Lawn after winter: first mowing, fertilizing & scarifying

When the lawn wakes up from hibernation, the maintenance starts again. But when and how do you fertilize and mow the lawn for the first time after winter?

The lawn – the favorite and most looked after area in many gardens. A green, dense and healthy lawn is considered a status symbol in many places and distinguishes its carer as the owner of a particularly green thumb. Good lawn care after the winter should give your home lawn pile the best starting conditions for the coming year. With this article, we help you with decisions regarding the time of the first mowing, the correct cutting height after winter and the first fertilization. We also explain why spring is the best time to scarify.

Mow the lawn after winter

When the warming sun rays raise the soil temperature to over 8 ° C, the lawn begins to grow again. But only when growth has fully started should you bring your mower back from the sinking of winter.

When do you mow the lawn for the first time after winter?

Depending on the type of soil under your lawn, it will grow sooner or later in the year. The first cut can only be made when it has reached almost twice the desired cutting height. This is usually around April, but is heavily influenced by the weather. A too early first mowing can literally catch the lawn drifting from the base. The light green tips of the leaves are not yet sufficiently hardened and would suffer frost damage if late frosts occurred.

But how does the soil type affect when your lawn starts growing? The soil temperature rises at different speeds in the spring in different soil types. A light floor – a floor with a high proportion of sand and a low proportion of clay – contains many large pores that are usually filled with air. The air in the pores can be heated relatively quickly if a heat source such as the sun is at work. It is different with a heavy soil – that is, a soil that has a high proportion of clay or clay. Such contains more small pores, in which the water remains stubborn like in a sponge. Water can be warmed up much more slowly than air, so a damp or even wet floor stays cold longer in spring.

For the thirsty reader: The fact that air can be warmed up quickly and water warms up more slowly is due to the fact that water and air differ in their so-called “heat capacity”. The heat capacity of a substance indicates how much energy must be added to a defined volume before it increases its temperature by 1 ° C. This unit is given in joules / cm3. You may know the joule from the nutritional information on the back of food – it is the unit of energy. Now the heat capacity of water is much higher than that of air. About 1300 joules of energy would be needed to heat 1000 l of dry air by 1 ° C – this corresponds to about a thousandth of a bar of milk chocolate. After all, the energy of two bars of milk chocolate was required to heat 1000 l of water. However, this example is not intended to illustrate that we should eat less chocolate, but that water absorbs large amounts of energy without changing much in its temperature.

Summary: When do you mow the lawn for the first time after winter?

The first mowing should only take place when the lawn has almost reached the desired height.

This time usually occurs around April, sometimes earlier on light soils than on heavy soils – depending on the weather.

Mowing too early can lead to frost damage to the young leaves in late frosts.

By the way: While the grass plants above ground only begin to stir properly from a soil temperature of around 8 ° C, the roots grow at a lower soil temperature of 3 to 5 ° C.

How deep to mow the lawn after winter?

Depending on the lawn type, the recommended cutting heights differ by several centimeters. After the winter, the lawn can initially stay about 1 to 2 cm longer. Strictly adhere to the rule that never more than half – rather only a third – of the straw should be removed during a cut. Otherwise the suddenly very short lawn could be sunburned. Mow in stages if necessary. From the third mowing you can mow at the usual height. The best cutting time can be found in the table below. Choose the higher specification for the first cuts. If you have a lawn in a shady position, you should not cut it less than 5 cm in length, because the smaller amount of light has to be balanced with more leaf mass. In dry weather and without irrigation, the grass should never be less than 4 cm.

Your local pile is most likely a lawn for use or a hard-wearing lawn. The two types do not differ significantly in the cutting height, but they do differ in the grass composition and the cutting frequency. A hard-wearing lawn – which also includes sports field lawn – is mowed a little more often and therefore has a denser and sturdy turf.

Lawn type       Cut at height [cm]         Target cut height [cm]
Decorative lawn       3 – 6                             2 – 3
Lawn                        6 – 9                              3 – 4.5
Hard-wearing lawn      6 – 8                         3.5 – 4
Extensive turf              –                                 6 – 10

Tip: The extensive lawns include public green areas and little-used parking areas as well as wild meadows and all other rarely and lightly used lawns that have a little sure-footed turf. Such lawns are already well supplied with two to three mowing cycles per year.

