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Spring grows a crop of lawn care questions

Hello, Trumbull County. With our early and dry spring, you’ve likely mowed your lawn a few times by now. I’ve been getting lots of questions on how to best maintain a lawn, so I thought I would share a few tips with you this week.

The foundation of a good lawn starts with your soil. If your soil pH is out of balance, or if you are lacking nutrients, you will have trouble getting grass to grow very well. The only way to know if you need to adjust your pH with lime or sulfur, or know how much fertilizer to apply, is to test your soil. This is a pretty simple process that involves taking samples of your soil from your lawn (or garden) in about 10 locations, putting it in a bucket to let it dry, mixing it up and sending it to a soil analysis lab.

Trust me, it sounds more difficult than it really is. We sell the soil test kits in our office, or you can order them online at trumbull.osu.edu. You can also call our office at 330-638-6783 and I can help you through the process.

While the soil test results will tell you if you need lime, phosphorus and potassium, one nutrient that you need to apply annually is nitrogen. So, even if you don’t test your soil this year, you can safely apply this nutrient at 1 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet each year.

When you purchase fertilizer, you will see three numbers such as 10-52-0. These numbers correspond to the percentages of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium, respectively. So in our example of 10-52-0, a 50-pound bag would contain 5 pounds of nitrogen, 26 pounds of phosphorus and 0 pounds of potassium.

Without a soil test, I recommend purchasing and applying a nitrogen-only fertilizer. Common nitrogen fertilizers you can purchase at most garden centers will be 21-0-0, 23-0-0 or 46-0-0. If you purchase 21-0-0 and you want to apply 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, an application of 10 pounds of actual fertilizer per 1,000 square feet would need to be made to get the appropriate rate.

I mentioned that you can apply 1 to 4 pounds of actual nitrogen, and you may be wondering why there is a range. I put it this way, if you want to mow your grass frequently, apply 2 pounds of nitrogen now and apply the other 2 pounds in early September. If you want to mow less, apply less nitrogen.

You are likely battling dandelions and other weeds already, and weed-and-feed products can be effective for control. If you are choosing to use a weed-and-feed type of product, do NOT apply at a rate above what is on the label. The weed control ingredients in these products need to be applied at a specific rate, and excess applications may actually harm your lawn.

If your weed-and-feed applications cannot meet your nitrogen needs, purchase a separate fertilizer-only product and apply separately.

Other options to control lawn weeds are numerous, and are often applied in liquid form. Again, if you choose to use these products, be sure to follow the label. Special care must be made to protect flowers, vegetables, trees and other plants in your landscape to prevent unintended damage.

To get rid of moss, increase sunlight, improve drainage in your lawn or look at why your grass is not growing well. A thick stand of grass will always outcompete moss, so if you have moss growing, there is some other issue that needs to be addressed.

Lastly, if you need to reseed your entire lawn or just a small patch, you need to wait until the soil is a little bit warmer for seed germination. Ideally, the soil temperature should be approximately 60 degrees or higher.

Broadcasting seed over your lawn is an easy way to establish a lawn, but other methods such as hydroseeding or using a special overseeder might produce better results. You will likely need to hire someone for hydroseeding, but you can rent overseeders locally and reseed your lawn in an afternoon. The overseeder is a powered machine that looks similar to a lawnmower, but as it moves along, it creates a thin trench in your soil, drops seeds and then closes the trench. This provides great seed to soil contact which increase seed germination. This method also has the advantage of not needing to cover the seed with straw or some other material.

These are just a couple quick tips for maintaining your lawn this year.

Take care and stay healthy

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