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Dealing with lawns; Cleanup includes raking, fertilizing, repairing turf.

Byline: Paul Rogers


A major benefit from the strong winds of the past few days is the drying effect it has had on wet lawns. While we are aware that harm can be done to the soil by working on it when it's too wet, we also know that work on lawns can never be started too early. Grass is a crop that performs best during cool, moist weather. Repairing turf areas that suffered from the drought of last year and the damage that winter weather always causes is a matter of importance.

As with most projects, the first step is to examine the lawn so as to determine what needs to be accomplished. Dead, sun-bleached grass should be removed by vigorous raking. In many lawns, the dead grass is composed of annual grasses, such as crabgrass, that died last fall. An additional portion of the dead grass was caused by accumulations of over-wintering ice. Finally, lawn grubs that ate grass roots caused the death of some grass plants.

Turf diseases could have taken their toll. Burrowing rodents feeding on grubs could have caused grass roots to dry excessively. Human factors could also be involved. Allowing debris (tree leaves) to remain on lawns smothered the grass. Walking on lawns during the winter when the grass was dormant caused soil compaction that led to root damage and death. Fertilizing too much or not enough, or the excessive use of herbicides (weed-killing agents) are other possible causes.

While it is always helpful to recognize causes (for that understanding can direct us to alternative actions), similar activities will bring us to repair work. Vigorous raking will remove the accumulations of non-living material such as sticks, leaves, sand, dead grass and what-have-you. Transport these materials to the compost heap for recycling. The matting of existing lawn grasses will be relieved, thus ending most winter disease problems.

There is good evidence that both power raking and core aerating are best left to the fall. The first can further damage winter-weary turf, and each operation can stimulate weed-seed germination. Athletic fields because of their high use and professional care are exceptions. Less is demanded of home lawns.

A soil sample sent to the UMass Soil Testing Lab will tell you if lime is needed. My preference, due to our naturally acidic growing conditions, is to spread ground limestone every spring and fall. An application rate of 50 to 60 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet should be about right in most instances. Grass plants love lime.

Inexpensive ground limestone has the same neutralizing effect as pelletized lime. However, ground (powdered) lime is difficult to spread in a breeze and impossible in a wind. Heavier particles of pelletized lime are the choice in the spring.

If you fertilized last fall, after the grass ceased to grow, there is no need to feed now. Grass crowns have sufficient stored carbohydrates to support the greening and growth of most lawns. If the turf does need nutrients, consider spreading either 10-10-10 chemical fertilizer at 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet, or a 1-inch deep layer of composted manure, or a formulated organic fertilizer at its recommended rate.

Before walking away and leaving the lawn to do its own thing, spread grass seed to thicken the turf prior to the germination of weed-seed. Now, you are done for a while.
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Title Annotation:HOMES
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 30, 2008
Previous Article:Gerbe not the only small star.
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