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Archive for Sunday, March 1, 1998

GRASS SPECIALIST LAYS IT ON THE LAWN

March 1, 1998

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Caring for a lawn requires more than once-a-week mowings and leaving the rest to Mother Nature.

Steve Keeley, a turf grass specialist for the Kansas State University Extension service, has some grim news for those of us who'd rather be sitting in front of the television than outside on a hot Sunday afternoon this summer.

``Mowing your lawn frequently is one of the best things you can do for a quality lawn,'' said Keeley, one of nine speakers at the Lawrence Garden and Home Show on Saturday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The show continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today with commercial exhibits, more speakers and how-to displays.

The grass season precedes the flower and vegetable growing season -- grass seeds should be planted by the end of March -- so it's no surprise Keeley's talk on the three principles of lawn care (mowing, irrigation and fertilization) was well-attended Saturday afternoon.

Keeley stressed that the right grass seed must be chosen, and advised against hasty decisions when looking for grass seed.

Cheaper or less-refined strains of fescue will have more weeds mixed in, and although it's likely to be less than 2 percent of the total mix, Keeley said that would be about a million seeds in an 8 pound bag.

When planting, it is best to work the seed into the soil so it will germinate and take root. Proper watering is also critical at this stage of growth, Keeley said.

Although most gardeners equate spring with growth, he said it is more advantageous for grass to be planted in September. Although the air might be cooler than in the spring, the soil will be warmer.

``Also, you won't have to fight the warm-weather grasses like foxtail and crabgrass,'' he said. ``And with any new lawn, you want to start mowing as soon as you can, which will help with weed control.''

Certain invasive grasses need sunlight, however, so Keeley recommends most grass be kept between 2- and 3-inches tall. He also said homeowners who mow grass too short are stressing the plants. Mower blades must be kept sharp, or certain grasses will become frayed at the top and susceptible to disease.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is koger@ljworld.com.

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