Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
April, 2004
Regional Report

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A spring addition of organic matter combined with aeration promotes a healthy lawn.

Lawn Care Guidelines for Early Spring

With the arrival of spring our thoughts turn to having a beautiful lawn that will be the envy of the neighborhood. First, we need an understanding of what a healthy lawn is all about and how to keep it that way.

The foundation of a healthy, vigorous lawn is the soil. When you grow grass in healthy soil that allows for a balance of air, water, and nutrients, then roots will grow deeply and vigorously.

A simple way to improve your soil is through the application of organic amendments. As soil structure is improved, the soil becomes healthy and can support root growth. A good source of organic matter will break up the heavy, clay soils, as well as improve the water-holding capacity of sandy soils.

Quality organic amendments also unlock mineral elements so they are available to the plants, and help speed up the formation of a living and healthy soil. Soon your lawn will be easy to maintain with some basic lawn care practices.

Rejuvenating a Lawn
A neglected lawn's recovery should start with a good core aeration. Proper aeration removes cores of soil and thatch (the water-repellent layer of roots, stems, and leaves that accumulates above the soil surface). Insects, diseases, and some weed species find thatch an ideal place to live.

Older lawns with thatch accumulations over 1/2 inch should be aerated to break through the thatch layers and encourage microbial activity to continue the decomposition of thatch.

To reduce soil compaction on heavy clay soils, it is particularly important to aerate. Roots cannot grow deep and are less efficient at absorbing water in compacted soils. Aeration will increase water and air penetration, stimulate new root growth, and provide openings for fertilizer and pulverized compost to enter the soil. If you need to overseed a thin lawn, the openings left from aeration provide lodging places for grass seed to germinate more successfully.

The best results can be obtained from aerators that remove 3-inch cores, 3/4-inches in diameter and spaced at 3- to 6-inch intervals. The aerator should cross the lawn at least twice, going in two different directions.

Plugs left from aeration can be unsightly and tracked indoors if left on the surface. Rake them up immediately and recycle in the compost pile. Without raking, the plugs will eventually disintegrate after several mowings and waterings.

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