Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assisant City Planner
It’s that time of year when people start to get that urge to spruce up their yard and the first item on their list is to green up their lawn. However, for best results it is best to wait a little longer to let the ground warm up before you apply that fertilizer to your lawn. Applying fertilizer in early spring can encourage lush top growth at the expense of root growth which is not always best for overall turf health. Research from Penn State University indicates that high rates of nitrogen in early spring encourages excessive top growth, which uses up carbohydrate reserves meant for root development and disease resistance. Turfgrass experts at MSU also advise avoiding fertilization until May.
If you wish to control crabgrass, which starts to germinate prior to May, it may be best to use a product that is only meant for crabgrass control. Pre-emergent herbicides that control crabgrass must be applied before crabgrass seeds germinate.
Follow these lawn care tips from MSU’s Turfgrass experts for a thick, healthy lawn that is safe for children and pets and keeps pollutants out of our rivers, lakes and streams.
Mow High – Recycle Clippings
- Mow at least 3 inches high
- Return clippings to your lawn to recycle nutrients
- Sweep or blow clippings from paved areas onto the lawn.
- Taller grass crowds out weeds and promotes deeper roots
- Deeper roots help lawn survive droughts
Fertilize in Fall for Best Results
- Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn
- Be patient in the spring – wait until May to fertilize
- Don’t fertilize if the ground is frozen or saturated with water
- Don’t guess, soil test for proper fertilizer recommendations
Choose Lawn-Type Fertilizers
- Choose lawn fertilizer with low or no phosphorus and follow the directions
- Avoid using triple products (e.g. 12-12-12)
- Confirm spreader settings before applying fertilizer
Clean Up – Avoid Surface Water
- Maintain a “No Application” zone near lakes, rivers, streams and storm drains
- Never discharge clippings near lakes, rivers, streams or drains
- Sweep fertilizer granules from pavement onto the lawn
- Wash your spreader on the grass
- Don’t soak your lawn and avoid night watering
- Watering should not produce puddles; lighter, more frequent watering is best
- Brown lawns are OK; dormancy is a natural response to drought, however, some water may be necessary during an extended drought of more than one month
- Following these tips will reduce the amount of water your lawn will need
Now you have the knowledge necessary to grow a lush green lawn that will be the envy of the neighborhood.