Saturday, June 6, 2009

Spruce up a spring lawn

Published in gardening section of the Lincoln Journal-Star, Mar 27, 2008

Copyright Lee Enterprises, Inc. Mar 27, 2008. Used with permission.

As the weather gets warmer, it's time to start thinking about getting your lawn in shape. A few simple steps in the spring can help spruce up your lawn and keep it green throughout the summer.


Roch Gaussoin, state extension turf grass specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recommends waiting until mid to late April to put down your first application of fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicide or crab grass preventer.

"These products have a residual content in the soil, so they last longer if you delay in putting them on," he said. "The later you wait, the more apt you are to get the weeds that are going to occur in late June or July."

Once you start to see dandelions, clover, ground ivy or other broadleaf weeds, Gaussoin recommends using spot treater in a spray bottle to target the weeds individually instead of blanketing the entire lawn.


Aerating is a mechanical process that pulls tiny plugs of soil out of the ground. It's one of the best things you can do for your lawn, said Patrick O'Brien, owner of O'Brien's Lawn Service. Because eastern Nebraska soil has a high clay content, it gets compacted easily, causing roots to girdle and form at the top of the ground. Aerating decreases this compaction, essentially allowing the ground to breathe.

"Not only are you able to get fertilizer and water down there more effectively, you get humus material that falls into these holes and gets incorporated into the soil," he said.

O'Brien recommends aerating at least once a year in the spring or fall. Aerating machines are available for rent at local garden stores. Many lawn service companies also offer aerating services.


If you find patchy spots in your lawn, it may be a result of snow mold, Gaussoin said. Usually if you wait a few weeks, the problem will clear up on its own. He doesn't recommend grass patch products because they are dominated by rye grass seed, which isn't appropriate for lawns in this area. It's best to reseed with the same kind of grass in the rest of the lawn.


Spring is a good time to sharpen your mower blades and set them to the height you're going to use for the rest of the growing season, Gaussoin said. He recommends using the highest or second-highest setting, which should be between 21/2 and 3 inches for Kentucky bluegrass and between 3 and 4 inches for tall fescue.

"We know that for the health of the grass, the higher the mowing height, the better the grass is going to perform," he said. With a higher setting you don't need to mow as often, which ultimately reduces air pollution and gas consumption.

You do not need to start mowing until the grass is higher than the height of your blades.
Scalping, or mowing the lawn at a low setting initially, is not recommended and can actually damage your lawn.

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