By Pat Maurer
Believe it or not, spring is here once again and it is time to start thinking about getting your lawn and your garden and flower beds ready for the coming season.
Spring is a sensitive time for your yard – the soil is spongy, the plants are tender and the weather, especially here in mid-Michigan, is unpredictable.
Here are some things you should do to take care of your lawn in the spring.
Janice Jenkins, owner of Elm Creek west of Farwell, said there are a few things you should do right away. “First is to clean your beds out and re-mulch. Then apply crabgrass preventer to your lawns. And, if you haven’t started already, prune your fruit trees now and apply a dormant spray.”
Planting, (except for pansies, potatoes, onions and cold weather plants, which you can plant now), doesn’t get started until mid-May in this part of the state.
“We are ready, Janice said. “We’ve got seed potatoes and onions in. We have displays of everything you need to get the garden started. Plus the greenhouses are ready and warm! It is great therapy this time of year when you are looking for a touch of summer.
She said the landscaping business, run by co-owner Mike Jenkins, is already working at cleanup projects.
Janice said patio gardening is the new thing this year. “Patio gardening and patio décor are going to be huge this year and we have a large selection for patio entertainment.”
Elm Creek will hold their annual Spring Celebration Event, featuring seminars, demonstrations and sales, on May 4th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Todayshomeowner.com says spring lawn care also depends on the type of grass you are growing. Cool season grasses include fescue, bluegrass and rye. They have two growth spurts – a moderate one in the spring and a big one in the fall. They can go dormant and struggle in the hot summer months so the focus of spring care is to strengthen the plants. Cool-season grasses can be planted as soon as the air temperatures get into the 60s and soil temperatures are in the 50s.
Warm-season grasses like Zoysia, St. Augustine, centipede and Bermuda thrive in the heat and go dormant during winter. Warm-season grasses can be planted when air temperatures are in the 70s, soil temperatures are in the 60s, and all danger of frost has passed. They get started after the last spring frost and really get going by midsummer.
Avoid heavy yard work in the spring until the soil dries out. Foot traffic and hard raking and compact or disturb soggy soil and damage tender new grass shoots. Once the soil is good and dry, give your lawn a good spring cleaning to encourage grass growth and discourage pests and diseases. Remove leaves and fallen debris, and gently rake to fluff up and separate the grass shoots.
Spring is the best time to prevent weeds by using pre-emergent weed control, which works by preventing weed seeds from germinating.
Mike Jones of Mike’s Landscaping said, “It’s time to start cleaning up the planting beds and fertilize with Osmocote slow release fertilizer and spread some Preen (pre-emergence) on the yard.” In the spring, gardeners have to choose between weed control and lawn seeding. Pre-emergent herbicides prevent grass seed from sprouting too, so you can’t do both – the herbicide will be active for up to 12 weeks, which means you’ll miss the spring planting season.
Both cool-season and warm-season lawns benefit from weed prevention in the spring. Pre-emergent herbicides work for about three months, so plan on a second application during the summer.
Fertilize lightly in spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Save the heavier feedings for fall, when cool-season grasses are at their peak growing season. For warm-season varieties, fertilize in late spring as soon as the lawn “greens up” and begins actively growing. This is usually in April or May, after the last frost.
Spring is also a great time to conduct a soil test to find out if your soil needs any amendments. You can apply lime to acidic soil (pH below 6) anytime during the growing season, as long as the grass isn’t wilted or covered with frost. Early spring can be a great time to apply lime if you’ll be planting new grass.
However, don’t apply lime within 3 weeks of fertilizing, as the ingredients can react and become less effective. Follow the recommendations of your soil test kit and your purchased amendments for proper dosage.
Other lawn tasks include aeration, best done in early to mid-summer for warm-season grasses and in the fall for cool-season varieties. This is the best time of year for de-thatching, which should be done just before aeration.
Begin mowing as soon as your lawn needs it and once the grass is growing make sure the lawn gets at least an inch of water each week.
Insect control of grubs and mole crickets may damage the lawn in spring, but they are more effectively controlled later in the summer.
Keep your mower blades sharp and be sure and tune up the mower each spring and make sure you have all of the gardening tools you will need. If you don’t, stock up at Hershberger’s Hardware where you can find just about anything you need in hand tools for lawn and gardens. If it is power equipment you need, try Gene’s Power Equipment just west of Coleman. They carry riding mowers, walk behind mowers, string trimmers, garden tillers, shredders, chippers, blowers, log splitters and more.
Your garden also needs some special attention this time of year. After cleaning it out, Jones said you should “re-mulch as needed.” Mike’s Landscaping said they have five types of fine premium pine mulch available. “Look for any damage caused by wildlife over the winter. Cut back perennials that are damaged, and cut back shrubs past the damaged area and they should come back. Damaged trees that are not girdled all the way around should be okay,” Mike said. “And then start thinking about what you want to add for color this year,” he added.
“The most important thing is to get outside and get healthy. Gardening and lawn care is great exercise,” Jones said.
Scott Simpkins of Johnston Elevator said they are busy gearing up for spring. “We are stocking up on seed potatoes, seeds, grass seed, fertilizer, food plot seed and garden lime,” he said, “Everything you might need in lawn and garden supplies including garden tools, and wildflower and vegetable seeds for your gardens.”
“It’s getting busy around here, that’s how we know spring is almost here.”