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Lawn care expert shares tips on kickstarting spring growth

March 30, 2011

Staff Report

LOVES PARK, Ill.—Mother Nature does a great job when it comes to waking up plants from a long winter’s nap and kickstarting new growth, but sometimes she needs a little help. Fortunately, Spring-Green Lawn Care owner Jason Jordan receives many calls each spring about how to deal with rejuvenating green spaces and jumpstarting new growth after the winter period, and has provided answers to some of the most frequently-asked questions received over the years.

1. Should I rake my lawn in the spring? A light raking with a leaf rake or flexible tine rake is good for your lawn, but not necessary unless your lawn has developed a disease known as snow mold. Snow mold usually develops near melting piles of snow in shady areas and results in unsightly matted, seemingly dead patches on your lawn, but can be remedied by a light raking. As for raking the rest of your property, it’s a good idea to rake up any leaves that have become entrapped in bushes and shrubs in the landscape beds; the landscape will look better, and the new leaves and flowers will be allowed to shine through unobstructed.

2. When should I fertilize my lawn for the first time? As your lawn is coming out of dormancy, it needs food to grow, so I recommend waiting until the ground thaws to fertilize your lawn. Use a product that is higher in nitrogen—the first number on a fertilizer bag—because it is a major nutrient that most plants require to maintain good color and growth. Try to fertilize as soon as possible, for waiting until May or June could result in a weak, pale lawn.

3. What is the best time to apply a crabgrass control? There is an old adage that states one should apply crabgrass control when the forsythia blooms. Unfortunately, forsythia have been known to bloom as early the first week of March, which is often too early in many climates. A better way to determine when to apply crabgrass control is to watch the soil temperature. The best way to check this is to take a standard meat thermometer and push it 1 inch deep into a sunny area of the lawn. If the temperatures are nearing the 60-degree mark—the optimum temperature for crabgrass germination—it’s time to apply. Also, be sure to water soon after application, as many crabgrass control products require water to evenly distribute the product across the soil surface.

4. Why do I have so many weeds in my lawn, and what can I do to minimize their presence? Weed seeds are introduced into lawns by the wind, rain or carried by animals. To combat their germination, maintain a thick lawn that is mowed high. Lawns that are mowed short allow more sunlight to penetrate to the soil surface and heat up the weed seeds, helping them to germinate, but longer grass blades will shade the ground and keep it cool and moist for a longer period of time.

5. Is there anything special I need to do when I mow my lawn for the first time in the spring? If the grass was left too long in the fall, and it has turned brown as a result of winter dormancy, mow shorter than normal to remove the unsightly color. Don’t scalp the lawn, but mowing shorter means the new grass blades will not have to compete with the old blades. If the lawn was mowed correctly last fall, however, set your mower on the high side, depending on the variety of grass that is present in your lawn. For the most part, all varieties of turf grass should be mowed at 2 1/2 to 3 inches from the spring until early fall.

6. Do I need to water my lawn or landscape in the spring? As with the answers to most questions regarding lawn and landscape care, it all depends on the weather conditions. Generally speaking, there is so much natural rainfall in the spring that watering is not required, but during drought periods, supplemental water may be necessary. If the drought is teamed with warm temperatures, watering becomes even more critical, so a rule of thumb is to introduce an inch of water each week to keep it in a good growing state.

For more about Spring-Green Lawn Care and its services, contact Jordan at (815) 885-4866, via e-mail at jjordan@spring-green.net or visit spring-green.com/jjordan.

From the March 30-April 5, 2011 issue

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