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Warmer temperatures have us thinking spring.
Lawns are greening up very quickly. Spring seeding lawns is usually
our second-best choice, because of the warm weather soon to follow,
but last year it worked like a gem with the cool, wet weather. Fall
has been the preferred time for many years, but once again,
temperature and moisture have a great effect on success.
Spring seeding should be done between March 15 and April 1 for
the best chance of success. The reasons for the early date are
the heat and the long germination time for Kentucky bluegrass.
It can take up to a month for bluegrass seed to germinate. This
means an April 1 seeding might germinate May 1. Then add six to
eight weeks for it to become established. This could then be
close to July 1. Usually we tend to get hot weather by then.
Let's start with the basics.
The normal seedings are a blend of Kentucky bluegrass,
perennial ryegrass and fine fescue. The fine fescue is much
better in shade, and the perennial ryegrass will provide quicker
The seeding rate is generally 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet
in bare dirt seedings. Use 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet in
overseeding thin lawns. Of course, this can run into some real
money when doing very large areas. Many rural seedings are done
more on the basis of a pound per 1,000 square feet. There are
almost 44,000 square feet in an acre, so you can do the math on
Fertilizer is always an area of many questions. The place to
begin is a soil test. This will tell you where you are starting
from. Basic soil test levels for phosphorus, potassium and soil
pH should be in the neighborhood of 40, 350 and 6.1,
respectively. Phosphorus and potassium are on a pound-per-acre
basis. This must be considered if you use labs that report in
parts per million, which will give numbers half as large. These
numbers will provide a great environment for grass.
Grass will really grow in very poor conditions, but it
certainly won't have that manicured lawn look many strive for.
Lacking a soil test, or being at recommended fertility levels,
general maintenance applications provide a pound each of
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium per 1,000 square feet of lawn
area in May and again in September. Really lush lawns will
usually have twice as much nitrogen applied in a season, but
split among four applications. Hang on to your wallet again this
year, as fertilizer prices have increased dramatically.
If you decide to try seeding this spring, remember a couple
of things related to weed killers. First, you can't use
crabgrass preventer in the same season as you put down seed. The
crabgrass preventer doesn't know the difference between grass
seed and weed seeds. The second rule is to mow the new seeding
at least three times before trying any broadleaf weed killer.
Generally this means spring broadleaf control doesn't happen
when you seed in the spring. If you seed in the spring, you
control weeds in the fall. Seed in the fall, and you control
weeds and crabgrass in the spring.
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If you do plan to use a crabgrass preventer, time it so it is on
about the time the forsythia blooms. This would be the approximate
soil and air temperature needed for the crabgrass to germinate.
April 1 is a good guess, but this date can vary widely with the
weather. Many crabgrass preventers last for only four to eight
weeks, so plan on repeating the application in June anyway.
"To do" list
There are quite a few things that can be done shortly.
You need to finish
up pruning chores in short order for deciduous trees and shrubs.
Remember that most of the flowers and fruit come on 2-year-old
wood. Trees with high sap flow rates will tend to leak a lot of
sap when pruned this time of year.
Another item is to
watch roses to determine when to start uncovering and pruning.
Many recommend doing your pruning chores when forsythia is in
Also, if you haven't uncovered
strawberries, keep an eye on them. They should be uncovered when
you see green leaves under the straw, and definitely when you
see yellow material -- that means you are just a little late.
Keep the straw handy in case you need to re-cover them. Thanks,
Dan, for the reminder on the berries!
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]