We can probably say that it’s safe now to trade snow shovels for garden shovels, snowplows for lawn mowers and mittens for garden gloves.
With temperatures climbing into the 60s on a regular basis it’s a downright heat wave — plenty warm to start sprucing up lawns and garden beds. Now is the time to consider everything from mulching grass and checking for disease to inspecting your lawn mower and choosing a date to fertilize.
Here, lawn and garden experts offer nine tips for treating your patch of green well and getting it in tip-top shape:
Maintain your mower
Inspect your lawn mower, said Joe Kosiara, master gardener at the “Pull the plug wire, clean under the deck, remove and sharpen the blade, remove and replace spark plugs and remove and clean the air filter,” Kosiara said.
“This is a great time for patching and seeding lawns,” said Jennifer Youngquest of . Reseeding bare spots keeps the lawn thick and prevents weeds from taking hold.”
Grass can be reseeded at any time of the year, Youngquest explained, but it’s usually easier in the spring and fall when rainfall is more plentiful and supplemental watering is not typically as necessary.
Consider fertilizing soon
“People need to be careful; use the appropriate lawn fertilizer,” Youngquest added. “If you use the first step of a four-step program, which is the most popular way to feed your lawn, that first step usually has a crab grass preventer. This prevents seeds from germinating. So if you’re seeding and fertilizing in the spring, use a specially formulated starter fertilizer.”
As for exactly when to fertilize lawns, “Use the holiday method – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day,” the Ford House’s Kosiara said. “Read the entire label to use the product safely at the required amounts — more is never better.”
Added Youngquest: “Feeding your lawn will provide the nutrients it needs to grow thick and strong, and withstand the stresses of weeds, heat and family activity.”
Get a good rake
Doug Conley, director of landscape at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, said the type of rake depends on the project. “If I am prepping soil for seeding, I like a bow rake or landscape rake because they have ‘stiff teeth’ for smoothing and leveling soil. If I’m cleaning up debris (leaves, sticks, etc.), I like a leaf rake or spring rake (usually metal with a spring attached) because they collect small debris and cover a large surface area.
Go for the high life
A healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds. “Mow high, keeping your lawn 3 1/2 to 4 inches tall,” said Melinda Myers, who wrote several books on gardening, including The Michigan Lawn Guide. “Mow often enough so you remove no more than 1/3 (1 inch) of the total height — these clippings break down quickly and add organic matter, nutrients and moisture to the soil.”
Added Youngquest: "Grass clippings help provide a great root system.”
“Aerate your lawn,” Kosiara said. “This is one of the best things you can do for your lawn,” he added. “Hint: Rent an aerator with your neighbor, splitting the cost and the work.”
Less is more
“It is better to spot-treat weeds, than to blanket-spray them,” Kosiara said. “That’s also better for the environment and cheaper.”
Water the lawn
The lawn will wilt when it needs water, Youngquest said. “It’s best to rely on rain to water the lawn, but when supplemental watering is necessary, try to apply in two applications each week, rather than a little every day.”
“Take off your socks and shoes, walk on your lawn, feel the grass between your toes and smell the roses,” Kosiara said. “It will make your life better.”