Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Lawn Cleanup

Here in the upper Midwest areas of Milwaukee, Madison, Rockford and the Fox Valley area we see a wide variety of issues coming out of winter.  The first things you may notice when your lawn reappears from its white, wintery state are matted down, white or pinkish grass, vein-like runs throughout the lawn, debris scattered on your lawn near the road or driveway and possible salt damage.  Do not worry, much of these problems will take care of themselves with a little of your help. 

The white or pinkish patches of grass that are matted down are caused by a fungus called snow mold.  You typically see this where heavy amounts of snow were piled up the longest.  Taking a plastic leaf rake and lightly raking these areas to help them breath will be all the turf needs to recover within a month or so. 

Sometimes you many notice vein-like runs of grass debris throughout your lawn that were not there in the fall.  This is noticed most in lawns that are near green spaces, prairies, woods or have lots of ornamental beds surrounding the turf.  The damage is caused by a rodent called a “vole.”  Voles are like field mice or “above ground moles” that you do not see in the summer because they stay close to fields, woods, prairies or other areas where they have cover to ensure they do not have encounters with hawks or other predators.  Using a plastic leaf rake you will need to lightly rake through these areas to remove the dead grass that was chewed and tunneled through.  This grass will be removed very easily as it is not anchored to the root system anymore.  Re-seeding these areas can be beneficial but with proper fertilization these areas should thicken in naturally by late spring. 
You can use the same leaf rake to help the turf breath in areas where there is debris scattered from snow plowing.  By raking these areas, the debris will settle into the turf and become unnoticeable within a month or two.  There is no need for heavy raking in any of the events listed above. 

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Crab grass is another major concern here in the upper Midwest.  However, there is a major misconception about crab grass.  Many people are told that the earlier you put down a crab grass pre-emergent the better.  This is not true.  You want crab grass pre-emergent to be put down generally between mid April and late May.  Crab grass will not germinate until the soil temperature consistently (24 hours a day for at least 5 days) hits 55 degrees.  This usually doesn’t happen until late May.  If you were to put down a pre-emergent for crab grass in March or early April, it may not stay active in the soil long enough to prevent the majority of the weedy grass from germinating.  Another problem with crab grass is diagnosis.  Many people think they have crab grass in the early spring when they see a green, weedy grass.  Crab grass is an annual and will die every fall and in the spring it will look white to brown showing no signs of life.  If you see a grass in the spring that is green and appears to be a weed, it is most likely quack grass or some other type of perennial weedy grass.
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