Mowing the lawn

Photo via Metro

AMES – Contrary to the snow and cold temperatures some Iowa residents received recently, it is officially spring.

This is a good time to be thinking about spring and summer lawn care. Working in the yard or garden can also be a good distraction while dutifully following social distancing guidelines.

“Now is a great time to work on your lawnmower, said Adam Thoms, assistant professor and turfgrass extension specialist at Iowa State University. “Make sure the oil is clean and full. Knock the dust out of the air filter. Sharpen your mower blades, because if you have a mower with a dull blade, it will cause the turfgrass to use more water to heal from a cut.”

Also, Thoms said, to make sure the cut height is set for the length you want, ideally 3 to 3-1/2 inches.

Fertilizing turfgrass is very common in the spring, and nitrogen will get it growing. An actively growing and dense yard is the best way to limit or prevent weed growth. Thoms said that it is typically recommended to apply about ½ to ¾ of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

“If you are concerned about crabgrass you will want to apply a crabgrass preemergence herbicide typically by May 1 to prevent the summer annual from being a problem,” he said.

After fertilizing in the spring, don’t apply more nitrogen until around Labor Day in September. At that time, apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Thoms said October feeding can be done as well, with 1 pound per 1,000 sq. ft.

“The fall feedings will feed the roots and make stronger plants for the next growing season. A strong root will be able to survive droughts better, as well as hold soil better than unfertilized turf,” he said.

For those who want to sow grass seed this year, it is always important to not plant until later in the year, between mid-August through the end of September, depending on your location. Planting in the spring will cause your seed to compete with annual weeds, like crabgrass, which can overrun an establishment of grass seed. The summer heat and possible droughts are also often hard on young seedlings.

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