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Lawns need TLC right now

Lawns in the Miami Valley are starting to show signs of life, which means it’s time to turn your attention to lawn maintenance chores. It’s either “ugh” or enjoyable, depending on how you view mowing the lawn. I like mowing as I get my best thinking done on the lawn mower.

Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and turf type tall fescue lawns are beginning to grow. Zoysiagrass lawns are still dormant and will be the last to green up in this area.

The other brown turfgrass-like plant that shows up in the early spring, when all other grasses are green, is nimblewill. This is a spreading, weedy perennial grass that can take over thin spots in turf if you let it.

It’s the first to brown out in the fall and the last to green up in the spring. This helps you to identify it because it stands out in the early spring.

If you want to eliminate nimblewill, you need to mark the spots while dormant (so you can find them later) and then, when they are green and actively growing, use a nonselective herbicide such as Roundup. This kills nimblewill, roots and all; then you can reseed the dead spots.

You can also hand-dig nimblewill out of the lawn if you only have a few spots. Make sure you get all of the roots and runners.

To prevent nimblewill from getting a foothold, thicken up the turfgrass with fertilizer. A good think lawn prevents weeds from growing, thereby, preventing the need for chemicals to kill weeds.

We are nearing the time when crabgrass begins to germinate. This annual grassy weed also takes advantage of thin lawn areas and takes over if not controlled. A pre-emergent herbicide applied in the spring, before it germinates, prevents crabgrass for most of the season.

If you have had a major problem with crabgrass in the past, you may want to apply a second application (only half strength) about the end of May. This application helps to prevent the seeds that germinate in August.

Crabgrass germinates when the soil temperatures reach 56 degrees at night for several consecutive nights. As of this previous week, it was about 50 degrees, so I would say you can wait until next weekend to get it down at the latest (if we continue to warm up).

Sharpen up your lawn mower blades before you start mowing.

When you begin cutting, if you haven’t already switched your practices to mowing high, do it now! Spring mowing heights are as follows: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescues, 2 to 2.5 inches; and turf type tall fescues, 2.5 to 3 inches. In the summer, raise these by about a half inch during the summer stress periods.

If there are spots that haven’t greened up in the lawn, they may be dead. Last summer’s drought was tough on lawns. Rake the dead spots and loosen up the soil and seed now.

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