In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
April, 2007
Regional Report

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A healthy spring lawn is the result of good lawn management throughout the year.

Fundamentals of Lawn Care

Warm temperatures and more hours of sunlight herald in spring, when many of us focus our attention on lawn care. Lawns have survived a long winter's nap, blanketed by a heavy quilt of snow, and are now awakening. Your lawn does not have to be a pain in the grass if you follow some basic guidelines to keep it growing healthy and strong. And you don't have to resort to the typical chemical applications of weed killers, fungicides, and so-called miracle products that are often filled with false promises. Following a few basic fundamentals of lawn care will keep your lawn thick, green, and healthy.

Fertilizing
Provide your lawn with a slow-release, organic-based fertilizer on a regular basis. One of the easiest ways to remember when to apply lawn fertilizer is to time those applications around certain holidays. The first spring application can be put down around Easter, the second feeding around Memorial Day, the third application around July 4th, a fourth around Labor Day, and the fifth feeding around Halloween. This schedule helps keep you in step with the seasons in our fluctuating climate.

Fertilizing on a regular basis helps maintain a dense lawn that keeps weeds from invading. Weak, thin lawns are more prone to weed invasion since the bare spots are the prime target areas for weed seeds to land and germinate. For the occasional dandelion or bunch grass, simply dig the weed out with a sharp garden trowel. Get as much of the root system as possible to prevent the weed from growing back.

Make the fertilizer more effective by core-aerating the lawn ahead of time. The many holes left from aeration will permit the nutrients and organic material to filter down into the soil. Grass roots can assimilate the nutrients more efficiently, and air and water can enter the soil to enhance root and rhizome growth.

Control Weeds Early
If annual grasses such as crabgrass and goosegrass were a problem in your lawn last year, don't fret. You still have time to prevent the invasion of these annuals by applying a pre-emergent weed control. One of my favorites is corn gluten meal, which is a natural compound that stops the germination of weed seeds. It should be applied in spring and again in early summer to achieve the best results.

Recycle Clippings in Place
Mow your lawn at least weekly, twice a week when it's actively growing. You can recycle the clippings by mowing with a mulching mower. The key is to mow often so the clippings are finely chopped and will decompose. Grass clippings will provide a source of nitrogen as they break down. Keep the lawn mower blade sharp for a clean cut and to reduce the incidence of disease.

Wise Watering
Check your sprinkler system to make sure the heads are functioning properly and are not broken. Replace worn out parts and adjust the heads for uniform water coverage.

Following these simple fundamentals of lawn care can help keep your lawn healthy and happy. And in the long run, it can save you time and money.


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