Extension and Ag Research News


April is National Lawn Care Month

There are more than 30 million acres of lawns across the U.S.

By Ron Smith, Horticulturist

NDSU Extension Service

Believe it or not, April is National Lawn Care Month! With the weather we've experienced for most of the month, lawn care is far from being a high priority for most people. There are more than 30 million acres of lawns across the U.S. It's estimated that these lawns remove 5 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide a significant amount of oxygen.

Lawns trap more than 12 million tons of dust and dirt annually. Healthy lawns trap and filter rainwater and protect against erosion. Lawns provide a cooling effect in summer months and help in energy efficiency. Healthy lawns also play an important role in home sales and have a huge impact on curb appeal. Realtors report that homes with beautiful lawns and landscaping can increase property values by 15 percent to 20 percent.

With all that lawn grasses do for us, how can we help them do their job effectively? First, the frost must be out of the ground before any activity is undertaken. Clean up the old debris from the winter months. Take a leaf or broom rake and gently rake the surface to open up the matted grass. This will give the lawn better sunlight penetration. Raking also warms the soil and grass crowns, getting them reactivated for the growing season.

Try to avoid using a power rake on dormant grass because a powerful mechanical raking will tend to damage the grass crowns and give the weed seeds a competitive advantage. If the grass has a heavy thatch layer (greater than 1/2 inch thick), don't attempt to get it out with hand raking at this time. When the grass finally greens up and has been mowed at least three times, then a mechanical dethatcher can be used. Excess thatch is not caused by leaving the clippings after mowing. It can be caused by overfertilization or the excessive or continuous use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.

If the grass was not given a final, shorter mowing late last fall, then do so after the raking is done. Collect the clippings. This mowing will be shorter than the height the lawn will be kept at during the growing season. Then get the blade sharpened or replaced and the mower serviced. Reset the mowing height to at least 2.5 inches, but 3 inches is best.

Fertilizing with a chemical- or organic-based fertilizer should be done while the grass is actively growing. At this time, the grass plant can most efficiently utilize what is applied, with little or no loss to leaching or runoff. Should weeds need controlling, spot spray the areas where the turf is infested. It is unnecessary, wasteful and environmentally unhealthy to do blanket applications of herbicides where no weeds exist. Clean up any lawn care products that may overlap onto the sidewalk, driveway or street. This material ends up in the storm sewer system and contributes to environmental degradation.

Finally, mow as needed, preferably in the evening hours for less stress on the plants. Water just before the lawn shows signs of wilting. Water in the early morning hours and give it a good soaking down to at least 3 inches.

With a start like this, and following common sense throughout the growing season, your lawn should live up to its environmental tasks and enhance property values.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Ron Smith, (701) 231-8161, ron.smith@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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