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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Spring Lawn Care

Posted by John Fulton -

Lawns are really greening up with a little moisture and some warmer temperatures. While we have passed the recommended date for seeding, there are many other areas of lawn care that should be on your radar.

Fertilizer is always an area of many questions. The place to start is a soil test. This will tell you where you are starting from. Basic soil test levels for phosphorus, potassium, and soil pH should be in the neighborhood of 40, 350, and 6.1 respectfully. Phosphorus and potassium are on a pound per acre basis. This must be considered if you use labs that report in parts per million, which will give numbers half as large. These numbers will provide a great environment for grass. Grass will really grow in very poor conditions, but it certainly won’t have that manicured lawn look many strive for. Lacking a soil test, or being at recommended fertility levels, general maintenance applications provide a pound each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per 1000 square feet of lawn area in May and again in September. Really lush lawns will usually have twice as much nitrogen applied in a season, but split among four applications.

If you decide to try late seeding this spring, remember a couple of things related to weed killers. Number one, you can’t use crabgrass preventer in the spring if you put down seed. The crabgrass preventer doesn’t know the difference between grass seed and weed seeds. The second rule is to mow the new seeding at least three times before trying any broadleaf weed killer. Generally this means spring broadleaf control doesn’t happen when you seed in the spring. The end result is if you seed in the spring, you control weeds in the fall. Seed in the fall, and you control weeds and crabgrass in the spring. If you do plan to use a crabgrass preventer, time it so it is on about the time the forsythia blooms. That is assuming it actually blooms this year. Many of the flower buds were cold damaged in the winter we just went through. This would be the approximate soil and air temperature needed for the crabgrass to germinate. About now is a good guess, but this date can vary widely with the weather. Many crabgrass preventers also only last for four to eight weeks, so plan on repeating the application in June anyway. If you have missed some early germinating crabgrass, you can try one of the post emergence chemicals (put on the actual crabgrass when it is small) such as DSMA or MSMA. They may temporarily discolor lawns, and all the statements about new seedings apply to these as well.

One last item for the week. Many lawns have brown spots or patches. In most cases these are a warm season perennial grass such as nimblewill. There is no selective control for these grasses, meaning glyphosate (Roundup). These spots green up slowly and brown out early. The best plan is to spray them in late July when they are growing, then put down new seed in mid-August.

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