Think ahead with a good yard care routine this year so you’ll have a backyard oasis through the year for entertaining or simply relaxing and enjoying the hazy, lazy days of summer with family and friends. There’s simply nothing that compares to running barefoot through the lush green grass, here are some tips to get started:

1. Do some spring cleaning

Begin with a good spring clean-up, which includes raking leaves and removing debris, tree guards, and burlap. Just be careful not to remove mulch from perennials or shrubs too early, or to rake your flower garden too vigorously. Doing so could damage the soil, tendering new bulbs and emerging plants.

2. Tune up your tools

Clean, repair, sharpen, lubricate and tune all of your garden tools, mowers, and trimmers, so they are ready to go when you are.

3. Test your soil

Testing your soil is the starting point of any lawn fertilization program. Consider testing your soil each time you plant new seed. State Extension services and private labs offer kits that let you mail in soil samples for analysis. The reports will give you an accurate reading of what your lawn needs and how much of it should be applied. While tests don’t have to be done every year, they are a good idea every three or four years.

4. Tackle the weeds

Control crabgrass, dandelions, and clover, three of the most common weeds you’re likely to see trying to take hold in your lawn. Crabgrass is best tackled before it emerges from the ground and begins to grow leaves. Conversely, members of the broadleaf weed family – like dandelions, clover, plantain, chickweed, and spurge – require a treatment that comes into direct contact with the plant’s leaves, so they must be dealt with, once they’ve made their appearance known. Be sure to choose a product that is best suited for your region, especially if living in the south.

Look for lawn fertilizers with a slow-release nitrogen ingredient for strong roots and long-lasting results. Once you get it on the lawn – you’ll be done for the season because the slow-release nitrogen provides your lawn with controlled, steady nutrition – resulting in thicker, healthier grass. That means no excess growth and less mowing.

5. Mow high

Set your mowing height at 2½ to 3 inches and mow at the same height all growing season. Try not to remove more than ¾ inch of grass at any single mowing. Whenever possible, mow during the cooler morning or evening hours to avoid damage to the turf.