It's March and now is the time that everyone starts thinking about lawn care. The grass is greening up and plants are starting to grow again, daffodils are blooming, and garden work has started.
You may be looking at your lawn and wondering where to start, maybe you have a few bare patches or the entire lawn is thinning out. I often receive questions about when to reseed or seed new lawns, when to apply crabgrass preventer and when to start fertilizing lawns and there is still time to do all of them.
Spring Lawn Care Tips
- Mow Tall. Grass grows quickly with a bit of warmth and rain and before you know it you'll be bringing out the mower. Your turf will do better and thank you for it if you keep it at 2 to 2.5 inches high after mowing which means mowing when your grass is 3 to 4 inches high. As soon as it's tall enough to mow – start mowing it, don't wait.
- Get it seeded soon. If you need to start a new lawn or overseed an existing one, plan to have it completed no later than the middle of April to give the grass time to establish before hot weather sets in. The BEST time to seed a lawn is actually around August 15th through September. When choosing seed it's often better to choose a mixture of grasses species as they establish quicker since some species germinate more quickly, but make sure to pick a mix that is suitable for the conditions that you have in your own yard. Even a blend which is a mixture of different varieties of the same species can help to increase disease resistance of turf.
- Forget the early spring fertilizers. Turf fertilizers usually help to push green leafy growth at the expense of root development. Avoid early spring season fertilizer treatments – wait until the middle of May to apply fertilizer and only if you plan on watering the turf through the summer or consider applying a slow-release fertilizer which needs less moisture and is less likely to burn turf. Most grasses in our area are cool-season grasses and go dormant during hot/dry weather – so if you make the decision to water make sure to stick with it through the summer.
- Crabgrass – This annual weed is frustrating to those who like a well-maintained lawn. Crabgrass germinates when soil temperatures are above 55 to 60 degrees for 7-10 consecutive days. Soil temperature and ambient air temperature are not the same. Track soil temperatures through the Illinois Water Survey website: www.isws.illinois.edu/warm/soiltemp.asp.
Usually, April 1 is a good time to apply control for crabgrass as most products have a 4 to 6-week residual control and then another application around middle of May – use Mother's Day as a good target date.
- Use chemicals safely. When applying any chemicals or fertilizer to your lawn make sure to read the label completely and thoroughly and only apply the amount recommended. Don't apply more than is stated on the label and make sure to apply evenly as well.
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