Spring is the time to prepare your lawn for the scorching days of summer. A little pre-planning in the spring can save water, time and your lawn when the summer heats up and spring rains diminish. On top of all that, some of the water-saving tips can save money too.
- One application of fertilizer in the spring is usually enough to help grass green up and start growing. Applying more than that will cause rapid and often excessive growth, fueling the plants’ demand for water. It will also lead to extra hours behind a lawn mower.
- Carefully follow label directions and clean up any fertilizer from hard surfaces like walks, driveways and streets.
- Be sure to choose phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer (look for bags with a middle number of 0). In an effort to protect lakes and other water resources, state law prohibits the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. Exceptions include starting a new lawn or lawns where a soil test shows that soil is deficient for phosphorus.
- Seed bare patches to prevent weeds and soil erosion. Scratch up the soil with a garden rake and shake grass seed evenly over bare soil. Scratch the seed in with the rake, then gently tamp the soil down to ensure seed/soil contact. Keep moist until new grass is established.
- Thatch is a layer of organic matter containing live and dead plant material between the soil surface and the actively growing green vegetation. Development of thatch greater than 3/4 inch thick can lead to greater drought, insect and disease problems.
- Aeration loosens compacted soils to improve water infiltration, increase the movement of oxygen to grass roots and stimulate growth. Proper aeration extracts cores of soil 1/4 to 3/4 inch in diameter, and 2 to 4 inches in depth. Aeration is particularly important in areas with clay soils – like Plymouth.
- Raise the mower blade to leave grass 2 1/2 – 3 inches tall. Taller grass – especially in the spring and fall – encourages greater root growth. Deeper, more robust root systems will gather more water and nutrients to sustain grass plants through periods of drought.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn to add nutrients (equivalent of one fertilizer application), shade the soil and reduce water loss through evaporation.
- Gradually ease back on watering to prepare your lawn for drier days. A good rule of thumb is to apply ½ to ¾ inch of water every seven to ten days (be sure to count both rain and sprinkling in the total). Use lower amounts during cooler conditions, higher amounts during hot, dry conditions. This will help keep the grass mostly green and alive during summer stress periods. When cooler temperatures return in late summer, lawn grasses perk up and resume active growth.
- Water before 10 a.m. to avoid evaporation from wind, high temperatures and sunlight.
- Water deep enough to reach the root zone and water less frequently to encourage deep root growth. However, because clay soils absorb water slowly, break watering into two, shorter segments to allow it to reach the plant roots and avoid ponding, evaporation or run off.
- Check your sprinkler or irrigation system to be sure you’re applying the correct amount of water. Try a simple experiment to determine how long it will take to apply the desired amount of water. Place clean, empty straight-edge containers (like a tuna can) in the main sprinkler distribution pattern. Turn sprinkler on for ½ hour. Measure the depth of the water in the can and multiply by two. That will tell you how much water your sprinkler distributes per hour.
- Follow Plymouth’s Sprinkling Restrictions