Summary: How deep after the winter to mow the lawn?

At the beginning of the growing season, leave your lawn 1 to 2 cm longer than usual.
The correct lawn height depends on the lawn type and is 3 to 4 cm for most lawns in the private garden.
Fertilize lawn after winter
Fertilization can only work optimally if it is applied in the right time window. The correct fertilization date varies depending on the type of soil, intensity of use, type of fertilizer and weather. If your lawn shows a yellow or brown color after the winter or if it is mushy, something has probably gone wrong when preparing the lawn for the winter. You might find out in this article what you could have done better.

If your lawn looks like this after winter or after the first fertilization, the reason may be fertilization in the wrong dosage or at the wrong time.

When to fertilize the lawn after winter?

The fertilization date is influenced by the present soil type in that a light, sandy soil is fertilized early, whereas a rich, clayey soil is fertilized late. This can be explained as follows:

A sandy soil is less able to store nutrients because it lacks soil particles that can bind nutrients. Humus molecules and clay minerals are the soil particles that are particularly well able to do this. However, both are rare in a light sandy soil.

A fat, nutrient-rich soil has many of the nutrient-storing soil particles. Clay minerals and humus molecules are able to form so-called clay-humus complexes, which bind nutrients particularly effectively.

For this reason, a lawn on light soil is fertilized in March or April in order to stimulate growth by providing well-available nutrients. A heavy soil contains the nutrients necessary for the first growth spurt from the previous autumn fertilization and therefore does not need to be fertilized until the end of May or the beginning of June when natural growth begins to subside. If your soil is roughly halfway between a light and a heavy soil, the natural growth spurt will subside earlier. You can recognize this from the fact that you mow less frequently. By noting this point in time, you can use it as a guide in the coming year. If scarifying, aerating and / or sanding is carried out in spring, the first fertilization takes place after the last working step.

The important general fertilizer rules also apply in spring:

Dose mineral fertilizers very carefully, if at all.
Even distribution – ideally on large areas with a fertilizer spreader – protects against “burns” or visibly unfertilized areas.
Perform fertilization if possible if rain is expected on the same day or is already falling; otherwise use irrigation after fertilizing.

Tip: When fertilizing your lawn, rely on organic slow-release fertilizers, the many advantages of which we have put together for you here.

Summary: When to fertilize the lawn after winter?

Light soils are fertilized for the first time in March / April.
Heavy soils are fertilized for the first time in May / June.
All soils that are neither one extreme nor the other receive fertilization when natural growth slows down noticeably.
Follow the general fertilizer rules to avoid damaging your lawn.
How to fertilize the lawn after winter?
As in all garden areas, there are many products to choose from when fertilizing your lawn. Because even a lawn can be supplied with nutrients organically, organo-minerally or purely minerally. For a good overview, we summarize the advantages and disadvantages in the following table.

Organic lawn fertilizer


Sustainable soil improvement
Little effort
Natural long-term effects
No risk of over-fertilization
Ecologically sustainable
Good for soil life


Slower speed of action
Often a little higher in price
Application: 1 – 3 times a year

Mineral lawn fertilizer


Faster availability
Lower price
Higher nutrient content


Over-fertilization with plant damage is likely
Environmental damage possible
Depletion of the soil when used alone
Without long-term effects
Use every one to two months

Application: 3 – 6 times a year

In general, the following applies to lawn fertilization: nitrogen-based fertilizers should be used in spring or early summer, potassium-based fertilizers in autumn. Very quickly available nitrogen is only contained in mineral or organic-mineral fertilizers. So if you want to fertilize organically, which we clearly recommend, you have to fertilize about two weeks earlier because of the somewhat slower implementation and keep the lawn slightly moist from this point on.

Summary: How to fertilize the lawn after winter?

Organic or mineral lawn fertilization is possible from spring to early summer.
The strengths of organic fertilizers are, above all, the low effort, the great safety in use and the sustainable care of the lawn.
The strengths of the mineral fertilizers are the quick effect and the low price – the major weaknesses are the risk of over-fertilization, which can result in damage to plants and the environment, and the more likely impoverishment of the soil.
Compost or manure can be natural alternatives, but should first be applied sparingly.
Select a nitrogen-based fertilizer for the first fertilization of the year.
We recommend using a long-term organic fertilizer for fertilization in spring and summer as well as in autumn.

