A lawn is a welcome mat to the outdoors, a little slice of manicured nature that eases the transition from ceilings and walls to sky and sun. So the urge to keep that swath looking sharp is understood. A scraggly, patchy lawn defeats its own purpose.
A lawn is a welcome mat to the outdoors, a little slice of manicured nature that eases the transition from ceilings and walls to sky and sun.
So the urge to keep that swath looking sharp is understood. A scraggly, patchy lawn defeats its own purpose.
But a healthy lawn does not require heavy upkeep. They are to be used, not pampered. Some balance is important. Yards should not be hard, no matter how much time the folks down the street are spending on their tending.
With the growing season in full swing, we asked a couple of grass gurus for some basic tips about what lawn owners should keep in mind at the start of the summer. Here's what they had to say.
One of the best ways to combat weeds is to have healthy grass that's not cut too short. Mow at about 3 1/2 inches, taking about an inch off, Weinmann says. Keeping it that long blocks the sun from weeds, he says.
Preventing dead zones and compacted areas - like the edges of a driveway - can also help, Nelson says. "Weeds are opportunistic," he says.
Perennials like dandelions should be sprayed for in the fall so the herbicide can kill off the roots, Nelson says, but annual weeds like crabgrass can be spot-treated. If problems have occurred in the past, applying a pre-emergent across the whole lawn might be worth it, he says.
Power raking and aeration
It's getting a little late in the spring for either of these, says Randy Nelson, a horticultural and agricultural educator with Clay County Extension, except in the case of particularly damaged turf. If it can wait, hold off until the fall. If it can't, do it this weekend.
Aerating opens up the soil and lets in more nutrients and water. It's a good idea annually, especially the first six to eight years of a lawn's life, says Todd Weinmann, Cass County horticulturist. For lawns with a half-inch or more of thatch (dead grass), consider raking instead.
Never do both raking and aeration in one year, Weinmann says.
The most common lawn-wrecking critters in the area are voles. The small rodents nibble the tips of grass, leaving trails behind them.
"If you've got them, you know it," Weinmann says. Rake away the dead grass in the areas the voles lunched on and then wait a couple weeks, he says. If there are still bare spots, drop some new seed. Think about adding extra soil to bare spots, Nelson says.
Memorial Day, which is on Monday, marks a good time for spring fertilizing, Nelson says - though he adds that fall is the best time to apply the once-a-year dose of fertilizer.
Weinmann's rule of thumb is to fertilize after the third mowing of the year, as it gives the grass plants time to start strong growth. Buy fertilizer intended for lawn usage and follow the directions carefully, he says. Misapplication can easily lead to dead spots.
Remember, fertilizers with phosphorus are generally illegal in Minnesota, Nelson says.
Grass needs about an inch to 1½ inches of water a week. If it's rained that much, you've got no worries. During drier stretches, watering can keep yards quenched. Sprinklers deliver about an inch of water per hour, so one or two sessions a week should do the trick, Weinmann says. Doing so early or late in the day will cut down on evaporation.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535