Spring appears to be on schedule for most of Maryland as temperatures are slowly creeping up into the 50’s and 60’s for highs. One of the temptations for homeowners is to fertilize the lawn “to get the grass going” in the spring. Keep in mind that “spring green-up” is largely related to soil temperatures and, to some degree, whether fertilizer was applied in the fall. Fertilizing with the goal of getting the grass to “wake up” sooner will have a minimal effect since soil temperature is the main driver for this.
Also, keep in mind that fertilizing in the spring favors more shoot and leaf growth at the expense of root growth. (Fertilizing in the fall tends to favor root growth. Most of the fertilizing for the year should be done in the fall.) Spring fertilization should consist of ~1 lb. nitrogen/1000 sq. ft. total in spring. Using a slow-release fertilizer or splitting applications into two 1/2 lb. rates spaced about one month apart should help to limit excessive growth that could add to the increased mowing frequency often necessary in the spring. Continue reading →
University of Maryland Lecturer and Turfgrass Management Advisor Geoff Rinehart answers your questions about lawn care and planting. For more Maryland lawn care information, see the University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center website.
Q: I had a new shed put on my property. The delivery driver had to back onto my lawn. The weight of the truck and the flatbed put an initial 2-3 inch depression in the lawn. Where the driver had to pivot the trailer, the flatbed tires dug into the lawn 3-4 inches. In order to recover the contour of the lawn and deal with the gouges, what steps do you suggest I take? Today, after it rained all day, I went out on the lawn and attempted to press the humps down with my body weight and somewhat level the lawn back. I am worried, though, that the depressions indicate a serious compaction of the soil and damage to further propagation of the lawn.
Answer: You are correct – the gouges made by the flatbed have likely caused serious compaction to the area. You can try to press the gouges back into place and aerify now and topdress with ½” topsoil to try to smooth things out and see what happens next year. If you notice the area is struggling compared to the rest of the lawn and drying out more quickly if we have a dry summer, you’ll probably want to renovate the affected area by rototilling, re-grading, and re-seeding. Continue reading →
Before bringing houseplants back into the house: Check plants for ants, earwigs, pillbugs, and other nuisance insects. Wash off insect pests or apply a labeled houseplant insecticide to control any plant pests such as aphids, scales, spider mites, and mealybugs.
If the plants have outgrown their pots repot them into the next size pot or remove them, trim back the roots and repot in the same container. Use lightweight, well-drained soilless potting mixes. Contrary to old established practice, pebbles, stones, and shards from clay pots do not need to be added to the bottom of planting containers. This actually creates a higher water table and may reduce plant growth. When repotting, cut the root ball with a sharp knife at 2-4 inch intervals and remove brown, dead roots.
If needed, this is the ideal time to begin a total lawn renovation project. Total renovation is best if your lawn is always failing due to poor soil, has over 50% weeds or is mostly dead. See our lawn renovation publication page Lawn Establishment, Renovation, and Overseeding.
Whether renovating or just over-seeding, the seedbed should be raked vigorously with a metal rake to loosen the soil and promote good seed to soil contact. If your entire lawn is compacted, machine aerating will help improve seeding, water, and fertilizer penetration. Watch our turf establishment video for more information.
Always mow cool season grasses, like tall fescue and bluegrass, at a height of 3 inches. Mowing the lawn too close weakens the grass and permits many weeds to invade your lawn.
Keep your mower blades sharp to prevent turf damage. Dry white or tan colored grass blade tips are an indication that the mower blade is dull. Dull mower blades tear turf grass and can lead to disease problems.
Leave grass clippings where they lay. Grasscycling eliminates bagging labor and costs, adds organic matter and nitrogen to your soil and does not contribute to thatch build-up.
With spring gardening season right around the corner, lawn questions have been rolling into the Home & Garden Information Center (HGIC). Here I’ll address some of the most common questions about weeds and overseeding.
Dealing with Winter Weeds
In late winter/early spring, we typically see winter annual weeds in thin, under-fertilized, wet, or shady areas. These weeds germinated in the fall and will die as the weather warms up later in the spring. In my observations, this has not been a particularly bad year for winter annuals. They are favored by wet, mild winters and I think we had just enough “bitter cold” in January and a fairly dry stretch through December and January to reduce populations.
Typical winter annual weeds include chickweed, henbit, purple deadnettle, and shepherd’s purse. Options to address these winter annual weeds include hand pulling, spot spraying with a broadleaf herbicide, or waiting until they die once weather climbs to the 60’s and 70’s on a regular basis. For perennial weeds like dandelion which will start to re-emerge later this month, hand-pulling or spot spraying are the best methods for control.
Starting Seeds Indoors – Many types of annual flower plants can be started indoors this month. Generally, most are started 5-6 weeks before they are planted outdoors.
Spring bulbs are emerging and some are even flowering at this time. Exposed leaves may be burned later by very cold temperatures but the spring flower display will not be adversely affected.
Groundcovers are arriving in local nursery and garden centers this month. They are a great alternative to grass where grass won’t grow, where you have heavy shade or tree root problems and on steep slopes.
Late February through the end of March is the second-best time (the optimum time is late August through mid-October) to overseed your lawn to make it thicker or to cover bare areas. The freezing and thawing of the soil this time of the year actually helps the seed to get good soil contact. (PDF) HG 102 Lawn Establishment, Renovation, and Overseeding.
Be careful to keep ice-melting products off turf to avoid killing your lawn.