AMES, Iowa – With spring just around the corner it will soon be time to begin working in the yard. Mowing features prominently into any yard maintenance plan, with many cool-season turfgrasses showing their greatest period of growth from March to May.
How to care for a lawn and set it up for success throughout the spring, summer and fall is the subject of 'Tips for a Successful Yard this Year', an article in the March edition of the Small Farm Sustainability newsletter. The March issue also discusses beef cattle production, acreage ponds, prescribed burns, and pruning trees and shrubs.
It is recommended that each mowing should cut grass by one-third, meaning if the ideal height of grass is 2.5 inches tall it should be mowed every time it reaches 3.25”. Make sure mower blades remain sharp and avoid compacting the same areas of the yard by using alternate mowing patterns.
“Allowing grass to get too high and taking too much off at once will result in scalping, which damages the plants,” said Nick Christians, professor of horticulture at Iowa State University. “If you go on vacation and it’s grown several inches beyond normal when you return, it’s a good idea to raise the mower height and then gradually lower it back down to normal as opposed to cutting it back to its regular height right away.”
Spring is also the time of year to prevent weeds from appearing in a yard. Pre-emergence herbicides should be applied in the spring to keep annual weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass from germinating.
“Crabgrass is one of the biggest weed problems we have in this region,” said Christians. “Crabgrass germinates in the spring and there are chemicals available that will stop the germinating seed and won’t hurt a bluegrass lawn.”
Fertilizer application can also be done during the spring.
“Homeowners need to apply some sort of fertilizer, a lawn will deteriorate over time without it,” Christians said. “Pre-emergence fertilizers can be easily applied that stops crabgrass and give healthy turfgrass the nitrogen it needs.”