Even if the weather in your area is still a bit chilly, it's time to start thinking about giving your lawn a little TLC.
"Spring lawns require extra care following chilly winter temperatures and dormant growth," said John Buechner, Lawn Doctors Horticulture expert. "It's also a critical time to take steps to insure a beautiful summer lawn. Fertilization, weed and pest control combined with proper mowing will stop problems before they start and keep your lawn looking its best."
For many, this means heading down to the local home improvement warehouse to buy chemical products that might produce a green lawn, but will do a great deal of damage to the soil, water, and wildlife in the process.
If you'd rather take a more organic approach to lawn care, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Fertilization: Spring is a crucial time to fertilize because it replenishes the food reserves your yard draws from while dormant in the winter and fuels grass' rapid growth phase. Hopefully, you've been composting your kitchen waste all year long, and you have the means to make compost tea to fertilize your lawn and garden. This will produce a thick, healthy lawn that also helps prevent weeds. (And don't worry: if you haven't been composting, there are lots of packaged organic fertilizers on the market, but just like when shopping for organic foods, be careful and read the label).
Weed control: Apply a pre-emergent weed killer on lawns to prevent grassy weeds from germinating. Spring broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clovers and plantains, are best prevented by maintaining a proper mowing height and fertilization. After a mild winter, annual weeds that germinate in the fall, like henbit and chickweed, will be more visible and require higher levels of broadleaf weed control through herbicides. Never use chemical weed killers! Check out natural and effective options like Burn Out, (made from clove oil, vinegar and lemon juice) instead.
Pest control/Disease repair: Severe winters may increase the incidence of winter diseases such as snow mold and Bermuda dead spot. Proper cultural care is important in helping your lawn recover from stress related winter diseases. Properly timed fertilizer application and mowing at the recommended height for your grass type are two items that will aid in the recovery of your lawn.
Mowing: Contrary to popular belief, setting your mower at a very low height can actually increase weeds by exposing the soil surface to sunlight and removing stored nutrients in leaf blades. Cool weather grasses, such as bluegrass, ryegrass and fescues, should maintain a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Warm season grasses, like bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine and centipede, should be kept at 1.5 to 2.5 inches tall. Also, think about skipping the loud, carbon-intensive, gas-powered mower for an electric or human-powered alternative.
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