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Spring lawn care tips

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Now that the first day of spring has passed, it’s time to start competing with the Joneses on the greenest, most lush lawn and beautiful landscape in the neighborhood.  Including flowering perennials and ornamental grasses can add some colorful style and interest to a landscape that will be the envy of your neighbors.

A great place to start is at the Denton County Master Gardener Association annual plant sale on the grounds of Trinity United Methodist Church, 633 Hobson Lane, in Denton.  The sale is Saturday, April 13, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

This year’s special feature will be landscape designs prepared with Denton County gardeners in mind.  As always, Master Gardeners will be on hand to help shoppers select the best ornamental grasses, ground covers, bedding plants, herbs, Texas native plants, tough-as-nails perennials, and no-fuss roses for their gardens.

Once your landscape beds are designed to impress, get your lawn in shape with these tips.  Most of our lawns in this area are either Bermuda or St. Augustine and are both considered warm season turfgrasses.  Fertilize a warm season grass after it has begun to actively grow, which means waiting until you have mowed the grass a couple of times. While mowing down the dandelions is a good idea, this does not count as actively growing grass.

What you can do now is improve the soil aeration by adding a layer of organic material. Adding a very thin layer of compost is an excellent way to add a few nutrients to your lawn and improve the drainage of a clay soil or the water holding capacity of a sandy soil.

The other thing you can do right now towards fertilization is take a soil test. There are many soil labs available which will analyze your soil to find what nutrients you are lacking and provide recommendations on how to improve it. You can find information on how to submit a sample to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Soil Lab at http://soiltesting.tamu.edu.  A routine analysis costs $10.

As you may have noticed, cool season weeds such as dandelions and henbit are actively growing at this time.  Mowing regularly can prevent the weeds from developing seed heads. It’s too late for a pre-emergent herbicide (weed-killer) on our warm season weeds that will be here soon.  If weeds are a major problem, you might consider pre-emergent applications in the future. Mark your calendar ahead of time because those dates tend to sneak by. Fall applications should happen in September and spring dates are late February, early March.

There are post-emergent herbicides available, and as with all chemicals, read the label carefully. Many herbicide labels say to avoid applying around or under trees, shrubs or other desirable plants because the chemical can damage or even kill these plants.

Mowing is one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a healthy turfgrass.  Regular mowing at the right height can keep a lawn growing densely and healthy and will cut down on weeds.  The best and most safe rule of thumb is to never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at any one time. Many of us mow so infrequently that we could bale our yard clippings. This removes too much of the plant at one time and may even remove the growing point of the grass.  Frequent mowing is not what most homeowners want to hear, but it is one of the secrets to having a dense lawn.

And finally, how should you water your lawn? Most homeowners over-water their lawns.  Water when the lawn needs it and to a depth of 6 inches with each watering. In our clay soils, you may have to run your cycle a few times in one day in order to get the water down six inches without running off. Quick, frequent watering will produce shallow root systems that don’t survive our hot summers.  You can wait to water your lawn until when you see symptoms of drought stress such as a dull bluish color and the leaf blades rolling up. Lawns that are watered deeply can go 5 to 8 days between watering. 

Water is a limited resource and we have many online publications available to help you better understand how to use water responsibly to create a beautiful landscape and green lawn.  Give us a call or an email if you would like more information at 940.349.2892 or master.gardener@dentoncounty.com or online at www.dcmga.com.

Janet Laminack, Denton County Extension Agent –Horticulture/Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 940-349-2883, jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu

 

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