Winter put a hurt on lawns,but rebirth is now at hand

Last updated: March 29. 2014 12:28AM - 2106 Views
By Geri Anne Kaikowski gkaikowski@civitasmedia.com

Lawn-care expert Steve Leyland addresses attendees at a lawn-care seminar at Dundee Gardens in Hanover Township.
Lawn-care expert Steve Leyland addresses attendees at a lawn-care seminar at Dundee Gardens in Hanover Township.
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A total of one inch of water per week, including rainfall, is desirable. Watering deeply two or three times a week in the morning for 30 to 45 minutes, when necessary, is most beneficial for your lawn, encouraging deep root growth. Avoid frequent watering for short periods of time and avoid watering at night, which promotes lawn-disease outbreaks.


Early spring: Take advantage of cold soil by applying a lawn fertilizer while the soil’s biology is still somewhat inactive. This will provide a slow, gentle feeding but not quick greening.

Late spring: Now that the soil is warmer, feed your lawn with an organic lawn fertilizer. By feeding the soil life, you will make your soil more alive and porous, allowing air, water and nutrients to reach the root zone.

Early summer: A gentle feeding during the summer keeps your lawn healthy and growing.

Late summer — early fall: This is a great time to fertilize and seed your lawn. As the day length shortens, grass plants spread and thicken, putting down roots to survive the winter. Because a healthy and thick lawn is your best defense against weed invasion, consider seeding and feeding your lawn in the fall, around Labor Day. An additional feeding in late fall also can help turfgrass growth.

Late fall: Trick or eat — Your lawn is hungry now. A late fall feeding, around Halloween, can be beneficial. As the day length shortens, the temperature declines and the leaves turn color, making your lawn thicker and stronger, as it stores food for the winter ahead.


• Do not mow your grass too short. A height of 3 to 3-1/2 inches works best for a healthy lawn by preventing disease and shading the soil to inhibit weed seed germination. Raise the mowing height during summer months. Lawns mowed higher require less watering and establish a deeper root structure.

• Keep your mower blade sharp so you do not “shred” your grass, making it vulnerable to disease.

• Do not mow wet grass.

• Do not cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade.

• Mow regularly, usually once a week.

• Rotate your mowing patterns.

• Leave grass clippings on the lawn, if possible, as long as they are not in clumps, to decompose and return nutrients and water to the soil. Mulching mowers work very well and are designed to finely shred clippings. Clippings do not promote thatch.

The good news: Most of the record snowfall from a brutal winter has finally melted, and you can see your lawn again.

The bad news: It doesn’t look so hot.

At a recent seminar at Dundee Gardens in Hanover Township, Steve Leyland of Jonathan Green lawn-care products addressed the common concerns of winter lawn damage.

Homeowners will say their lawn is dead, he said, but that is not true.

The next two to three weeks are the best time to start thinking about preparing the lawn for the months ahead, he said, as the temperature extremes begin to moderate and the chance for snowfall lessens.

American homeowners spend about $6.4 billion a year on lawn care, according to the Professional Lawn Care Association of America. They buy seed, fertilizer, herbicide, lawnmowers, string trimmers and other equipment.

Brooke Yeager of Wilkes-Barre is one of those people. He came to the lawn seminar armed with a notebook and some concerns.

“Your lawn is actually pretty resilient,” Leyland told him and several others. “With a bit of knowledge, your lawn will look as good as it did before or even better.”

The three main concerns are gray winter mold, pink winter mold and winter kill, Leyland said. This winter has been especially harsh on lawns due to the excessive snowfall coupled with extreme temperatures, from subzero to record highs.

Snow mold, the biggest problem most homeowners will face, is a fungal disease that looks like circular patches of dead and matted grass. There are two types: gray and pink. Pink, which resembles cotton-candy fluff, infects the crown of the plant and can cause more severe injury than gray, which infects only the leaf tissue.

But Leyland offers hope. “Even with the winter we had, what I’m seeing is more gray snow mold than pink snow mold,” he said.

He recommends lightly raking the soil to pull oxygen through. “Oxygen is the most important thing for your lawn,” he said. “Then put fertilizer down to grow out the mold.”

Winter kill is when moisture in the plant freezes and expands, blowing out the cell wall and killing the plant. The causes? Ice cover and snow cover. If winter kill occurs, the lawn may need reseeding.

First, a test should be performed to determine soil pH level, Leyland said. With a balanced pH level between 6.0 and 6.8, lawns thrive and weeds are reduced. Weeds thrive in acidic soil, with a pH below 6.0.

Leyland said fertilizing lawns with soil below these levels can waste up to 71 percent of your fertilizer.

All fertilizers applied to the lawn, whether organic or traditional, are acid and will reduce soil pH levels over time. Decay caused by soil microbes produces organic acids. Calcium, or a lawn product, applied to the soil reduces hydrogen levels, and the calcium carbonate promotes the neutralization of acidic soil.

The next crucial factor is temperature. Yard work should not begin until the ground temperature is 55 degrees. If the ocean temperature is 55 degrees, so is the soil temperature. If you can’t check the ocean temperature, Lenny Griglock, a Dundee Gardens associate, said, “Just look for blooming forsythias as your guide. Once you see them, you know it’s warm enough.”

Seeding may be necessary if your lawn is damaged, Leyland said, noting spring is the second-best time to seed. Fall is first.

Summer is probably the most stressful time for lawns because of heat, humidity, drought, increased insect activity and fungal diseases.

“If your lawn can survive June, July and August, it’s in great shape,” Leyland said.

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