Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
April, 2011
Regional Report

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A good core-aerator will remove three to four inch cores for the most effective results.

Time to Get the Lawn Back in Shape

It's time for me to confess. The lawn has been neglected for the past few months. Spring has arrived and the moisture has started to turn blades green again. Now the dog spots are taller in clumps, dry spots are showing up (oops, I forgot to do some winter watering) and weeds are popping up in the thin spots.

You'd think I know better, but life gets in the way. Not to fret. Now is the time to get the lawn in shape. Some good cultural practices should do the trick.

A good lawn begins with good soil. Some of us have that, while others inherited a poorly planted lawn. Grasses growing in healthy soil have the proper balance of air, water, and nutrients. Roots will grow deeply and vigorously.

Though it's not always practical to start over, we can improve the soil underfoot by applying organic compost on top of the lawn. This is called topdressing. Your compost should be in the finished state and fine enough to work its way down between the blades of grass. 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.

To get the most of topdressing, core-aerate the lawn. A good aeration removes cores of thatch and soil to allow air, water, nutrients, and finer compost to work down and promote root growth. The holes left from aeration are also perfect when overseeding thin spots. Grass seed will lodge into the holes and germinate more readily. Breaking through thatch layers will encourage microbial activity to continue the decomposition of thatch layers.

The best results can be obtained from aerators that remove 3-inch cores, 3/4 of an inch 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. Just be sure to sharpen the lawn mower blade as mowing the hard cores will dull the blade.

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