As all good cooks know, some of the best-tasting foods start with a few key ingredients and a secret family recipe. Similar to cooking, a healthy green lawn requires a few key ingredients and, until now, a secret family recipe (or calendar). As we anxiously await the arrival of spring, take a few moments to review the recipe and begin to make your own lawn care plans.
Inspect the lawn and spot-treat broadleaf weeds such as henbit and chickweed. Use a liquid weed killer such as Trimec or Speedzone on a day that is 50 degrees or warmer. Avoid rain or watering the lawn for 24 hours after application as this will reduce effectiveness of the herbicide. Likewise, begin mowing the lawn as it starts to green up. Mow low at first, but raise the height by the third mowing of the season. Remember, the higher you mow, the healthier the lawn will grow.
Apply crabgrass preventer by April 15 or when redbud trees are in full bloom. The pre-emergent herbicide needs to be watered in before it works. Use a product that does not contain fertilizer and remember that the best weed preventer is a good, healthy thick lawn.
Make your first application of fertilizer for the season. Use a slow-release fertilizer and apply it at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. When applying fertilizers, be sure to sweep any product that falls on the street or drive back into the yard to prevent surface water contamination. Use broadleaf weed killers sparingly as they will be more effective later in the season and can damage other landscape plants this time of year.
June to mid-July
If you did not use Dimension (dithiopyr) or Barricade (prodiamine) for the April application of crabgrass preventer, make a second application of the product you used on or before June 15. Dimension and Barricade normally provide season-long control with a single application. If you have experienced grub damage in the past, apply a grub killer containing "Merit" or "Mach 2" during the first half of July. These two products work as a preventer and must be watered in before they become active.
This is the big month for lawn care activity. Core-aerate and overseed using a high-quality seed blend containing turf-type tall fescue. Then apply the second, and most important, application of fertilizer of the season. Take time to clean up any product that lands on hard surfaces, and water well to ensure good activation.
Spot-spray perennial broadleaf weeds such as dandelions and dock after the first light frost. Liquid weed killer is much more effective this time of year as these plants go dormant. Spray on a day that is 50 degrees or warmer, and use products such as Trimec, Speedzone or 2-4,D. Finally, mow the lawn one last time.
Make one last application of fertilizer. This fertilizer will be taken up by the plant roots but will not be used until the following spring. Apply it at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, and use a quick-release nitrogen product. Remember to water it in and prevent surface water contamination by cleaning up any misapplied product.