Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
April, 2006
Regional Report

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After the lawn has been core aerated many plugs will remain on the surface. Even my friendly rabbit is enjoying the new green shoots as the lawn begins to awaken.

Rituals of a Spring Workout

As gardeners throughout the region, including me, get the urge to get out there and garden, we need a friendly reminder to take it slow at first. It's easy to be tempted to do too much in one day and then feel the pain the next morning. A little will go a long way in the early part of the season.

As I was helping a friend clean up the backyard, it was so refreshing to see Nature at its best, the awakening of life in plants that survived their winter dormancy. Even the roses had begun to expand their tiny buds in anticipation of the longer days and warmth of spring.

Next we moved to the lawn, a lawn that had been neglected from winter's drought and people, cat, and dog traffic. Following is a process that really works to give your lawn (and yourself) a good workout.

Lawn Tune-Up
Spring is the time to give your lawn a strong and healthy beginning. You can do your part by following some basic but very important steps.

1. Clean turf areas before you begin lawn renovation. Rake up matted leaves, twigs, and other debris that have accumulated since last fall and winter.

2. Core aerate the lawn and open up those compacted soils. Proper lawn aeration allows for water, air, and nutrients to become more available to the roots of turf grasses. 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.

If your lawn has a thatch layer, core aeration will break through this barrier and permit water movement into the soil. With the increase in water and air penetration, grasses will stimulate new root growth into the root zone area. Additionally, all those holes provide easy entry for fertilizer and pulverized compost. If you need to overseed a thin lawn, the openings left from aeration provide lodging places for grass seed to germinate more successfully.

Older lawns with thatch accumulations over 1/2-inch thick will benefit from a good core aeration. Aeration helps to break through the thatch layers and allows for microbial activity to continue the decomposition of thatch.This results in better root growth and a thicker lawn. Additionally, a process of thatch degradation will begin to make the lawn grow more vigorously. Your lawn will grow thicker and become more resistant to diseases.

3. Schedule a proper fertilization for your lawn before summer arrives and temperatures start to climb. Select a lawn fertilizer with a good nutrient analysis, including a sustained nitrogen release. Slow-release nitrogen helps to prevent the "feast and famine periods" that predispose lawns to stress and disease problems.

4. Prevent crabgrass from mid-April to early May, before the seeds have the opportunity to sprout. A proper treatment can also help prevent other undesirable annual weeds like goosegrass, foxtail, annual bluegrass, and creeping spurge.

5. Repair any bare spots in Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye, or fescue lawns. Sow the best seed or purchase the best sod you can find. Quality seed and sod will produce the best lawn.

6. Check lawn and garden equipment to make sure everything is working properly. Drain old gasoline and change oil in your lawn mower. Sharpen mower blades before using. Remember, clean and sharp cuts make for a healthier and better looking lawn.

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