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Spring Green

Mar 18, 2013 09:30AM ● Published by Lisa Drake

By Steve Huddleston

March and April are busy and exciting months for the lawn enthusiast. This is the time to prevent summer weeds, kill existing weeds and fertilize in order to have a lush summer lawn.

Weed Control
March 1 through 15 is the time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent the germination of such summer weeds as crabgrass and sandburs. A second application can be made June 1 through 15. Use Balan, Betasan, Team or Dimension. Of course, right now you may still have a lot of broadleaf weeds growing in your turf. These weeds include chickweed, dandelions and henbit. Spray these weeds now with a post-emergent herbicide that contains 2,4-D as the active ingredient. One such product is Trimec. Spray on a calm day so that no wind carries the herbicide to nearby desirable plants. Avoid using a “weed and feed” fertilizer to control these weeds because the right time to apply herbicide is not the right time to fertilize.

Fertilization
Make your first application of a 3:1:2 or 4:1:2 ratio fertilizer on warm-season turf April 15. (This should not be a taxing experience for you.) 3:1:2 indicates the ratio of nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P) to potassium (K). An example of such a fertilizer is 15-5-10: three times as much nitrogen as phosphorus, and twice as much potassium as phosphorus. An example of a 4:1:2 ratio fertilizer is 24-6-12. Of course, in our clay soils, it’s even better to apply an all-nitrogen fertilizer such as Neil Sperry’s 24-0-0 fertilizer. When choosing a fertilizer, select one that has at least half its nitrogen in a slow-release form, and Neil’s 24-0-0 does. You’ll want to apply 1 pound of actual nitrogen/1,000 square feet of lawn. To determine how much fertilizer to apply to yield that rate, divide 100 by the percentage of nitrogen in the fertilizer. For example, if you purchase a bag of 15-5-10 fertilizer, the “15” indicates 15 percent nitrogen in the bag. One hundred divided by 15 is 6.6, so you would want to apply 7 lbs. of 15-5-10 fertilizer to yield 1 pound of actual nitrogen/1,000 square feet.

Fertilize common bermuda April 15, June 1, July 15 and September 1; fertilize hybrid bermuda once a month April 15 through September 15. Fertilize St. Augustine April 15, June 1 and September 1. Fertilize zoysia April 15, July 1 and September 1. Fertilize buffalo grass April 15 and September 1.

Watering
It’s best for deep root development to water turf deeply but less frequently. Comply with local watering restrictions when watering your turf. On the days that you do water, you might want to run through the irrigation system two or three times to ensure enough water is applied to the turf to penetrate the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Let each cycle run until the point of run-off. Better to do that than to let the irrigation system run longer and lose water to run-off. The best time to irrigate turf is before sunrise. After the sun rises, the foliage will quickly dry off, thus reducing incidences of disease.

Mowing
There’s no need to scalp your lawn for spring green-up. You may, however, wish to mow the turf one or two settings lower than you did last summer just to remove dead stubble from the lawn. Once the grass greens up, mow as frequently as necessary to remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. Hopefully, you are using a mulching lawn mower that will throw back the cuttings onto the lawn. As these cuttings decompose, they return nutrients to the soil and, in effect, fertilize the turf. If you use a catcher to collect the clippings, empty them into a compost pile or use as mulch around landscape plants. Be sure to change directions every time you mow to avoid developing a “grain” in the lawn. Keep mower blades sharp during the season.

If you follow these simple guidelines for weed control, fertilization, watering and mowing, you should have a healthy and beautiful lawn all summer long. 

Steve Huddleston is the senior horticulturist at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, co-author of Easy Gardens for North Central Texas, and president of his own landscaping company.

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