Pa­tience is key when bring­ing your lawn to life

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Rob Sproule

LAWNS make up the ma­jor­ity of most of our yards. Even though more peo­ple are re­plac­ing lawns with peren­ni­als beds and ed­i­ble gar­dens, turf care is still para­mount in our gar­den­ing minds. As we en­ter our long good­bye with win­ter and em­brace our too-short sum­mer, here are some tips for a lush, healthy turf. Re­sist temp­ta­tion As the snow pack re­cedes and your lawn beck­ons to you from un­der pud­dles, the temp­ta­tion be­gins. For many ea­ger gar­den­ers, the first in­stinct is to grab a rake and leap into the fray, rak­ing hard even while the thatch is still caked with ice. Re­sist the temp­ta­tion. Work­ing your lawn while it’s still wet can do more harm than good. Your heavy feet can com­pact wet soil and break off emerg­ing new shoots, and that will lead to sparse grass and give ger­mi­nat­ing weeds a head-start. Snow mould, or Ty­phula blight, is com­mon af­ter our snowy win­ters. It’s un­sightly, with the fun­gus form­ing sil­very-grey cir­cu­lar patches on the lawn, ap­prox­i­mately 10 to 30 cen­time­tres wide. It can wreak havoc on your al­ler­gies, but it will quickly dry up as the lawn dries off. Un­less it’s thick enough that it can choke out the grass, I wouldn’t bother rak­ing it off. While you’re wait­ing for the lawn to dry, con­sider sharp­en­ing your mower blades. Sharp­ened an­nu­ally, blades will shear a smooth edge off the grass in­stead of tear­ing it, lead­ing to health­ier turf. Re­mem­ber to change the oil, spark plug and fil­ters while you’re at it. Rak­ing and top-dress­ing “Spring” into ac­tion once the thatch has dried. Give a good rake, es­pe­cially with older lawns, and es­pe­cially if you have a half-inch or more of old thatch. Ex­ces­sive thatch is a breed­ing ground for sod-web­worm, pow­dery mildew and other com­mon ail­ments. Put some back into it! You don’t need to clear all the thatch, but try to work it down to a quar­ter-inch or so. Then top-dress any sparse ar­eas quickly be­fore the weed seeds have a chance to ger­mi­nate (thatch helps keep them down, as well). To top-dress, throw a quar­ter- to half-inch of pot­ting soil (or mix black dirt with peat moss and sand) across sparse patches. The or­ganic nu­tri­ents in the soil will re­vi­tal­ize the lawn for the grow­ing sea­son. Top-seed over the soil to de­sired thick­ness. If you have hun­gry birds around, dust more soil over the seed to dis­guise their lunch. Aer­at­ing the lawn, whether you rent a ma­chine your­self or hire a com­pany, is about pulling plugs to give cramped root sys­tems some air. It’s great for long-term turf health, es­pe­cially on older and/or com­pacted lawns (with high foot traf­fic). Fer­til­iz­ing Grass doesn’t wake up as soon as the snow melts. It’s dor­mant for a while, and fer­til­iz­ing a dor­mant lawn not only wastes money, it ac­tu­ally works against you by pro­vid­ing easy ni­tro­gen for ger­mi­nat­ing weed seeds and wak­ing them up ear­lier. Wait un­til your grass is green and grow­ing to fer­til­ize. Ea­ger gar­den­ers need to be pa­tient be­cause this is of­ten a while af­ter the snow melts (April weather depend­ing). The days of fer­til­iz­ing with a high­ni­tro­gen mix in one hand and a hose in the other are, thank­fully, over. Most blends are slow re­lease now, break­ing down slowly over weeks or months and not re­quir­ing wa­ter to pre­vent burning.

CHRIS STAN­DRING / POST­MEDIA NET­WORK INC.

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