NDSU Extension - Griggs County

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April 30

Weekly horticulture column by Jeff Stachler

 

Planning Ahead For Lawn Care

 

Hello!  I hope all of you have had a great week.  Now that temperatures have risen, it is time to start thinking about gardening and yard work.

 

As of Monday about 75 percent of the wheat and about 85% of the barley has been planted in the county.  There are even some soybeans planted in the county.  Some wheat is starting to emerge, but not much as I prepared this column on Monday.

 

Lawns are greening up so it is time to start to thinking about working in the lawn and preparing for the mowing season.

 

If you did not aerate your lawn in the fall, now is usually a good time, however we are too dry for aerating our lawns at this time.  The fall is the best time to aerate lawns.  Aeration relieves soil compaction, improves water and nutrient movement and reduces thatch build up.

 

Once we begin mowing set the mower to cut at a height of 3 inches to reduce stress on plants and provide a thicker lawn to compete against weeds.  Mow frequently enough to remove only 1/3 of the length of a grass blade.  Therefore, mow when the grass is about 4 inches tall.  This will reduce mowing stress on the lawn. 

 

Is fertilizer necessary for a lawn?  That is a loaded question, because it depends upon how you want the lawn to look.  If you do not remove the grass clippings and an average lawn is desirable, then no fertilizer is needed.  If you remove the grass clippings, then fertilizer is warranted or else you will deplete the soil of necessary nutrients for the grass.  If you want a lush green lawn then more fertilizer is needed, but you can over apply and harm the environment, especially if applying nitrogen and phosphorus to the lawn.

 

What fertilizer is necessary for your lawn?  This depends upon whether you have taken a soil test of the soil in your lawn.  Phosphorus and potassium fertilizers are only necessary if they are not present in the soil at sufficient quantities, so having your soil tested about every four years is a good way to know if phosphorus and potassium are needed.  If soils have at least 8 to 10 parts per million of phosphorous and 150 parts per million of potassium, then you have enough in the soil and none is needed.  Nitrogen is the only nutrient that likely needs to be applied annually.  The amount of nitrogen required depends upon how you manage the lawn and how you want it to look.  Purdue University has a very good publication describing how much nitrogen to apply based upon management.  The link to the web page is https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ay/ay-22-w.pdf .  The only negative about this publication is the timing of the nitrogen applications.  The first should not be applied until after April 1st and the last should be not be applied after early November.

 

Be sure to calibrate your fertilizer spreader to make sure you do not over apply the fertilizer.

 

It is approaching the time to consider crabgrass preventer if your lawn has had crabgrass in the past.  When the turf soil temperature at one inch reaches 54 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 days and if enough moisture is present, crabgrass will begin to emerge.  Watch the NDAWN weather station near Cooperstown for the past turf soil temperatures at the following link:  https://ndawn.ndsu.nodak.edu/current/cooperstown.html .  For crabgrass preventer to work it must be applied before it emerges, but applying it too early may cause later emerging crabgrass to escape.  After applying the crabgrass preventer water the lawn with an equivalent of one inch of rainfall within 5 days of application, unless this much rainfall is forecasted.

 

It is not time to apply broadleaf herbicides yet in the lawn, it is too cold and plants are not large enough.  The spring is not the best time to apply broadleaf herbicide to the lawn either, the fall is the best time to control perennial broadleaf weeds.  Weed and feed products are not the best way to control broadleaf weeds either, it is only convenient.  Liquid sprays are the most effective way to control broadleaf weeds.

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