Scarify lawn after winter

Spring is the ideal time to scarify. The months of April and May are ideal if the weather is vigorous, i.e. humid and warm. It is particularly important that the lawn has enough time to regenerate and close the gaps that have arisen. So if April and May are dry and cool, it makes sense to postpone activities until late summer or early autumn. If you really want to improve your lawn sustainably, sanding, vigorous fertilization and reseeding are essential.

Tip: Scarify against moss or felt?

Scarifying the lawn should cut matting and moss carpets above the turf or open crusted soil surfaces again, so that the growth of the grass is promoted. When used correctly, it has a positive effect on the grass plants and a negative effect on many unwanted wild herbs. Wild herbs forming runners such as mercury, field horsetail or Giersch can, however, be widely distributed over the area. Scarifying should be used as a pronounced regeneration measure only at intervals of several years, but at least one year apart.

Scarifying alone does not help to permanently fight moss in the lawn. Large amounts of moss arise in the lawn when the conditions for the lawn are bad, but for the moss it is good. There are good conditions for moss on nutrient-poor, shady and moist surfaces and soils with a pH value well below 6 (i.e. acidic), which are compacted and therefore poorly ventilated. Creating optimal conditions for the lawn is the only way to permanently displace moss. We therefore advise against scarifying every year for moss control alone.

Scarifying in 8 steps:

1.Mow the lawn very short to a height of 1 to 3 cm and remove the clippings.
2. Work the area lengthways and crossways with the scarifier. If you work manually, you also rake lengthways and crossways.
4.Remove the machined material after each use of the scarifier. For example, you can use it as mulch or compost.
4. If necessary, sand the surface with about 2 to 3 liters of sand per square meter. Use fine sand (grain size 0/2) for this. If you want to aerate your lawn after scarifying, proceed as described in the following paragraph.
5. Spread the sand evenly with a rake or a coarse broom.
6.Seed with the right seed mixture for large gaps, rake in flat and press on.
7. Fertilize and water the lawn extensively. If you have reseeded, fertilize only half of the amount indicated on the lawn fertilizer.
8. Do not step on the lawn until the turf is closed and in the meantime water daily.

Aerate and sand the lawn after the winter

Aerating the lawn eliminates surface compaction and creates voids in the upper layer of soil. Even without sanding, this leads to a better oxygen, water and nutrient supply, because everything falling or flowing from above onto the lawn is more easily absorbed. Possible devices for this are nail rollers, shoes with nails or simple digging forks, as are already in the shed for many garden owners. There are also motorized devices – with slitting knives or hollow tools (so-called “spoons”, or “spoons”) that either attach to a rotating shaft or cut out whole cones of earth. The latter of the two methods is particularly effective on very compacted soils. The resulting holes are about 10 cm deep.

After the aeration, sand can be sanded. Above all, cohesive, heavy soils experience improved ventilation and drainage through sanding. A well-drained soil has the ability to drain excess water into deeper layers of the soil so that there is no waterlogging. This positive effect results from the relatively coarse grain size of the sand: the large sand grains create soil pores from which water drains out quickly, so that they are filled with air instead. Shifting the soil composition in favor of the sand content also makes the lawn more resistant to shear forces. Therefore the sanding is carried out especially on sports fields.

Through the combination with the previous aerification, the sand penetrates into the resulting cavities and thus deeply into the soil structure. Accordingly, more sand is required than if sanding is carried out after scarifying. The sand used should have a grain size of 0/2, i.e. grain sizes between 0 and 2 mm. The use of washed sand is optimal, because it contains only the smallest fines, so that many large air pores can arise.

When working the lawn with hollow tools, these are called “plugs”, which need to be removed after ventilation.

Summary of aerating and sanding the floor:

Mow and rake the lawn.
Ventilate the area with an aerator or one of the other methods listed above.
Sand with 3 to 5 l sand per square meter. A lot of sand is used for aerification with a device with hollow tools, less for the other methods. If possible, washed sand with a grain size of 0/2 should be used.
Spread the sand with a broom or (if available) a trawl and pour it into the holes.
Then fertilize and water.
The lawn should not be walked on for the next three to four weeks.

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