Lawn and Garden Feature: Lawn Care Tips

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A beautiful lawn does not come without some effort. Depending upon what type of soil you have, the amount of effort will vary. For instance when raising trees and shrubs, sandy or a gravel base soil is great. Landscape plants like well drained soiled. A lawn on the other hand is different. Lawn grasses grow constantly throughout the growing season, and need an ample supply of both nutrients and water.

The most basic of lawn care tips includes regular watering and fertilization is required to keep a lawn beautiful. If you’re lucky enough to have a lawn that was originally planted in good rich topsoil, you won’t have to work near as hard as somebody like me, who has a lawn that is planted in sandy gravel. The soil at our house has little nutritional value, nor does it have the ability to retain any amount of moisture. By mid-May my lawn starts drying out. It is very difficult for us to keep our lawn looking nice.

Lawns are one area where a little clay in the soil is a good thing. Of course standing water is not good, but having soil that has the ability to retain some moisture is helpful. If you happen to be installing a new lawn, here’s a news flash from my lawn care tips that will make all the difference in the world:  Add lots of organic matter before you install your new lawn if you have sand or gravel type soil.  The easiest way to do this is to find some good rich topsoil and spread that over your existing soil.

Because most lawn grasses grow so vigorously, they need additional amounts of nutrients added in order to stay looking nice. Just use one of the four step programs offered by the fertilizer companies. Most of these programs also include weed control along with the fertilizer. Here in the north we basically have two concerns with weeds in our lawns.

Crabgrass can be a problem, and I do consider it a weed. In order to control crabgrass you must use a pre-emergent herbicide that will prevent the crabgrass seeds from germinating. In order for this herbicide to be effective you must apply it early in the spring while the soil temperature is still below 45° F.

Broadleaf weeds such as Dandelions are another problem, although fairly easy to control with a broadleaf weed control. Most broadleaf herbicides are mixed in with the fertilizers, and must be applied when the grass and weeds are damp. The wet foliage will cause the herbicide to stick to the weed, giving the herbicide time to be absorbed by the weed. Once absorbed the herbicide translocates through the weed plant and kills it completely.

These types of herbicides are considered “selective” since they seem to know the difference between a grass plant and a weed. That’s why they only kill the broadleaf weeds and not the grass itself. However, many people have different kinds of thick bladed grass in their lawn such as quack grass.  Quack grass is on the ugly side, and can really detract from a lawn. The problem is, it is still in the grass family, and “selective” herbicides leave it alone because it is a card carry member of the grass family.

So what’s a person to do?

In order to get rid of these thick bladed grasses you must use a “non-selective” herbicide, and “non-selective” herbicides don’t care who they kill. Well, at least that’s true in the plant kingdom. When you use a “non-selective” herbicide you must understand that everything that you spray is going to die, but it really is the only effective way to rid your lawn of undesirable thick bladed grasses. This type of treatment is effective if you have isolated areas that contain wide bladed grasses. You’ll have to spray all the grass in the area, then reseed with good quality grass seed.

To keep the spray from drifting, adjust the nozzle so that the spray pattern is narrow with larger spray droplets. You do not want a fine atomized spray if there is danger of spray drift. It also helps to keep the pressure in the sprayer as low as possible. Pump the sprayer a minimum number of times, to keep the pressure low. You just want enough pressure to deliver the spray, but not atomize it to the point that it can be easily carried by the wind.

Buy a sprayer just for herbicides and mark it as such. You never want to spray plants with a sprayer that has been used for herbicides.

Once you have sprayed the area you want to kill, wait three days before doing anything else. After a period of three days the grasses that you sprayed may not look any different, but if they have been properly sprayed, they will die. It takes three days for the herbicide to translocate throughout the entire plant, then the plants will die. So even though the weeds and grass plants look fine, you can start digging and chopping and not worry about them growing back. If you start digging and chopping before the three day period you will interrupt the herbicide, and the weeds and grass you were trying to kill may come back.

If you happen to be installing a new lawn, make sure you spray all the weeds and thick bladed grasses before you start. Once you have the lawn installed, you sure don’t want to go through all the trouble of killing areas of your lawn and reseeding. If you make sure that all of these undesirables have been killed before you start, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

When selecting grass seed, you should always use a blend that is recommend for your area. Here in the north a popular blend contains fine bladed perennial rye grass, fescue, and blue grass. Keep in mind that it takes blue grass seeds 28 days to germinate, while most perennial rye grasses germinate in 5 or 6 days, so you never want to plant a lawn that is 100% Kentucky blue grass. Before the blue grass seeds have a chance to germinate, every kind of weed imaginable will already be actively growing in your lawn.

With a blend, the faster germinating grasses come up quick, and act as a nurse crop for the slower germinating seeds. Having a blend also gives you some protection in case some new pest comes along that attack certain types of grasses.

Visit http://www.freeplants.com for more articles by Michael J. McGroarty

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