Most lawns have dried up from winter and the April showers that followed. This means it’s safe to walk on it and begin your annual lawn care schedule.
Hopefully you won’t be greeted by a carpet of yellow. While the grass greens up over time, dandelions seem to just spring up. That’s because they’re adventitious plants that take every opportunity to benefit from their environment. Even if you only have a few dandelions, it’s a good idea to treat your lawn with both a pre-emergent and a post-emergent broadleaf weed killer. Be sure you use a product labeled specifically for broadleaf weeds. Otherwise, you could be applying a nonselective product that will kill any green plant, including the grass.
Dandelions are prolific weeds. You can tell that by the number of seeds that result from each flower. These seeds are so light that they are easily spread far and wide by the wind. The post emergent will only kill those weeds that it encounters, not the next flush. The next flush is still in the ground as seeds. Thus, the need for pre-emergent. It’ll keep the latent seeds from germinating. Speaking of pre-emergents, it would be a good idea to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass killer as well. Crabgrass is a weed that can only be controlled by a pre-emergent, or by manually digging out each weed.
May is also the best time to start your annual fertilization program. Grass plants must grow new leaves continuously all season because we mow off a good portion of their leaves every week. The best way to schedule your fertilizer applications is to buy the whole season’s product at your local garden center now. They sell several brands, including one made locally, in seasonal packages with application instructions. Your lawn will probably need three or four applications. The best way to know for sure is to have your soil tested to determine what nutrient deficiencies it has. A reminder – fertilizer doesn’t feed the plant; it replenishes depleted nutrients in the soil.
Before you mow your lawn for the first time this season, check the deck height. If you lowered it to two inches for the last cutting before putting it into winter storage, you should reset it to three or four inches for the growing season. This exposes longer leaves to energy trapping photosynthesis. The result is thicker, healthier grass, increasing its ability to fight off weeds and insects. Longer grass also doesn’t look unkempt if you put off mowing for a couple of days the way short grass does.
We have two insect pests that attack area lawns. One is grubs. They may be the larval stage Japanese beetles or European chafers. Grubs are best treated in the fall when they’re young and weak. Right now, they’re near the end of their larval, or grub, cycle. They’ll soon pupate below the soil surface and emerge as big, brown beetles, commonly called June bugs. They annoy us most when they splat against windows and screens as they fly around looking for a mate. The other pest is the sod webworm. The gray adults can be seen flying low over the top of the grass at dusk. Garden stores sell products to control these pests.
If you feel overwhelmed by all the care lawns require in addition to weekly mowing, consider a professional lawn care program. Although our programs are usually contracted for the whole season, we can start treating your lawn whenever you’re ready to turn the task over to the pros and just enjoy your lawn.