Finally spring is here. Or at least that’s what the calendar says. And after months of living in a snow globe, it’s great to see grass again, even if it’s dormant. With spring comes hope and the promise that there will be plenty of yard work for months to come. Here are five tips to help you get your yard back in shape.
Stay off the grass. Wait for the ground to dry before walking on it to pick up branches and other debris. When it’s wet, footprints can damage turf and give weeds a chance to take hold.
Keep an eye on that tree. Feeling a little iffy about that big old oak tree that’s next to your house? A tree with a pronounced lean to one side signals a problem and so do unhealthy or off-color leaves, a branch without leaves in summer, or little bark, says Nina Bassuk, a horticulture professor at Cornell University. Most roots are within a foot from the surface, so any activities that affect the soil, such as a new driveway, often affect the roots. To learn whether your trees are at risk of failing, find a certified arborist at the site of the International Society of Arboriculture.

Sharpen those blades. Dull mower or tractor blades stress the grass, making it more prone to disease. Sharpen them and they’ll cut cleaner and faster. Our experts suggest having the blades sharpened and balanced three times during the growing season. Need a new mower or tractor? Our latest tests found that the Honda HRR2169VKA is among our top self-propelled gas mowers and at $400, it’s a CR Best Buy. The Husqvarna YT46LS, $2,300, lawn tractor is among our top picks and also a CR Best Buy.

Test your soil. Why guess what your soil needs when you can spend as little as $10 for the experts at your local cooperative extension to test it and provide solutions. Some even come to your house. You’ll find out if limestone is needed to raise the pH of acidic soil or sulphur for lowering the pH of alkaline soil. A complete test analyzes nutrients and offers a fix. You’ll find your local extension at

Find out which weeds are trouble. While you have your co-op extension expert on the phone, ask which weeds and pests your lawn can tolerate. Dandelions may improve the soil structure, but if you’re not wild about them, you might want to cut off their heads before they go to seed or use a special forklike tool to pull them out, removing the entire root. Clover takes nitrogen from the air and nourishes the soil.
And finally, check out our latest Ratings of lawn mowers and tractors. The recommended models, including CR Best Buys, scored high in our tests and come from reliable brands (where data is available). And use our buying guide to help you choose the right mower for your property.
—Kimberly Janeway