Spring Lawn Prep
By Glennon Kraemer
(This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener March 2010 issue.)
Any successful business, weight loss program or retirement account requires planning. It’s the sound execution of that plan that brings the most reward. Your lawn is no different. There are no “magic pills” for your lawn (only Magic Mix, but I digress). If you take the following steps AND follow through with future advice from this article, you will be on your way to a more beautiful lawn.
Basic Turf Grass 101
- Identify your turf grass. It’s either a cool season grass (rye, tall fescue or blue grass) or a warm season (zoysia or bermuda). You may have a 50/50 yard like I do, but I chose to treat the whole lawn as a cool season turf. The Botanical Garden will help you identify your lawn, or you can call me and I can be about 99% sure this time of year. Knowing what you have will help you make the correct cultural practice decisions (ie. fertilizer, mowing, watering etc).
- Determine your square footage. Simple math of “length x width,” but too many people don’t know it. This number determines your purchases of all your horticulture products for the lawn. Buying double per 1000 ft. sq., doesn’t guarantee double the results. Usually, smaller amounts applied more often is better in the long run! You can use this number to get quotes on services from contractors as well.
- Get a soil test done. I suggest a real soil test. Collect 1” square plugs, 4” deep, from about 20 spots across the lawn. Collect soil ONLY. No rocks, leaves or grass. Bring it to the Botanical Gardens or buy a do-it-yourself kit from Dr.Goodearth.com. The soil is sent to a lab for professional results. The virtues are many, but the main one is, finding out the pH. If the pH isn’t right, you could be putting down fertilizer that never gets into the grass plants or that you ever needed! It’s worth the money…trust me.
- Make a decision on a fertilizer PLAN and stick to it! I constantly get customers who start one plan and switch in mid-stream. Start with some kind of direction from someone and see what happens for a year. Remember, there are no magic pills out there.
- Temper expectations. If you are a first year “do-it-yourselfer,” you are going to make mistakes. It’s only grass! You won’t do any ONE thing to make that big of a difference (unless you spray glyphosate over the whole yard?) so don’t be afraid to try new things. The key is to stick to a plan and work with someone you trust.
- Record what you do. Too many people don’t know what they have done or had done to their yard. History is a wonderful tool if we chose to use it. Simple record keeping can keep you from making the wrong choice of product or repeating unnecessary applications.
- Follow these articles. I will be walking through a basic turf grass plan for both warm and cool season lawns the rest of the year.
Glennon Kraemer owns and operates GR Robinson Seed and Service, has an AAS degree in Horticulture from St. Louis Community Colleges-Meramec, and a BS in Horticulture from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He teaches turf grass classes at SLCC-Meramec, Missouri Botanical Garden and various garden centers. He can be reach at (314) 432-0300.
My first application tip this month is to consider applying fertilizer and pre-emergence in mid to late March. You can apply Dimension (pre-emergent) up to mid May and still have excellent crabgrass control. This will be applied to cool season lawns ONLY at this time. In shade areas, consider scratching and seeding thin areas through late April. Never put pre-emergence on shade lawns as these won’t grow crabgrass anyway.