Spring into summer lawn care

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By Grantly Ricketts

For the News-Gazette

It is quite evident that spring is around the corner. Walking around my neighborhood I see people starting to clean their flower gardens and pulling weeds from their lawns. Weekly, I receive many questions on when to do and what to do. Today I will be focusing on lawn maintenance.

My first advice to you is, do not overspend on your lawn trying to make it the best in the neighborhood. Sometimes is less expensive to hire a professional landscape service. Even if you hire a landscape service it is important to have the basic knowledge of what he is doing. If you are a do it yourself person, make sure to read as much as possible on the species of grass in your yard. Do not rely on the guy at the garden center to give you information on best management practices.   

Weed Control- In a matter of weeks there will be weeds popping up everywhere. The best way to keep weeds out of the lawn is to apply pre-emergence herbicide, commonly known as weed preventer. The ideal time to make this application is at the end of February each year and then October. It may seem to be a little late to apply right now but you may still get about 80 percent effectiveness. It is important to note that it is more effective to control weeds when they are young, having a few leaves or blades in the case of grassy weeds. Older weeds often require multiple herbicide applications to control. Before applying any pesticides always read the label. Applying herbicides when temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit may result in injury of the lawn grass. I do not recommend any weed and feed product. My reason is that in many cases, you may need only the herbicide portion of the product but not the fertilizer portion. Weed and feed is expensive and may lead to water pollution.

Fertilization- Now is the perfect time to fertilize your lawn. The questions I frequently received are: what brand of fertilizer should I use and how often should I fertilize?  The best way to determine fertilizer need is to do a soil test. The name brand of the fertilizer is not important. What is important is the source of the fertilizer (ammonia, urea, etc.) and the analysis of the fertilizer. On a bag of fertilizer there are three numbers, the first number always represent nitrogen which is vital for the growth and greenness of the plant. The second number is phosphorus which is important for the growth and strength of the root. In Florida, in many cases the middle number will be zero because most Florida soil is not lacking in phosphorus. The third number is potassium which is like your multi-vitamin which keep the plant healthy. How often to apply- If your objective is moderate maintenance, every 8 weeks until the end of October should be enough. Please take precaution when applying fertilizer during the rainy season (June 1st -September 30th). If the soil is saturated with water, do not apply.

Irrigation- Irrigate lawn only twice per week applying only ½ inch to ¾ inch of water per event. If there is rain scale back on watering. The best time to water is early morning, not in the evening or at night.

Mowing- Do not remove more than a 1/3 of the grass blade at any one time and don’t mow grass when wet.

For more information on lawn maintenance or other horticulture topics contact Grantly Ricketts, UF/IFAS Extension in Osceola County at gricketts@ufl.edu or call 321-697-3000.