Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
April, 2009
Regional Report

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A good core-aeration will breathe new life into the awakening spring lawn.

Spring Lawn Care Tips

Now that the spring snow storms are making up for one of the driest winter's on record, let's not sit back on our laurels and ignore our lawns. Sure, the heavy, wet snows are going to make the grass green up, but don't forget to do some preventive maintenance to make your lawn more water-wise.

One of the first things I like to get out of the way after all this good moisture is the core-aeration of the lawn. I used to do it myself, but with such a tight schedule and other commitments, I find it easier to hire a reputable aeration company to do the job. It will cost between $35 to $40 for an average sized lawn (5,000 square feet). Just be sure that whomever you choose, they use an aerator the pulls out deep plugs of two inches or more.

Aeration is much better than power-raking since it removes cores of soil and breaks through the thatch layers without damaging the grasses' crowns. The holes left from aeration will stimulate the lawn, making it produce more roots for vigorous growth. Moisture, air, and nutrients will become more readily available to the surviving grass plants. This activity is hastened in spring's cooler temperatures, especially for cool-season grasses like bluegrass, turf-type fescue, and perennial ryegrass.

Once the core-aeration is completed, it is your choice to leave the cores on the lawn or rake them up. If I have the time I will rake up as many as I can and put them in the compost pile to break down with the other organic materials. Otherwise the cores will eventually disintegrate and return soil and organic matter within the lawn's ecosystem. The disadvantage of leaving them on the lawn is that when the harden, they can quickly dull the mower blade during mowing.

Now comes the first application of lawn fertilizer. My preference is to use a slow-release, organic-based lawn food. The fast-release synthetic types are generally cheaper, but will release nutrients too quickly and leach away after heavy moisture. Lawns prefer to be awakened slowly, the way nature intended. We humans like instant green. Lawns that are rushed with a lush, succulent growth will need to be mowed more often and can be predisposed to certain lawn diseases.

Organic, slow-release formulations will supply nutrients gradually over many weeks without increasing the demand for water. A healthier lawn will require noticeably less water and fertilizer, and weeds won't have the opportunity to invade.

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