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How to Prep your Lawn for Spring

23 APR 2021

By: Sean Gunn, Golf Course Superintendent, The Country Club

In this unprecedented time of being asked to stay home and away from our beautiful golf courses, I wanted to take the opportunity to give you some tips on how to maintain your lawn and gardens. I am sure you have watched plenty of Netflix and/or you need activities for you and your family to do. Well, this article will be full of tips on how to improve your backyard. 

Tip #1 – Know how much area your lawns and gardens are. Simply calculate the square footage of the lawn and write that number down. This is very important as everything we do going forward will be based off that number.

Tip #2 - The first thing every lawn needs in the spring is a good leaf-raking. Scratch the entire lawn and bring up all that matted grass/leaf debris and remove it. Give it a good hard combing. You are improving the air to carbon ratio and kick-starting the plant to begin spring growth. 

Tip #3 - Next, purchase some fertilizer. How many bags you ask? The bag will tell you how many square feet it covers. Now that you know how big your lawn is, the math is simple. Take your bag(s) and your spreader and evenly spread the product.  Do not spread the fertilizer by hand! Failure to use a spreader, will lead to poor distribution and the risk of damaging or even killing your lawn.

        

Make sure the fertilizer is a slow release. Scotts fertilizer has corn gluten mixed in with it which not only feeds your lawn, but will deter dandelion weeds from popping up on your lawn as well. The catch is, you have to apply this product before early-May to have the anti-weed affect. Corn gluten is a safe and natural product that won’t harm humans or pets. It is a safe, natural herbicide.

Fertilizer comes in two forms; petroleum/synthetic based and a natural/organic base. Both have plus and minuses. Here is a quick reference chart to decide which way you want to feed your lawn. I suggest a combination of the two. That way you are feeding the plant and you are feeding the soil. Organic needs the warm soils to activate the food, so use them during July-September only.

Organic Pros:

- Natural product with minimal processing
- Sustainable, biodegradable, and environmentally friendly
- Enriches the soil
- Improves the ability to hold water
- Can be used in areas with children and pets
- Hard to over-fertilize plants

Organic Cons:

- Nutrients are released slowly
- Nutrient ratios cannot be guaranteed
- Requires more labor to apply
- Needs warmth and moisture to work
- More expensive

Synthetic Pros:

- Fast-acting formulas
- Ensures specific ratios of nutrients
- Can be applied quickly to large areas
- Best used in high-profile areas like front lawns
- Less expensive
 

Synthetic Cons: 

- Can deplete nutrients from the soil
- May require multiple applications
- Potential buildup of toxic chemicals
- May leach into other areas
- Made from chemically-processed products

No matter which fertilizer you choose after each application you need to water the lawn. I would suggest you take advantage of the weather reports and look for a day when the forecast calls for rain. That way you can let Mother Nature water it in for you and its free!

Timing of the application is important too. Early morning or late evenings are the times to do it. Never and I repeat never, apply fertilizer in the high-heat of the day. It will have a tremendously negative effect on your lawn. 

Your last application should be in the area of mid-October. We call this a dormant feeding. The theory is, when you do a dormant feeding, the plant has the food waiting for it when it wakes from its long winter nap. No guessing when the plant needs food.

With regards to gardens or flower beds, make sure you turn over the soil early to get that much needed oxygen into the soil. This expedites the biological process of bacteria, microorganisms, oxygen, carbon and many other wonderful and beneficial things living in your soil.

Having a compost pile to put in your soil is the best thing for your future plants, but if you don’t, you can purchase fertilizer that is organic that will be the next best thing.

Again, follow the label to how much to use. I have seen too many dead tomatoes and begonias due to over fertilization.

Tip #4 - Mowing:

Your lawn needs to be cut twice a week, minimal. I know, you only cut it once a week, at best. Well, that is going to end. If you want to take your lawn to the next level, you are going to cut it more often. Why? The more you cut the grass, the more you stimulate the tillers (grass blades) to thicken and grow even more tillers. This is why our golf course greens have so many grass plants per square inch – we cut it every day. 

Now I am not suggesting every day, but I am suggesting 2-3 times per week at a height of 3 inches. Do not cut shorter than that. You are causing too much stress on the plant and will be inviting weeds and moss to enter your lawn. It is pretty simple, the more you cut, the stronger your lawn will become. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but trust me, it is the best for your lawn. Never cut off more than one-third of the grass blade. It is too much stress for the plant. This is another reason why you increase the frequency, so you are not cutting too much off the plant.

When the heat of the summer comes, you then can reduce the amount of cuts per week. The lawn isn’t growing as quickly, so give the lawn a break from stressful cuts and focus more on moisture levels.

Now that you are mowing, make sure you have a sharp blade. Dull blades don’t cut, they tear grass and that is a big no-no. I can’t stress enough the importance of a sharp blade. Dull blades lead to disease, drought and sometimes death. No sense in putting in all that effort from watering and fertilizing to throw it all away with a dull blade. Sharpen your blade at least once per season.