Pay attention to your lawn now

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

With warmer spring days and longer day lengths, cool season fescue lawns are beginning to need spring maintenance. Many people have begun to mow both fescue and fast-growing winter weeds.
Cool season fescue lawns need to maintain a recommended fertilization schedule in the spring. Consistent fertilization on a regular basis produces the greatest effect on cool season lawns.
Now through late March is the best time to fertilize cool season fescue lawns. Turf specialists at N.C. State University recommend 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for cool season fescue and fescue blends in the spring.
Specially blended lawn fertilizers with slow release fertilizers are pre-measured, usually in 5,000 or 10,000 square foot bags, eliminating the guesswork of proper fertilization. Grade fertilizers without slow release can be used, but turf growth is often excessive during the spring and a nightmare to try and maintain.
Over-seeding fescue this spring should also be done now. Fescue germinates well in the spring, but new lawns often struggle in the summer under normal conditions. Lawns seeded in the fall may still be germinating and somewhat weak.
Survivability of fescue seedlings depends on correct seed bed preparation. Those with weak or thin lawns should prepare by adequately tilling bare or weak lawn areas and incorporating fertilizers and lime before seeding. Core aeration in the spring is generally not recommended, but when lawns are excessively thin or bare, there’s really nothing to lose by coring at this time. Seeds, along with fertilizer, falling into the aerator’s holes germinate quicker and have a much better chance of survival than seed on top of bare, clay soil.
Clean, straw mulch over seeded areas ensures germination. Tests prove that a thin layer of clean wheat straw helps maintain moisture, encouraging quick germination of seed.
Now is also time to control winter weeds such as chickweed, henbit and wild garlic. Winter weeds strongly compete with both established and newly emerging fescue seedlings. Premixed weed killers designed for garden hoses work extremely well.
Homeowners prefer these types of applicators because they require no mixing and because of the ease of application. Wait a few weeks after grass seedlings emerge before applying weed killers.
Those satisfied with their lawn and not over-seeding can apply preemergence herbicides to control summer weeds such as crabgrass. These herbicides come premixed, impregnated on premium fertilizers.
The most important task before applying fertilizer or pesticide is to know the correct size of the application area. When asked, most homeowners think their lawn is about an acre. An acre is 43,560 square feet; few homeowners have this much area devoted to lawns. Avoid waste and endangering the environment by taking a few minutes and correctly measure your lawn.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County; call 704-216-8970. or see, or