Lush lawns lickety-split.
There's no time like the present to get out into the yard and roll up your sleeves to work on the lawn, says Jeff Choate, a Eugene-based master gardener who recently taught a class on lawn care for the Oregon State University Extension's Master Gardener spring series.
"The weather may still be wet, but it will be consistently good enough, and the lawn will be emerging from its slumber," Choate says.
Weekends, especially, offer blocks of time in which to accomplish tasks such as aeration or dethatching and, of course, mowing.
But what to do first? Why and how often?
Choate shares his expert take on lawn care just in time for your weekend plan to tackle some yard work.
Brown spots appear when compacted soil prevents air and water from reaching lawn roots. Aeration alleviates this compaction by removing cores of soil so that water and air can move in. Choate recommends renting an aerator (Action Rental in Eugene and Springfield, for example, charges $12/hour for a two-hour minimum or $69 for the day). In Choate's experience, most lawns can be aerated within the minimum rental time-frame. Aerate every year if possible: "Any aerating is better than none at all, and the best time is in early spring."
Thatch is the layer between grass and soil. If it's thicker than a 1/2 inch, grass roots most likely aren't reaching the soil and are at risk of drying out. Again, rental equipment is best, Choate says. (At Action Rental, a dethatcher rents for $9/hour for a two-hour minimum, or $57 a day.) A dethatcher thins out thatch build-up. Choate plans to aerate and dethatch at the same time, renting the aerator in the morning and the dethatcher in the afternoon. The dethatcher also helps to break down the soil plugs the aerator leaves behind.
You can remove up to 75 percent of moss build-up on lawns, Choate says, just by dethatching and then raking off. Any remaining moss can then be removed with an iron sulfate liquid moss remover.
With the lawn thinned out, overseed bare spots in early spring. "There isn't really an order of preference for overseeding and fertilizing," Choate says. "Just do one before the other, but not together in the same hopper."
Apply fertilizer three to four times a year between early April and October. "It's a happy medium," Choate says. Don't use a weed-and-feed product if you've overseeded, he adds, for at least six to eight weeks. Choate recommends using an overall fertilizer rather than any specific formula (try Lilly Miller's Ultra Green or Scotts Turf Builder). "These are great for year-round," he says.
It's a rite of spring, and at this time of year it may be necessary to mow twice a week, or every third day, if the lawn has been fertilized, Choate says. "Later in the year, once a week is a good schedule." Mow the grass down to between 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height. "The most important thing is to have a sharp mower blade," Choate adds. Sharpen the blade once at the start of the mowing season. "You don't need to sharpen it again unless you're hitting rocks that would dull the blade."
"The best defense is a good offense," Choate says. He prefers liquid herbicides to weed-and-feed fertilizers, because they have better coverage and stronger ingredients. To avoid using excessive herbicides, "use a dye indicator to see where you've sprayed." If weeds dominate the lawn, start over with a new lawn, rather than relying on herbicides to kill off weeds.
The weather dictates when to start watering lawns, but if you're lawn doesn't spring back when you step on it, Choate says, it's starting to dry out. Early April is a good time to check that sprinklers work. Once regular watering begins, Choate advises homeowners use Green Grass Gauges - available for free from EWEB and other locations in Eugene/Springfield starting June 19 (www.eweb.org) - to measure how much water is reaching areas of the lawn. Ideally, by July and August, "most lawns do well with 1 1/2 inches of water a week," Choate says. "That's every other day, long enough to put a half an inch of water on."
Beyond these early spring lawn-care recommendations, Choate says, it will be easy to transition into lawn maintenance mode.
Follow Christine on Twitter @CSherkRG. Email email@example.com.