Green Lawns: Spring Tips
The arrival of spring means the revival of the dormant brain cells associated with lawn care.
For the slower starting spring lawn care crowd, the average spring lawn thrives on some simple food, air and water needs, along with a dose of good weather.
Spring lawn care practices vary from region to region as well as home to home, depending on climate conditions and household member choices.
Region to region, North America lawn care follows two separate paths, dependent on the lawn grass, warm season or cool season.
Cool season grasses, those adapted to northern climates, germinate and grow in the milder spring, summer and fall temperatures.
Since colonial days, varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass remain the lawn grass of choice for consumers, who can now choose from multiple climate specific varieties.
Warm season grasses, those adapted to germinate and grow in the southern half of North America, also use spring as their transition season from winter dormancy.
Bermuda grass remains the grass of choice for sunny southern lawns. A handful of additional warm season grasses fill shady areas and other special lawn area needs.
Both cool and warm season grasses share a common spring growth stage, although differences between the grass types leads to two different growing stages.
Most bluegrass varieties form shallow root systems that use spring as a growth and regeneration phase. On the other hand, the deeper root systems of typical warm season grasses means a spring season of root development.
Spring lawn care discussions also generally address five common lawn care tasks: aerating; dethatching; fertilizing; mowing; watering. The amount of time invested in one or all of these lawn care activities varies from house to house.
For example, because of the importance of spring root development for both warm and cool season grasses, an activity such as aerating, creating holes in the ground for improved soil aeration, might create undue stress for developing root systems.
Likewise, dethatching, or vertical mowing as it is sometimes called, could also place undue stress on developing root systems.
Despite the potential root development problems associated with spring aeration and dethatching, many homeowners still add them to their spring lawn care tasks.
Lawn fertilizers, another spring lawn care topics, lead many people to associate their use with the green in green lawn.
Retailers offer a typical nitrogen and phosphorus blend fertilizer with the recommendation that it be applied at least during the spring in northern climates and spring and fall in southern climates. Because of the importance of spring root development, lawn care specialists often recommend a fertilizer with a relatively higher phosphate content.
When considering the use of fertilizer, it's important to remember that too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. Nitrogen runoff from lawns eventually lands in storm drains, to local creeks, rivers ponds or lakes, where it adds to the problem known as eutrophication, or algae blooms. In turn, these algae blooms remove oxygen from water, causing harm to its other residents, such as fish.
Increasingly, states and local communities provide fertilizer use guidance at the very least, and fertilizer use restrictions at the very most, to manage their local water quality problems.
Common sense suggests following the directions on lawn fertilizer products will promote the most healthy lawn growth.
Varying climate conditions means homwowners rely on both local rain fall and sprinkler systems to meet their lawn watering needs. Most lawn care professions recommend providing an inch of water to a lawn every week.
A changing climate means an increased possibility for suboptimal grass growing conditions in many areas. Long periods of drought, for example, make for local watering restrictions and brown lawns.
Xeriscaping, a term that means designing a lawn suited to the environment, offers lawn care managers an alternative way to organize their thoughts on landscaping. Many local retailers offer native plants and products suitable to local environmental conditions.
It may well be the case that a changing climate will transform the concept of green lawns from the typical notion of green grass carpets into new notions of climate friendly landscapes.
Until that time, most North American homes will remain encircled by a grass yard. During spring, mowing the grass at the three inch level allows additional time and space for healthy root development.
© 2011-2012 Patricia A. Michaels