Making the lawn attractive may not seem like rocket science – but if you want a good-looking lawn, it is smart to pay attention to the scientists at Colorado State University. Their recommendations are based on the science of what makes lawns grow and thrive in Colorado. Here is some of their key advice about fertilizers, mowing and weed control.
What to look for when you select fertilizer
• Look for a slow-release formulation that releases nutrients over time rather than all at once and a balanced label of nutrients.
• The three numbers prominent on the bag correspond to nutrients: N – nitrogen; P – phosphorous; K – potassium. Nitrogen is the key ingredient, but it works along with the other nutrients.
• Nitrogen is the most important ingredient to promote good turf color and growth – but don’t be tempted to over apply for better or faster results. Over fertilization increases thatch buildup and mowing requirements. Follow the label.
• The fourth number on some labels is Fe – iron. Beware that if fertilizer with iron falls on your sidewalk and then gets wet, there will be permanent red rust stains on the concrete. No, they won’t wash away before the party.
• Also look for the word “homogenous” on the label. This means the particles of fertilizer are all about the same size. When you apply the fertilizer, they will spread more evenly to make the lawn uniformly green.
The height of the grass after it is cut and the frequency you mow are critical to maintaining a healthy and attractive lawn. Follow these steps:
• Mow lawns to a height of 2.5 to 3 inches. Mowing low at 2 inches will decrease drought and heat tolerance – and increase incidents of insects, diseases and weeds. A higher cut shades the soil and helps it retain moisture.
• Mow often enough so that you never remove more than 1/3 of the grass height in any single mowing. In the spring, this may mean mowing more often than every 7 days.
• Raise the height of the mower temporarily if weather or other delays keep you from mowing when you should. This ensures that you remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blades.
• Keep the mower blade sharp throughout the season as a dull blade will shred and fray leaf blades and create a brown and unattractive lawn.
• Grass cycle: leave the grass clippings on the lawn to decompose. It is a myth that clippings create thatch. In reality, clippings decompose quickly and provide recycled nutrients and organic matter for the lawn. You will also need ¼ to 1/3 less fertilizer if you grass cycle clippings onto the lawn.
Nothing detracts more from an otherwise beautiful lawn than yellow dandelions or other weeds. Get after these party crashers early and you will have fewer weeds to deal with as the season goes on.
• Early May along the Front Range – and later at higher elevations – is when perennial weeds like dandelion, thistle, clover and bind weed emerge. The key to having fewer weeds later is to deal with them early and before their new seeds fall onto the soil to create even more weeds.
• Once you see the weeds in the lawn, regular spot sprays can keep them under control.
• If you hand dig to remove weeds, be sure to get out all the roots.
• As the soil gets warmer, the warm season annual weeds will start to emerge, so be prepared.
Remember: abundant weeds are not the cause of an unhealthy lawn – they are the result of it. Keeping a healthy lawn through proper and ongoing maintenance will not only make it more resistant to weeds, but also more resistant to insects and disease.
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