In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2001
Regional Report

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Coral honeysuckle flowers are attractive to look at and a favored food source for hummingbirds.

Spring Lawn Care

Like most folks, I appreciate a beautiful lawn. But in an effort to have a great lawn, many gardeners pamper their grass, creating problems for the turf and the environment. Great lawns result from attention to three simple practices: mowing, watering, and fertilizing. So let's take a look at these three keys to good turf.

Mowing

Frequent mowing is the best way to keep turf looking great. Resist the urge to set the blade to cut the grass low. Taller grass height is directly related to stronger root development. A strong root system is best able to handle the demands of summer. Return lawn clippings to the turf. They decompose rapidly to provide nutrients to the growing grass. Think of those clippings as a free, slow-release, organic fertilizer.

Watering

When the weather heats up and rain becomes scarce, soak your turf infrequently. Light, regular sprinklings encourage development of shallow, water-dependent root systems. This makes the grass even more susceptible to dry spells and nutrient deficiencies. Frequent waterings also increase the incidence of fungal turf diseases. A slow, thorough soaking will ensure a deeper, healthier root system and more drought-hardy plants. Apply 1/2- to 1-inch of water at each watering, using a rain gauge or coffee can as your guide to know how long that takes.

Fertilizing

The best time to make your first fertilizer application is after the second mowing. By mid-April in our lower South region, turf is growing fast enough to benefit from an application of fertilizer. If you fertilize too early, the grass will green up but won't start growing due to cool temperatures. The weeds, however, will thank you and will grow like... well, weeds!

New lawns will benefit from an application of a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 fertilizer. Older lawns are typically very high in phosphorus and may be high in potassium. In such cases, a nitrogen-only fertilizer would be in order.

Your county extension office has information on how much of various fertilizers to apply. If a fertilizer is not slow-release, consider splitting the recommended amount into two applications to spread out the feeding over a longer period of time.


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