The grass is growing again. The leaves need raking. Trees need trimming. Where did that bare spot in the backyard come from? And why is my grass so pale looking? Who put these weeds in my lawn?

Each year our lawns go into hibernation during the winter. Like a big bear coming out of its slumber, your lawn is skinny, hungry and cranky. It wants food, water and plenty of sun. To set your lawn up for a post-hibernation rejuvenation, here are six helpful lawn care tips to wake that slumbering yard with loving care.

Remove leaves and branches. The leaves come raining down during the winter. Depending on the trees around your house, the whole yard can be swallowed up by a brown carpet of leaves. Branches have bared themselves and now seem obviously intrusive. It’s vital that you either rake your leaves or use a lawn mower with a bag to get up the bulk. You still need to rake to get those stubborn leaves, to remove thatch and to remove dead grass blades. And now that the branches are hanging down without their coat of leaves, it’s time to trim those back and up. Healthy lawns need plenty of sun and big shady trees can turn any lawn into a sandpit quick.

Mow the grass. Yup, something as simple as mowing the grass helps tremendously. Weeds grow faster than your grass. Keeping your grass mowed not only helps it look healthy, but it cuts down the competition while your grass gains strength. As a general rule, you should mow your lawn at least every two weeks and even more during the peak of summer. One very important note: mow your grass high. Grass should be 2 to 3 inches after mowing. This keeps in moisture, keeps down weeds and the grass stays healthier.

Reduce / Remove Weeds. The best and environmentally sound way to keep weeds to a minimum is to get your grass healthy so the grass keeps the weeds out. You can help your grass by pulling the weeds or cutting them early–before they grow strong roots. Some lawn fertilizers are designed to both strengthen your lawn and choke out weeds. If you have a big problem, there are products that are designed to kill weeds in your lawn without hurting your grass. You may also want to consider calling in a professional to get the problem under control.

Fertilize (maybe). If you’re not sure whether to fertilize or not, go check out DIY Network’s Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn. It can be complicated to use fertilizers and some of us want to keep things organic. The best and simplest tips learned from experience? Sphagnum peat moss with a small application of a ‘southern weed and feed’ style fertilizer. The peat moss is amazing at fertilizing, keeping moisture in and reducing fungus in your lawn. The light and low frequency application of a fertilizer helps both keep the weeds out and keep your lawn green and healthy.

Seed Bare Spots. Our lawns get bare spots from traffic, pets, disease and insects. It’s best to seed in the fall, but doing it in the spring works too. Rough up that bare spot with a hard rake to loosen the soil. Use some compost to mix in with the soil and sprinkle in the grass seed. Make sure you keep the soil moist. Cover the area with grass clippings, straw or anything that will help keep the seeds in place. You’ll see grass sprouts in no time.

Reduce your Lawn. There’s a growing trend to reduce the use of grass and use more eco friendly alternatives, such as ground cover plants or large flower beds. If you want to turn part of your yard into a wildflower bed, check out this post to find out how to get started. Also, if you’d like an edible yard, growing a vegetable garden in your yard is a great option. To learn some great tips for creating a front yard vegetable garden, this great article will get you started. If you live in an area with a homeowners’ association, it’s best to check the rules and work with the association before you reduce your lawn.

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