Care and feeding of signs of spring -- a green lawn

After the chilling winter months we all look forward to the greening of the lawn. Very early spring is a good time to analyze the needs of the lawn. This will determine the kind of grasses you should be growing. Researchers have spent many years in order to offer you specific grass seeds according to your geographical location as well as the use which your lawn gets.

Ask yourself: "Is my lawn a picture place, a play area, a family spot, or an extremely shady area?" The answer will give you the key to the kind of grass-seed mixture you should use to reseed bare spots or redo the entire lawn.

As you shop for grass seed be aware that blends are combinations of varieties of one species of grass, such as bluegrasses. Mixtures are combinations of several species: bluegrass, fescue, rye, and so on.

You will not be aware of the need for reseeding until the soil is dry enough to rake or "thatch" your lawn. Thatch is an accumulation of organic matter, such as roots, stems, decomposd clippings, and leaves just above the surface of the soil.

Thatch becomes more of a problem on older lawns when the buildup becomes at least an inch deep. This buildup contributes to insect and disease damage, prevents water from penetrating to the grass roots, and keeps air and fertilizer out of the root zone.

Lawns that suffer from a thatch problem can be raked with a power rake, or thatcher, which can be rented from a garden center. Thatch should be removed, when necessary, early in the spring and followed with a good fertilization and watering program.

When a lawn is thirsty, it can use water whenever you have time to provide it. A good rule is to water the lawn whenever three of four days go by without a good rainfall.

Grass needs about an inch of rain every week to remain green.

A no-no in spring is digging the skeletal remains of crabgrass. Last year's crabgrass plants are dead and can do no further harm unless you pull them out of the ground. This disturbance brings crabgrass seeds, buried too deeply to sprout, to the surface where they readily sprout. Let dead crabgrass lie.

We want to color our spring green but we don't want green where it shouldn't be. Spring is the time to thwart the weeds that creep into the driveways, patios, and sidewalks.

Spot grass and weed controls are easy to use, destroying only the vegetation it's aimed at. Keep a can on hand to prevent grass and weeds from breaking up your walks and to keep your lawn neatly confined.

Edging the lawn around flower beds keeps the lawn border tidy and prevents grass from growing into the flowers and shrubs. Merely slice the sod with a sharp spade to define the border. Lift the pieces of sod out and discard them.

When you have raked or thatched the lawn, you may discover dead spots. The alternate freezing and thawing of the soil in the early spring sometimes causes crevices in the bare soil. These areas can be overseeded even if they have a slight snow covering.

Bare spots that are not already honeycombed can be loosened a half-inch deep by using a rake, spade, or other tool.

Sprinkle fertilizer and seed lightly over the bare area and mulch it lightly with peat moss or a similar material. Keep the spots moist and protected while the young grass plants become well-rooted.

Newly seeded areas may be mowed when the plants are high enough to cut. However, plan to mow when the lawn is dry since muddy mower wheels can damage the young plants.

For spring mowing, set your lawn mower at a cutting height of 1 1/2 inches for bluegrass and fine-leaf fescue. If your lawn is bent- gras, it can be cut to 1 inch. The maximum cutting height for lawns should never be more than 3 inches. By planning to mow once a week, you will avoid cutting off too much of the grass leaf at one time. If more than one-third of the grass leaf is cut off , it creates a hardship for the grass plant and it may not survive, especially if there is a lack of moisture.

Everyone wants a greener lawn, particularly now that outdoor living and home recreation have become so popular. Yet, many homeowners fail to see the need for fertilizers. This is due to the fact that it takes time for the effect of fertilizers to become apparent.

By midsummer one can readily see which neighbors fertilized their lawns properly. If the lawn is striped, there are skipped strips or overlapping with the spreader. If the lawn is brown, it lacks moisture and fertilizer as well.

The earlier you feed your lawn, the better. A slow-release nitrogen fertilizer replenishes the nutrients of the soil which are rapidly depleted by the spring growth spurt. Root growth, which accelerates before the top growth of grasses, withstands dry spells better if they are fertilized. There is a loss of carbohydrates when the blades of grass are mowed off. This also needs to be replenished by adding fertilizer.

Grasses, especially bluegrass, produce underground stems that spread to fill in any bare areas and create a dense turf.Proper fertilization encourages this spreading or "rhizoming" of grass plants.

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