Trim the Bushes – Mow, Aeriate, Fertilize and Herbicode the Lawn – Whew!!!
Spring brings with it the challenge of yard maintenance. It seems everything needs to be done now. There are shrubs to trim back. The lawn looks like the remains of winter with green beginning to show at the thatch level.
SHRUBS: When I think of trimming back shrubs that have overgrown with last year’s growth, I need to consider three approaches to trimming.
Thinning is the annual removal of 1/3 of the oldest, woodiest stems at the base of the plant. Thinning is applicable to pruning many deciduous shrubs like Aronia (chokeberry), Barberry, Buddleias, Cotoneaster, Euonymous, Forsythia, Hydrangea, Lilac, Privet, Plum bush, Quince, Shrub rose, Spirea, Sumac and Viburnum.
A second trimming approach is shearing. Shearing is the use of the hedge clippers to reduce height and width and create a more formal appearance. Shearing is usually used on non-blooming shrubs. Arborvitae, Barberry, Boxwood, Euonymous Juniper, Privet and Yew respond well to shearing.
A third thinning approach is rejuvenation. Rejuvenation removes old unproductive wood, removes pest infested stems, increases fruit and flower production and returns the plant to a natural shape. Rejuvenation is best done in early spring or late fall. It means cutting the plant back to the ground and letting it re-grow. Allow yourself a year or two for this process. Shrubs that respond well to being cut back to the crown (soil level) are Forsythia, Lilac, Potentialla, Hydrangea, Honeysuckle, Privet, Hybrid tea rose and Spirea. Remember that only the Hydrangea, Hybrid tea rose and the low growing Spirea cultivars will bloom the first year after rejuvenation. The other species will require re-growing before they bloom again.
LAWNS: University of Nebraska Horticulture specialists took the time to pull together a lawn calendar guide (G80-517) that lists the best cultural practices for a great lawn. I find this a super reminder of tasks to be accomplished during the growing season.
Late March to April 10 is the best time to clean lawn of debris like sticks and stones. Mow the lawn short to remove clipping debris. April 1 to April 30 is the best time to aerify the lawn to minimize compaction, which improves rooting and manages thatch. If the thatch layer exceeds 0.5 inch, it’s time to power rake. Specialists recommend application of leaf spot fungicide to common Kentucky bluegrass after power raking if this has been a problem. Mowing grass to it desired 3 inch level will likely need to begin around April 20. I like to think of the phrase “mow it high and let it lie” as my mowing guideline. The phrase reminds me of the importance of longer grass blades for stronger grass plants and the need to leave clippings on the grass for nutrition. Mowing frequency should be dictated by growth rate, never cutting off more than one-third of the grass height at any mowing. Over the course of summer, leaving these clippings on the lawn can translate into the equivalent of one application of fertilizer.
Recommendations for spring fertilizing are from April 20 to May 10. Usually we apply a pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft. A slow release fertilizer carrier is preferred. In Adams County, it is recommended that fertilizers carrying a pre-emergence herbicide to control crabgrass be applied after May 1. Usually crabgrass herbicides applied earlier will no longer be effective when the later season crabgrass seeds sprout. Around June 10 is a great time for a second fertilization of 0.5 to 1.0 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. It will be late Sept or October when the heavy application of nitrogen is applied.
Treating for insects and diseases in early spring should be done based on history of injury to the lawn. Without history of either, no preventions are recommended in early spring. Adult billbugs would be treated May 10 to May 20. Leaf spot control would begin April 10. Sod webworms usually show about June 15 to June 30. White grubs are usually controlled after August 1 through September 30. If summer patch becomes an issue, control is usually done from May 30 to July 30.
Watering is needed to prevent wilting and drought. The general rule for lawns is 1.0 inch of water per week in the spring and fall and 1.5 inches per week in hot summer. Watering is best done as a deep watering every 5-7 days in the spring. In the summer, frequency may be 3-4 days between watering. For water conservation, it is possible to allow turf to go dormant in the summer. Irrigate only if sustained drought occurs such as a 2-3 week without rain. The lawn will green up with sufficient rainfall in the late summer or early fall.
Gee, after I get all this done, I’ll be ready to finish my patio. Maybe!!
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