As ground temperatures begin to rise, the time is right to approach homeowners about preparing their yards to ensure a lush, green lawn this summer. By working with consumers to implement these early maintenance measures and spring-seeding recommendations, landscape professionals can minimize weeds and disease, enhance durability and decrease water usage for clients throughout the warmer months.
Aerate. Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. To improve drainage and prepare the soil for seed application, landscapers should use a core aerator with hollow tines that will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground. Doing so will increase the movement of water, nutrients and oxygen. Aeration can also increase the soil contact with new seeds and promote growth.
Choose the right seed. Seed selection is critical to the long-term health of a lawn. If you’re working on a sunny, irrigated yard, look for a seed that contains a high concentration of perennial ryegrass. Irrigated shady lawns will thrive with fine fescue, whereas tall fescue performs best in lawns with minimal to no irrigation.
Seed early. The sooner you seed—whether for a new lawn or lawn repair—the more time the grass will have to develop longer roots before high daytime temperatures arrive. Cool-season grass seed, such as fescues and ryegrass, germinates best when ground temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a ground-temperature thermometer to identify the optimal time to seed.
Water appropriately. Immediately after seeding, set irrigation systems to water lightly but regularly to keep the seeded area damp until the new grass grows in. Once the grass is established, the Colorado State University extension office advises homeowners to “water as deeply and as infrequently as possible.”
Rather than setting up a static irrigation schedule, work with clients to monitor their lawn for signs that it needs irrigation. Signs may include a change in color or traffic marks that are slow to diminish. You can also test soil moisture by inserting a screwdriver into the lawn. If it goes in easily, the soil should be moist enough to support growth. If, however, the ground is difficult to probe, watering is likely needed. Be sure to repeat this test in several areas of the lawn to ensure even moisture and adjust sprinkler heads as needed.
Don’t fertilize too early. A general rule of thumb is to apply a pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet several weeks after the grass turns green. Be sure to follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s application guidelines carefully. By contacting homeowners now and working with them to invest in their lawns up front, landscape professionals can set a lawn on the right track with minimal inputs and limited impact on backyard barbecue season. The extended landscaping season will also help strengthen your client relationships and ensure that other homeowners see your name and work around the neighborhood as they consider their own lawn care needs.
Based in Salem, Oregon, Bryan Ostlund serves as administrator of the Oregon Ryegrass, Tall Fescue and Fine Fescue Commissions.
(Photo: Grass Seed USA)