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Shortcuts to a healthy lawn.


In the United States today,there are more than 53 million home lawns, amounting to more than 25 million acres. The lawn is often the single most important feature, and concern, in the home landscape. The front lawn is a statement to the rest of the world about the owner's personality and lifestyle. The backyard frequently is a special area for sports, exercise, and other social activities. A lush, green lawn is "all-American," and today it is easier than ever to have if you follow just a few rules of (green) thumb.

* In the early spring, giveyour lawn a good "message" (a gentle but thorough raking) to wake it up and get the circulation going. This lets the sun penetrate and warm the soil. Before raking, clear away the debris of winter (sticks, stones, leaves, etc.).

* Don't walk on a wet, soggylawn; you will compact the soil, and the roots won't be able to penetrate it and grow well. If you are impatient, use this time to tune up your lawn mower and sharpen the blade.

* Fertilize the lawn just before andduring its most active growth time. If you grow such cool-climate grasses as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or fine fescue, the best time to fertilize is in early spring and again in late fall. If you grow such warm-climate grasses as Bermuda or St. Augustine,, fertilize in early spring and throughout the summer. The number of times you fertilize will probably depend on your budget.

* If you want to give your lawn aninstant boost for a fast green-up and beautiful look in the spring or for a special event in your garden, try one of the new premixed, premeasured liquid fertilizers. Just attach the bottle to the end of a hose, turn on the hose and the bottle, and feed your lawn. The food, taken in through the grass blade, is instantly available to the plant. these products represent the latest technology in lawn care. Many formulas are available; a good one for a fast green-up in the spring is 20-3-3. Check the label and be sure it contains micronutrients.

* The ultimate lawn-care programfor the home gardener would combine a granular feeding with the liquid boost feedings. Generally, granular fertilizers dissolve slowly in the soil and are available to the plant over a long time. In cool climates the best time for granular feeding is late in the fall; in warm climates the best time is early spring.

* Mowing is simply another formof pruning! Every time you cut a plant you encourage growth, so mowing encourages a good, green lawn, free of weeds. Observe the one-third rule and you can't fail. Simply mow often enough to clip only one-third of the grass blade. For example, if your grass is best maintained at two inches, then let it grow to three inches and mow off one inch at each mowing. There's a good reason for this rule: removing more than one-third of the grass blade can result in an ineffective root system. In fact, most grass roots grow about as deep as the blade grows high. If you shear your grass too short, your root system will be very weak, shallow, and difficult to maintain. The essence of a good lawn is a good root system; even if you can't see it, it's doing its duty. Help it along!

* Monitor the watering byputting a few empty containers around your lawn. When the water in the containers reaches the one-inch mark, your lawn has probably been sufficiently watered.

* In a drought year, youwill have to make the decision to either let your grass go dry and dormant or to keep to a regular and adequate watering schedule. A properly fertilized lawn can survive a dry period. Problems occur in a lawn when a little water is given once in a while. This results in cycles of growth and dormancy, which exhaust and deplete your lawn.

* Make weeding your lawn moreefficient by using liquid products that contain both weed control and nutrients. The weed control will arrest the weeds, and the nutrients will cause the good grass in the lawn to grow and fill in the areas once occupied by weeds. A 15-0-0 weed and feed formula will give excellent results.

* The optimum time to use liquidweed and feed products is when the weeds are actively growing, when daytime temperatures are between 60 [deg.] and 83 [deg.] F., and when it is calm, rather than windy. Liquid controls are efficient and effective because they are absorbed directly into the plant through the leaf. There is very little time lost with a liquid product.

* Generally, lawn insecticidesshould be applied in April and again in mid July or August. Identify problems and apply controls if needed.

* Annual weeds, such as crabgrass, should be treated with appropriate controls just before germination. In cool climates this is in early to mid spring; in warmer climates this can be any time from late autumn to early spring, depending on the weeds that need to be controlled.

* For best results when choosingchemicals for your lawn-care programs, check with your local agricultural extension agent or a reputable nursery for appropriate timing in your region. Read the label thoroughly and follow its instructions exactly.

* A special tip for 1987 is to mulcharound trees in the lawn area. Recent research has shown that lawns inhibit the growth of trees. In addition, damage from lawn mowers' banging into the bark can slow tree growth and sometimes even destroy precious trees.

* The big controversy in lawn careis whether to catch the grass clippings. In my opinion, it is all a matter of lifestyle and personality. If you want a pristine and perfect lawn, get a lawn mower with a bag attachment. These clippings are an excellent addition to the compost heap, provided they have not been treated with a herbicide in the previous six months. If your approach is a little more casual, you can leave the clippings behind (if they are not too long). They will provide your lawn with continued nourishment, for they are rich in nitrogen if you have been fertilizing regularly.

* To detach or not--that is thequestion. If you walk on your lawn and it feels spongy, it is probably time to dethatch. Thatch is a layer of dead roots and stems (not clippings). If you pull up a piece of the lawn and a soft, spongy layer resembling compressed peat is between the blade of grass and the roots, you have thatch. If this layer is over a half-inch thick, it must be removed; it will prevent water and fertilizer from reaching the soil, and the lawn will soon be depleted of nourishment. Purchase or rent a dethatching machine in the fall. (The lawn will look a bit rumpled after this process, so be aware that if you dethatch in the spring you will have to live with a disheveled-looking lawn until it recuperates.) Northern homeowners usually don't have to dethatch more than once every three or four years; Southern homeowners must dethatch more often.

* Spring is the best time to play"catch up." If you have neglected your lawn in recent seasons, all is not lost. Plants are resilient, and they do tolerate considerable neglect, to the great joy of most of us. Lawns, in particular, are especially adaptable. Make this spring a new beginning for you and your lawn. Get out there and have a little fun and exercise! Green up the lawn and keep it green with these simple yet effective tips. If you simply mow and fertilize, you will be delighted with the results.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Henke, Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1987
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