Just thought I should let you folks know that I have tapped into my psychic green powers and have found that Spring will be here in less than 6 weeks. I know that you untrained DIYers think that’s a long time, but for those of us who practice true “lawn love,” it’s just around the corner.
With that in mind, it’s time to plan for those all important first steps that need to be accomplished to help the lawn wake up from winter slumber.
4 lawn tasks for March
I recommend every lawn be aerated in mid-March (assuming ground is thawed) to help manage thatch levels and loosen hardened and compacted soil. Thatch is the layer of dead grass, leaves and other organic material that collects just above the soil line.
Some thatch is necessary to keep turf root systems shaded and to reduce soil erosion and water runoff. However, too much thatch (more than 1″) can block water absorption and create shallow rooting in the lawn.
Aeration will manage the thatch layer properly without completely eliminating it like a power-raking would do. I DO NOT recommend power raking except in extreme cases.
You can rent an aerator for about $60 per day and I’d recommend running across your lawn twice. (north and south and then east and west)
If this is a bit steep in price for you, consider getting your neighbors to pitch in and share the time. It’s well worth the effort.
The Spring Cleanup
Your lawn probably has all kinds of crap strewed around after winter storms and winds. If you have big trees, you no doubt will have limbs and leaves scattered about. Limbs gotta be picked up by hand (don’t you dare hit them with your mower and ruin your blade!) but leaves can be mowed over and sucked up in the bag. This initial cutting should have the height adjusted one setting lower than your normal cutting just to help rejuvenate the turf. (normal cutting height is 2.5-3″ … initial cut should be between 2-2.5″) Always use your bagger for this first cutting.
One you’ve completed the above, it’s time to hit the lawn with a nice dose of fertilizer to start the growing process off right. If you’re going to use synthetic fertilizer (like Scott’s or K-grow) you need to grab the 20-20-10 or 20-10-10. (more about these fertilizer numbers can be found here).
If you want to use a more natural option this season, I’d recommend a hybrid formulation that contains 50% natural-based products and 50% synthetic. Remember, natural fertilizers break down slower in the soil unless temps are above 55 degrees. This does not happen much in March in the Midwest. If you go with a hybrid blend, you will get some good release now, and some later.
Notice that we have not put down any weed control or crab grass preventor yet. That’s because we’ll get those problems in April. Because of this, it’s a great time to introduce some fresh cultivars of grass seed into the turf. A general overseeding directly after the aeration is recommended to help the overall thickness of the turf. A rate of 1-pound per 1,000 square feet of turf is going to be plenty. Also, since we’re in the Spring season, the rains will do the trick in keeping the seed moist.
Also, don’t buy cheap seed. Look at the label on the back and see the percentage of “noxious weed seed” or “inert material.” Both of those together should be less that 3% of the total contents.
You’ll be safe adding Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass to most lawns, however, I am a fan of turf-type-tall fescue blends.
If you implement these 4 simple steps in early to mid March this year, you’ll be off to a great start and be prepared for the next step, which is eliminating the dandelions that invade in later April and May.____________________________________________________________
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