After a rough start, with January, 2018 being extremely cold, by mid-February the winter in the Richmond area had developed into one that has been relatively mild, if a bit wet. While we may and likely will see more winter weather, in just a few weeks we’ll be getting the mowers out and the smell of freshly mowed grass will be in the air. It’s time to work on our lawns to make them better and weed free for spring and summer.
During February we’ve been applying a soil amendment of calcium & lime to our customer’s lawn using a product called SoluCal®. It is a combination product containing lime with a 38% calcium level together with organic acids that cause it to break down and move into the soil profile faster than traditional pelletized lime. Regular lime contains little or no calcium which is used more by weight and volume than any other nutrient. This soil amendment has the primary affect of neutralizing soil acidity by raising the pH and improving soil texture.
During March we concentrate on weed control, applying pre and post emergent herbicides to prevent crabgrass and clean our lawn of winter weeds such as chickweed, henbit, and possibly clover. It’s important to clean your lawn of leaves and other winter debris prior to the application of a pre emergent because the pre emergent must come in contact with the soil to establish a uniform barrier to the emergence of crabgrass. We also incorporate into our spray mix a product called Embella®. It is a blend of a biodegradable sequestering agent, proteins, and other ingredients designed provide nutrition to native microbial populations. It also has the effect of increasing the water holding capacity of the soil.
Many homeowners still aerate and/or seed in early spring. Unfortunately that is not really a good idea. First, because you can’t fight weeds nor crabgrass at the same time you’re trying to grow grass. You have to select one or the other. Second, while spring seeding will result in grass, the chances of that grass surviving through the first summer is very slim. Spring grass just can’t develop a deep or strong enough root system to make it through the hot, dry conditions we have in the Richmond area. Consequently, by late May or early June spring grass will begin to decline and by mid July will be essentially dead, and of course since no pre emergent was applied crabgrass could likely take the place of the dead grass.
In April, we apply a slow release light spring fertilizer designed to “kick start” or boost our lawns as they come out of winter dormancy. In addition we continue weed control efforts concentrating on persistent late winter/ early spring weeds such as violets, ground ivy, and penny wort. All of these weeds are difficult to kill and usually require a second treatment which we do in May. More about that later…
Mowing: As you pull out your mowers to change the oil and otherwise get them ready for the mowing season, remember to raise the blade to its highest setting. Maintaining a high cut of 3-4 inches is very important. Of course, a lot of homeowners contract with a mowing service. Hopefully, those contractors know the importance of a high cut. It may take several mowings to achieve an even cut because as the turf moves out of dormancy some grass plants grow faster than others. You should be aware that during spring, a well fertilized and maintained lawn will grow pretty rapidly necessitating mowing every 4-5 days if possible. You should try to cut no more than 1/3 of the growth with each mowing and it is strongly recommended that chippings be recycled rather than bagged. If you can’t mow often enough to avoid having the chippings remain visible on the lawn, you should either bag them or spread them out and not allow them to smother the grass beneath them.