A long, dry winter takes its toll on many of us, so much so that the first warm rays of spring brings the realization that we’re in sub-par form for having to face the neighbors this summer. Bald spots, oddly growing tufts, and weedy edges all mean one thing: it’s time to get your grass in shape.
A good lawn is the secret to being the envy of the neighborhood, having increased property value, and a happy and fulfilling life. Take advantage of the warming days by indulging in a little lawn care.
Start with the basics by making sure your irrigation system is given a tune-up. Turn the system on, then go out and watch the sprinkler. Look for broken or tilted sprayers, blockages caused by overgrown plants, or heads sheared off by mowing. Make sure the throw of water extends from head to head. As the heat hits, check your sprinklers again to make sure they’ll keep up with the demands of scorching temperatures. If they don’t, lawns respond by going dormant and turning brown.
Taller grass holds moisture longer, so set your lawnmower deck at three inches high for the summer. In general, a Kentucky bluegrass lawn needs approximately two-and-a-half inches of water each week, split into several different days of watering. Water deeply by having the sprinklers deliver half of their water for that day in one cycle, then the other half approximately an hour later.
Over-seeding in the spring can help fill in lawns that look threadbare. The trick to successful over-seeding is to core-aerate the lawn before you spread seed. The seed will fall into the holes made by the aerator, which are ideal places for grass to germinate. When aerating, pass the machine over the area several times in differing directions – similar to making Swiss cheese out of the ground. Water the lawn lightly every day until the seed has germinated. Grass seed is a slow germinator, so be prepared to wait fourteen to twenty days for it to sprout. The most common mistake in over-seeding is from impatience with the germination time – many gardeners give up too soon and cut off the water just when the young sprouts first emerge.
If you have already applied pre-emergent, wait two to four months before trying to over-seed. The pre-emergent will breakdown in the sunlight during the summer months and allow for germination of new seed.
If your lawn woes aren’t cleared up with good irrigation, get a little advice from horticulturists at your local Colorado State University Extension office. Through the CSU Lawncheck program, homeowners across the Front Range can get helpful house calls for sick turf, with consultations on solving problems from weeds, disease and the dreaded brown spots.
The service is available for $75 per hour. Mileage costs may apply, depending on the distance of the site from the county Extension office. Lab fees for any samples collected will vary based upon the tests to be run.
In most cases, yard problems are due to how the lawn is cared for, and homeowners can cure problems themselves. Occasionally, help is needed from a professional lawn care company, so contact the folks at Colorado Association of Lawn Care Professionals, lawncarecolorado.org, for their list of local experts.
CSU Lawncheck is not available in all counties. Homeowners should call the Extension office in their county to make an appointment and then must be onsite to assist in the lawn assessment. Visit the CSU Lawncheck website for a listing of participating counties, or to schedule an appointment at CSULawncheck.org.
By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension. CSU Extension together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road,
Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.