In case you missed it, spring lawn care practices

Spring came roaring in early March and with it many of our typical lawn care practices happened much earlier than usual. What can you do for your lawn to ensure summer success?

Something funny happened to me this spring – I missed it. I was on teaching assignment in China for two weeks in the middle of March and had a difficult time believing the temperatures I was reading about back home from the other side of the world. So if you’re like me and missed spring, those warm temperatures in March really accelerated many of our typical spring lawn care practices.

Preemergence herbicide applications

I checked back through all the springs I’ve lived in Michigan and the typical preemergence herbicide applications to prevent crabgrass are usually between April 15 and the first week of May. This year in central Michigan that application triggered around March 17, a good month earlier than a normal year!

The recent cooler, more spring-like weather has slowed down the march to summer. If you missed the preemergence timing, I still think you have a chance, but choose products that contain Dimension (active ingredient dithiopyr). Dimension has some early post-emergence activity on crabgrass and our models are still showing that we are early for crabgrass germination, so if you get it down now I think you may still be able to prevent crabgrass this summer. If you reside north of Clare, Mich., most of these areas are still in the optimal timing window, but it’s quickly moving to being late. If you’re not going to use Dimension, I’d get busy and make your applications now.

Broadleaf weeds flowering

In addition to seeing dandelions starting to flower, I’ve also noticed wild violet and ground ivy (i.e., creeping Charlie). Wild violet and ground ivy are two of our tougher to control broadleaf weeds. As I’ve written before, fall is the best time to control these pesky broadleaf perennials, but when they’re flowering is the second best time to attempt control. For dandelions, I suggest you resist the urge to go out and try to eliminate them with a broadleaf herbicide during this initial flower flush. Wait until the bright yellow flowers transition to the puff ball stage and then treat with a broadleaf herbicide.

Keep in mind that weeds are always trying to tell a story and in the case of turfgrass, many weeds are indicators of voids or poor turf density. Dense, healthy turf is more resistant to weed invasion, so if you can promote a healthy lawn with mowing high, mulching clippings back onto the turf, and proper fertilization, you’ll likely have fewer weeds to control.

Scalping lawns

I really don’t understand the desire for people to scalp their lawns in the spring. I don’t know if it’s just because they really want to feel like they mowed some grass or if they’re not happy that it’s mowing season again. Once again this spring I’ve noticed numerous scalped lawns while driving around town. If you go to the barber or salon to get a haircut and they chopped your hair down to a quarter of an inch, most would not be happy. Unfortunately, your lawn can’t ask for a refund. Scalping your lawn is the perfect haircut if you’re looking to stress your turf, reduce turf density, and, ultimately, have more weeds in your lawn. I’ve become a big advocate of one mowing height all year – start at 3 inches and stay at 3 inches throughout the year.

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