ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Spring has sprung and that means yard work season is upon us. The warmer temperatures last week have put the growing season in overdrive. If you want that lush green lawn, here are a few things you can do to help.
What you might not know is that grass is building its root system long before it turns from brown to green. According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), roots can start growing in February in New York.
Know your grass:
The first thing you should do is identify your grass strains to better attend to your lawn’s needs. The most common grasses in New York are Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue. Many times lawn seed mixes will contain these varieties.
Kentucky Bluegrass is common for its thick spread and color. Its rootstocks are creeping meaning it makes for a dense lawn. The tips are boat-shaped. This species can take a little longer to germinate compared to other cool-season grasses. It likes full sun and is slightly drought and heat-resistant.
Ryegrass is a quick germinator, sometimes three times as fast as Kentucky Bluegrass. It has great resistance to cold as well as heat and drought, depending on the variety. It can also do relatively well in shade. This is a top choice for its quick germination and growth.
Fescue is another popular choice in cooler-growing areas. It is usually a mix of varieties when used for lawns. It requires little maintenance in the winter and can withstand heavy wear and tear. While it is heat and drought resistant, it may develop brown patches during hot and humid summer months.
When the snow melts:
If there are large piles of snow on the grass, break them up and spread the snow evenly over the lawn to help it melt faster. Once your yard is clear of snow, begin a spring clean-up. Remove any branches or sticks and rake up left-over leaves from the fall.
Use a rake to break up the turf lightly. This will help get air and nutrients to your grass’ roots. When the soil is dry, use a leaf rake to get the remaining leaves and grass piles. Don’t do this if the ground is soggy, you risk ruining your lawn.
Aeration is the process of punching small holes in your lawn to allow for air, water, and nutrients to access the grassroots. You can aerate in the spring, especially hard-packed areas of your lawn, but cool-season grass benefits the most from fall aeration. You should over-seed the lawn after aeration.
Fertilizing in early spring is a good idea, just look at your lawn first. If it is growing fast and thick, you probably do not need to fertilize as the grass is getting what it needs from the soil. Check the fertilizer to make sure it works with your lawn and follow instructions for spreading.
Some people like to use a weed and feed formula to help feed grass and eliminate weeds. Check the packaging to see what type of herbicide is in the mix. Pre-emergent herbicides will help control weeds before they sprout, while post-emergent herbicides attack the weeds after they have started growing.
Wet the grass slightly before applying post-emergent dry blends to help the herbicide stick to the weeds’ leaves. Also, check the forecast, you don’t want it to rain for a few days after applying. If it does rain, do not add more weed and feed, the fertilizer may cause chemical burns to your lawn. They also sell liquid weed and feed treatments.
Weeds can be the bane of any homeowner’s manicured lawn. So which ones are common in Upstate New York?
Dandelions are common in our area and can quickly take over a yard. They are broadleaf weeds with yellow flowers that turn to seeds.
Using a weed and feed mixture helps control the weed. Spot treating and pulling are also good to do, especially if it is prevalent in your yard.
Try to eliminate dandelions before they seed and blow all over your lawn. This will help control the spread.
Crabgrass can be an eyesore. They tend to spring up in summer. Try using a pre-emergent herbicide to help curb crabgrass growth. If you do have crabgrass, bag your clippings to avoid seed spread.
White Clover can be lucky for those finding the rare four-leaf clover but homeowners rarely feel lucky when it takes over their yard. They can cover the ground quickly and choke out your grass. Broadleaf herbicides can be used to tame this one.
There are several weeds you may find while manicuring your lawn. It is best to research the weed to determine the best way to treat the issue. If you plan on digging out weeds, make sure to get the entire root system, fill the void with soil and reseed if necessary. You may also need to apply herbicides throughout the year to help control weeds, make sure to use any products as directed to not harm your lawn.
You should wait until the air temperature is consistently above 40 degrees to mow your lawn for the first time. If it gets hot then there is a risk of a freeze, do not mow your lawn again until the freeze warning is long gone. Look for the beginning signs of growth and color change from brown to green.
Make sure to do a tune-up of your mower if needed. You should sharpen your mower blade at the beginning of the year or if the top of your grass takes on a ragged brown tip. Cut the lawn a little longer in the spring to allow for stronger growth, about 3 to 3.5 inches tall.
You can bag your first mow or mulch it. Just make sure if you mulch the grass that it doesn’t clump. A good rule is when you cut your grass that the clippings should easily fall between the blades of grass. This will act as a natural fertilizer. If you are trying to avoid the spread of weeds, bag your clippings.
Depending on the weather, you may need to cut your lawn bi-weekly in the spring as grass growth ramps up. This may drop off to once a week in the late spring and could even drop to once every two weeks during the summer. Once the grass grows a little and brown patching from the winter is completely gone, you can mow your yard a little lower.
Getting an early start on lawn care is the best way to have a beautiful lawn. It is a lot of work but you will be rewarded with a lush, green lawn that will make you the envy of the neighborhood. Every yard is different, the most important thing you can do is to get to know yours so you can make educated decisions about the best course of action for your lawn.