GTI Lawn & Garden Letter

Entertaining advice for home gardeners with a focus on lawn and garden care and the outdoor gardening lifestyle. Suitable primarily for people living in northeastern North America and similar temperate climates in other parts of the world.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Lawn Cleanup

Welcome back to the lawn and garden letter blog for another season. In southern Ontario and most of northeastern North America, the weather over the next few days should be ideal for lawn and garden cleanup. The cool and wet spring has certainly kept most of us out of the yard. When the soil is wet, this is a good thing as wet soil is much more susceptible to compaction which can cause problems later on. If your lawn has dried out underfoot, it is a great time to get out and clean things up.

Start with a vigorous raking to remove any leaves that blew in over winter, fallen twigs and dead grass. Use a fan or leaf rake for this task. If you have a large lawn area, this can be a rather physically demanding task. A good alternative is to rent a vertical mower, also called a dethatching mower. As the name implies, this machine has vertical blades that pull up the dead material at the surface of your lawn. Most rental units have the blades set properly but be sure it is not digging deeply into the soil. After running the vertical mower over your lawn, you are still going to have to rake, but the material that is pulled up is light and fluffy and the task is much easier. You can pull a lot of material out of the lawn. A good trick is to get a large tarp. Rake and area in the middle of your lawn the size of the tarp and lay it down on the lawn. Then rake the debris into a big pile on the tarp, pull up the four corners and drag it to your compost pile. This is a also a good way to collect leaves in the fall.

If your lawn has any dead, bare or thin areas, now is a good time to repair your lawn. Rake to expose soil and then either overseed or sod. Perennial ryegrass is the best seed for overseeding as it is competitive and will germinate under the lower soil temperatures we have in the spring. It is not as winter hardy as Kentucky bluegrass, so should not be used in the north or on the prairies. If you have larger bare areas in your lawn, you can reseed with a good quality Kentucky bluegrass blend but should wait a bit as it will not germinate quite yet. For more details on overseeding, see my post from May 11th of last year.

Sodding is a quick and excellent repair option, particularly for higher end lawns. My old lawn is quite a mix of different grasses (and a few weeds) and a roll of beautiful, dark green Kentucky bluegrass sod plopped down in the middle would stand out like a sore thumb. To repair with sod, simply make sure the edges of the bare area are "sharp" but edging with a spade or garden edger and digging the area out slightly so the sod fits flush with the existing lawn.

Fertilization at this time of year is not recommended in spite of the fertilizer sales splashed across the flyers from various home, garden and tire retailers. If you are following the recommendation to fertilize in late fall, your lawn should have ample nutrients stored to get through the spring just fine. Fertilizing now will stimulate top growth but at the expense of root growth making our lawn less drought and stress tolerant later in the season. Hold off until late May to early June.

If you have any questions or topics you would like covered in the lawn and garden letter, please let me know by posting a comment on this page. I hope you enjoy this great weather.