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  • Writer's pictureZach

How to Get a Better, Greener Lawn: Step 1 - Apply Crabgrass Preventer Now!

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Taking care of my yard is one of my favorite hobbies. Since plants grow and change, yardwork never ends. Mowing for me is my stress relief. I know lots of people that choose not to water their lawn, but it’s something I enjoy and invest in. My summer job as a teenager was taking care of yards and my boss was a perfectionist so I became a perfectionist. Then before kids, during my summers off from teaching, I worked for a landscaping company where I was able to help others improve their yards. And over the years I have helped several neighbors get their yards looking lush and green – our old house was on a corner lot and people would literally flag me down and get me off my mower to ask me how to do it.

green healthier lawn
Early spring back lawn at the old house - #goals for the new yard that needs a lot of work

If you want a green lawn, the key is following a “lawn program.” It’s not hard, but you need to commit to putting the right fertilizer down at the right time, mowing correctly and watering the yard. I have no problem with the people who let their yard go yellow and turn to weeds. I love these people because it makes my yard look better! However, I frequently see these same people during certain times a year spend lots of money on lawn aeration, de-thatching, and/or over-seeding. The problem is, I also see these same people deciding not to water or doing things out of order. You're throwing money away by not following some basic instructions.

I have tried the cheap lawn programs, the big brand lawn programs, and have paid for companies to apply their program to my yard. But the program I have used and have convinced a lot of happy neighbors to use is my local Earl May Lawn Program. I’ve done my research on the product and have gotten the results that I want. I’ve probably convinced a dozen former neighbors to switch as well and they’re all very happy. They have several different programs to use - a 4-, 5- or 6-step program and that’s up to you. As you’ve figured out, I love my yard so I go with the 6-step program. And it works. The Earl May Program is made for Midwest grass, unlike big brands that are made for the entire country and I think it shows in the outcome.

lawn fertilizer images
Earl May's 6-Step Lawn Program

The price is comparable to other big-name brands, however most years they run a special in the early spring where you get ten dollars back through a gift card for every fifty dollars you spend on a program if you buy it up front. If you factor that in it’s actually cheaper than the big brands, and then you've got more cash to spend on your lawn and garden! Win-win! It’s also great because you buy the program up front and they let you just pick up the bags as you need them throughout the spring and summer. They've got a text and email program you can sign up for to get reminders too

zach at garden center
Time for Step 1: Crabgrass Preventer

The first step is to start by applying the Earl May Crabgrass Preventer - and it’s time to get that on now if you live in central Iowa! The big bonus to their Crabgrass Preventer is that it also has lawn food. It contains iron and sulfur which gives your grass that dark green color.

crabgrass preventer
Earl May's Crabgrass Preventer

You have to pay attention to the temperature when putting down this first step. The old saying is put down the crabgrass preventer when the forsythia blooms. The problem is most people have no idea what that is or have those.

Crabgrass is a weed that pushes out good grass. And it is a major pain in the butt to get rid of, so it’s important to get the pre-emergent on before the ground temperature reaches 55 degrees. At 55 degrees, crabgrass can begin to germinate. I use this website from the Iowa State University Extension to tell what the ground temperature is in Iowa.

Once your crabgrass preventer is applied, one of the best ways to prevent crabgrass is to simply keep a thick, healthy lawn by maintaining it through the spring and summer with proper watering and mowing. I'll share more tips later to help you do that!

Here’s how to prep your yard for spring and apply Step 1 - Crabgrass Preventer:

1. To get my yard ready in the spring, I make sure I pick up all the big sticks and leaves that collected over winter. To take the easy route I get out my leaf blower and I walk blowing it through my yard, pushing all the old leaves and sticks to one side. I do my aeration in the fall, so blowing it just cleans it up and unflattens the grass from the winter.

2. Pick up your Crabgrass Preventer from Earl May. You’ll need to know about how big your property is to buy the correct size bag(s). I buy enough to cover 15,000 sq ft (1 big and 1 little bag for each needed).

3. You will need a spreader to apply the fertilizer. I think you can rent these from Earl May and other locations, but it’s worth the investment to have your own so you can get familiar with it and doesn’t take up a ton of room. I use a Scotts Broadcast Spreader. I bought a new one last year and I really like it. Fill the spreader with your crabgrass preventer and set the spreader on the setting according to the instructions on the back of your fertilizer bag. Start out by walking at the same pace around the border of your property. You can use the guard switch to keep it off your sidewalk and non-grass spots. Once I have the border finished, I walk in straight lines around my yard (about six feet apart) and then go the opposite way. Basically, I make a checkerboard. For extra motivation think of it as exercise! I always put my number setting a little lower than recommended to make sure it’s spread out equally – check the instructions on the back of the fertilizer bag! Each fertilizer step may have different spreader levels. Blow off any fertilizer that gets on your cement. The iron can stain your driveway if left on with rain.

4. That's it! With this first step you don't have to worry about watering it in or planning it right before a rain.

Important Tips:

  1. Since I mentioned overseeding earlier... You cannot put grass seed down at the same time as crabgrass preventer. Crabgrass preventer will prevent the grass seeding from germinating. I watch people every year overseed and then put down crabgrass preventer. This doesn’t work. The best time to overseed is the fall. If you have to seed in the spring, they do make a fertilizer that’s more expensive where it prevents crabgrass and you can seed.

  2. Be sure to blow the crabgrass preventer off of all sidewalks and driveways. The iron in it will stain your driveway a rust color when it gets wet.

  3. If you apply this early enough, you most likely won't be mowing for a little while after the application so you don't need to worry too much about planning mowing timing either.

Need a Lawn Fix? Here’s what we used:

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.Thank you for your support!


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we're kiersten and zach

Follow along with us each week as we work to make the very 2000s home we bought during the middle of a pandemic more “us.” We’ll share everything from quick fixes to more permanent changes, along with projects you can do in your own home. Zach will also share all his lawn and garden advice as he starts over on the yard.


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