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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Gardening column: Get a head start on keeping your lawn green, weed-free

Purdue Extension educator offers tips on caring for grass.

Friday, March 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

Spring is here, and many of us are looking at our lawns and shaking our heads at what looks like a hopeless situation.

Some of us are heading for the phone and calling lawn care services for help to turn that spotty, dead looking expanse green, beautiful and — in our minds' eye — weed free. I've had that vision every spring for years but, when reality dawns, have discovered that it is almost impossible unless I spend every spare cent and minute of my time on my lawn.

When I was raising children, I had a neighbor who spent hours every week on his wee patch of grass. He fertilized, applied weed killer and dug weeds that wouldn't die. I thought how nice it would be if my lawn could look like his, but time and extra money weren't on my side. When I was finally able to take action, for a couple of seasons I became my neighbor.

After two frustrating summers, reason dawned and I now prefer to do a few suggested things, and let nature take its course — because whether we like it or not, that's exactly what will happen if we miss one session of professional help, or go on vacation and fail to nip those weeds in the bud the minute they rear their ugly heads.

So, in this column, I'll give you a much-abbreviated version of the recommendations on how to care for your lawn from a publication by horticulture educator Ricky Kemery of the Allen County Purdue Cooperative Extension office. Also I will share with you a few tips from his seasonal formula for fertilizing and applying pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control — and mowing.

If you would like to read the unabridged version of Publication ACH-161, follow this link: https://www3.ag.purdue.edu/counties/allen/Documents/ACH%20161%20Turfnotes.pdf.

•Purdue University recommends three to four applications of fertilizer per year.

•Slow-release fertilizers are becoming more popular and are good to use — especially in the spring to avoid run-off into waterways and lakes.

•Use a handheld broadcaster for small lawns. If using a spreader on larger areas, overlap for more even coverage.

•In March or April, apply a pre-emergent crabgrass control with little or no fertilizer. Spot apply to areas near driveway sidewalks and banks if the lawn is healthy and crab grass hasn't been an issue. Use a ready-to-use broad-leaved herbicide to spot treat any small areas of weeds in a healthy lawn.

•In May or June, apply slow-release fertilizer at half the recommended rate. Also apply Grub-X or Merit for grub control if grubs (Japanese beetles) have been an issue.

•In late August or September, apply fertilizer and broad-leaved weed control if necessary. Spot treat if you have just a few weeds.

•In October or November, use a high-nitrogen, quick-release fertilizer.

•To be environmentally responsible, think about using a reel mower or electric mower. Battery operated mowers are becoming more popular as well.

•Cut the grass high and allow clippings to stay on the lawn.

•Spot treat weeds to prevent overuse of pesticides and weed killer.

•When watering, water deeply and not as often during summer drought periods.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.