Warmer temperatures bring out the lawn lust in many

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 15, 2013

SALISBURY — Inquiries about lawn care have begun in earnest with warming temperatures. Cool season fescue lawns need to maintain a recommended fertilization schedule in the spring. Consistent fertilization on a regular basis produces the greatest effects 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 one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for cool season fescue and fescue blends in the spring. This can be applied as a grade type fertilizer, slow release or organic fertilizer. All provide necessary nutrients with advantages and disadvantages to each.
Special blended slow-release lawn fertilizers are often pre-measured, usually in 5,000 or 10,000 square foot bags, eliminating the guesswork out of proper fertilization. Grade fertilizers without slow release can be used but turf growth is often excessive during the spring and is often a nightmare to try and maintain. Organic fertilizers contain nitrogen that is much slower to respond than grade fertilizers.
Weaker, thin lawns can also be over-seeded with fescue now. Fescue germinates well in the spring; however, new lawns often struggle in the summer under normal conditions. Lawns seeded earlier 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 loose by coring at this time. Seeds, along with fertilizer, falling into the aerator’s holes germinate faster 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.
The most important task before applying fertilizer is to know the correct size of the application area. When asked, most homeowners think their lawn is about half an acre which is 21,780 square feet. Few lawns have this much area devoted to fescue 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. 704-216-8970