Spring Clean Ups

Today, I would like to talk about the spring clean up.  Spring clean ups are an important aspect of lawn and garden maintenance.  They help to set the tone for the season.  I have two different ways of conducting my spring clean ups.  

    The first step to the fall clean up is to dethatch the lawn.  This is the process of taking out all of the dead grass that coats the top of the soil.  Removing the thatch allows better airflow to the lawn’s root system and also helps to curb the amount of insects in the lawn.  Most importantly however, controlling the amount of thatch in the lawn helps to thwart various fungi that prevail with high humidity and long periods of saturation.

    The next step that we take is to edge the lawn with a ground edger.  This makes all of the edges perfectly straight.  It also takes sloping edges near sidewalks and driveways that have rounded from degradation over the winter and makes them sharp edges.

    After thatching and edging are completed, we move to the flower beds.  This means that we weed all of the beds and then turn the soil.  Turning the soil increases airflow into the root systems and disrupts the stratification of nutrients in the soil bed.  It also gives the beds a cleaner look.

    Finally the lawn must be treated, this means adding seed to the bare spots and fertilizing.  If a lawn is relatively full, I try to seed as little as possible and put down Lime and a fertilizer high in both Nitrogen and Potassium with a weed barricade.  The main culprit that we are attempting to mitigate here is Crabgrass.  This method is only applicable for lawns that don't require seeding, as the weed barricade will prevent grass seed from germinating.  For houses that require a lot of seed I prefer to apply a Rye/Fescue blend which fully germinates in two to three weeks along with lime.  The fast germination rate allows me to apply a weed barricade later on but still early enough in the season to stay ahead of the weeds.

The past year

With the new year finally here a reflection on the following year is the best way to make 2017 the best year yet.  2016 gave us a perfect spring, a hot, humid summer bereft of rain and a late fall.  The biggest issue that the industry here on Long Island faced last year was fungus, namely Dollar Spot and Brown Patch.

These fungi appear when a number of situations arise.  The biggest proponent to a fungus outbreak is Humidity.  When there is a two or three day period of high humidity, fungus will show up.  Another practice that encourages fungus is evening and late night watering; when the lawn stays  saturated for an extensive amount of time it allows itself to be susceptible to fungi.  Drops in the Nitrogen level will also allow certain fungi to flourish.  Finally the length of the grass can either welcome or deter fungi.

Knowing what creates fungus is half the  battle, knowing the correct measures to combat them is the other.  Although we can not prevent humidity we can take preemptive measures to prevent them and use grass varieties that are more resilient to humidity and fungus.  I like to use an equal blend of Bluegrass, Fescue and Rye grasses in the fall while either over seeding  or aerating and over seeding in preparation for the following season.  I also encourage my customers to water between 3 and 6 am  to minimize the time that the ground stays saturated.  The next two practices fall solely on your landscaper, that is, maintaining a correct nitrogen level and grass cut height.  I found that frequent low nitrogen liquid based fertilizer applications helped deter fungus well.  This involved bi-weekly applications of low nitrogen fertilizer that was complimentary for my customers.  I found this to be very successful and fully intend on continuing the practice.  Lastly, the length of the grass depends on the height of the lawn mower blades.  I keep the grass very low in the spring and raise the height in the summer, this practice has a few benefits.  First, its height in the summer hides the midsummer browning in the post spring thatch and of the cooler season grasses that go dormant in the heat. Two, its' height prevents fungus, taller grass is better at thwarting fungus than shorter grass.  Lastly the longer summer grass is a darker green further up the blade, this provides a better looking, fuller lawn.