the back and knees. If you have a significant area to weed, try a stand-up weeder. Writer’s note: if you pull a dandelion just right, it makes a satisfying “pop” as it comes out of the ground.


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If you decide to go the herbicide route, this concentrated weed killer attacks a number of the most common, including dandelions, clover and ragweed. It will not affect your bourgeoning grass while it does its job. Note: Some municipalities do not allow herbicide, so please ensure you check with the local regulations in your area.


If you have a larger patch of weeds, or some stubborn weeds along driveway or sidewalk edges that are a pain to pull, why not try a torch weed burner? Users say it’s a super quick and convenient way to get rid of them. It’s also been approved by the Canadian Standards Association which many reviewers say they appreciate to be assured of its safety.


Homeowners may also want to apply some fertilizer, says the U of A team. They recommend users check with local landscape experts for which ones should be used, depending on soil conditions.

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Chambers also warns against over-fertilizing.

“With fertilizer, you’ve got to be careful with it. If you overdo it, then you burn your grass.”


This highly rated, all-purpose fertilizer will cover 5,000 square feet and is suitable for any grass type.


Once everything is prepared, many people opt to add soil and grass seed to their lawn to improve patchy spots. Chambers recommends spreading a thin layer of topsoil, then sprinkling grass seed over the existing grass and then irrigating after that.

“That overseeding will help to pick up the growth if it’s a bit sparse.”

Chambers suggests a garden mix soil, and for most lawns, to avoid a soil with heavier clay content, as it can weigh down lawn and prevent growth.

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“A garden mix soil is basically one third soil, one third peat and one third sand,” he says. Heavier soil with clay should be reserved for a base before putting turf on top, says Chambers.

“You don’t want to put clay on top of new growth.”


This organic mix of peat, compost and humus also contains kelp, which encourages microbial activity. It’s eco-certified, so users were pleased with its clean consistency. Bonus: It’s made in Canada.


And while you can use a rake to spread soil, this handy levelling tool is a faster way to even things out nicely.

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You can put grass seed in a wheelbarrow or a pail and hand sprinkle it, but using one of these handy tools ensures more even coverage and is much easier on the wrists if you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.


When choosing how to fertilize, seed and care for your developing lawn, it’s important to remember that there are many grass varieties in Canada, and they can differ depending on plant hardiness zone in Canada.

Common grasses included in seed mixes include bluegrasses (Kentucky bluegrass or Canadian bluegrass), or ryegrass and fescue. You may want to investigate which type of grass makes up most of your yard.

“Grass varies quite a bit,” says Chambers. “Look up what works in your specific area.”

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