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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

Early Season Lawns and Seeding

Posted by John Fulton -

A day with temperatures reaching 70 degrees really gets everyone thinking about shaking off those winter blahs, and going a little digging in the dirt. Of course, there are still places with frost in the ground. You can tell since the thawed portion is really soft. Anyway, this list will cover some of the items to be working on this year.

Let's start with lawns. There is ample work to be done in the early spring and the appearance of green in the lawn has many excited, and a few dreading the upcoming mowing season. If you have to do some seeding, March 15 to April 1 is the recommended spring period in our area. It's a very narrow window, but with purpose. New grass seed needs time to germinate and develop a strong root system before hot weather arrives. The right type of seed to use varies. Sunny locations do well with Kentucky bluegrass, while shaded areas tend to do better with red or chewings fescue. Perennial ryegrass provides quicker germination and cover. Blending all three is a recommended practice, and you can even purchase blends already made up. The blends help with conditions, diseases, and insects. When one type struggles, the others can tolerate and help fill in areas in the lawn. The recommended seeding rates are four pounds per 1000 square feet in new seedings, and two pounds per 1000 in overseeding existing turf to thicken it up or help fill small bare areas.

Continuing on with lawns, crabgrass control is always a popular topic. Use of a crabgrass preventer is very effective, and the most common way to attack the problem. There are a few products out there, and they are often combined with fertilizer. They all basically kill small seeds as they germinate. They will also do the same with grass seed you have sown, so the two operations do not work together. If you sow seed, you live with the crabgrass for the year. Timing is critical for crabgrass control. Material needs to be applied, and rained in or watered in, before the crabgrass seed starts germinating. April 1 is an average guess, but this can vary widely from year-to-year. Forsythia in bloom usually is the very beginning of the crabgrass germination process. Many products only last four to six weeks, so mark your calendars for at least a second application if you don't want crabgrass to appear later in the season.

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