Horticulture News: Some tips to make sure the grass is greener on your side

By Kim Cowherd, Published:

Spring will be here before we know it and it is time to start getting your lawn in shape.

There are some things you can do toward the end of February and first of March to get your wintertime lawn ready. The following tips will give you food for thought and give you some things to do on those nicer winter days when you feel the urge to get outside.

Lawn seeding: Turf-type Tall Fescue is the recommended variety of grass for our area. This type of grass is readily available at local lawn and garden centers and supply stores. Kentucky Bluegrass or other types of fescues won’t hold up as well to our increasingly warmer summers or sometime drought situations. Warm season grasses, such as Zoysia or Bermuda (not the weed!) won’t tolerate our cold Kentucky winters and won’t make the best choice either.

Don’t make the mistake of seeding your lawn at the wrong time. Generally speaking, only certain periods each year have favorable temperature, moisture and minimum competition from weeds. The best time to seed is from mid-August to early October. However, the second best time is now until mid-March but not later than mid to late April.

If the area is seeded during the time of spring when crabgrass is a potential problem, apply siduron (Tupersan) pre-emergence crabgrass herbicide at the time of seeding (before crabgrass germinates – when the forsythia blooms). Look for a pre-emergent herbicide that states clearly on the label that it can be used at the time of seeding grass. Sod can be installed almost anytime.

Lawn mowing: An early spring mowing, starting sometime in March, will even-up the turf, mow off the old brown grass tips, and cause earlier spring green-up. To reduce the damage of soil compaction, large mowers should not be used when the soil is wet. Be sure to set your mower height no lower than 2 inches for this initial mowing.

Lawn fertilization and liming: Lawns can be limed any time during the year. A soil test is essential to determine the amount of lime needed for optimal turfgrass growth. Applying lime or fertilizers to lawns without a soil test could be detrimental to good, healthy turf and cause you to spend money unnecessarily. Lime is not a necessity in most lawns in our area!

Spring fertilization is NOT recommended for maintaining the best looking, healthiest lawns. Spring fertilization encourages a heavy flush of growth, increases mowing frequency, hinders good root development, increases turf disease and increases spring weeds. Spring fertilization also decreases the chance of a heat-tolerant turf, should we go into a drought situation.

If you do apply nitrogen in spring and summer, the need for irrigation and chemicals for weed control also increases. A lush summer lawn may not be worth these potential problems. Also remember that crabgrass and other pre-emergent weed controls often contain fertilizers, which is sufficient for the limited spring fertilization that you might desire.

Weed control: Although herbicides are an important tool for controlling weeds, they are only a part of a total weed control program. The best defense against weeds is a dense, healthy, vigorous lawn that can only be obtained through properly timed fertilizing, appropriate watering and correct mowing.

If you choose to use weed-preventing chemicals, care must be taken to use the appropriate type. When using any chemical, be sure to read and follow all label directions for mixing, application rates and safety precautions.

As soon as weeds appear, post-emergence herbicides can be used. Post-emergent herbicides should be applied on wind-free days when the temperatures are over 45 degrees. Caution must be used around any other plants in your landscape.

Pre-emergence treatments are applied before weeds sprout from seeds. Apply pre-emergents ahead of sprouting of the weed seed. These keep weed problems down before they start.

Homeowners will find many pre-emergence products at local garden centers for control of summer annual weeds. Many are often referred to as “crabgrass preventer.” These should be applied from now until April or May.

If you need more detailed information regarding lawn maintenance, log on to: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/ukturf/HomeLawnCare.htm .

Be sure to sign up for the Gardener’s Toolbox session, “Lawns 4 All Seasons” for an in-depth look at home lawn care, tips on making your lawn look its best and how to be more environmentally friendly in your lawn management. This class will be held 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, at the Franklin County Extension Office. To register call 695-9035 or email DL_CES_FRANKLIN@EMAIL.UKY.EDU.

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