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Janet Laminack / Horticulture

Cultivation key to keeping lawns healthy

Now that the first day of spring has passed, it’s time to start competing with the Joneses on the greenest, most lush lawn and beautiful landscape in the neighborhood.

Following these tips will help you have a healthy lawn.

Most of our lawns in this area are either Bermuda or St. Augustine and are both considered warm-season turf grasses. Fertilize a warm-season grass after it has begun to actively grow, which means waiting until you have mowed the grass a couple of times.

While mowing down the dandelions is a good idea, this does not count as actively growing grass. What you can do now is improve the soil aeration by adding a layer of organic material. Adding a very thin layer of compost is an excellent way to add a few nutrients to your lawn and improve the drainage of a clay soil or the water-holding capacity of sandy soil.

The other thing you can do right now is take a soil test. There are many labs that will analyze your soil to find what nutrients are lacking and provide recommendations on how to improve it. You can find information on how to submit a sample to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Soil Lab at soiltesting.tamu.edu. A routine analysis costs $10.

As you may have noticed, cool-season weeds such as dandelions and henbit are actively growing at this time. Mowing regularly can prevent the weeds from developing seed heads. It’s too late for a pre-emergent herbicide (weed killer) on our warm-season weeds that will be here soon.

If weeds are a major problem, you might consider pre-emergent applications in the future. Mark your calendar ahead of time because those dates tend to sneak up. Fall applications should happen in September and spring dates are late February to early March.

There are post-emergent herbicides available, and as with all chemicals, read the label carefully. Many herbicide labels say to avoid applying around or under trees, shrubs or other desirable plants because the chemical can damage or even kill these plants.

Mowing is one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a healthy turf grass. Regular mowing at the right height can keep a lawn healthy and growing densely, which will help deter the growth of weeds.

The best and safest rule of thumb is to never remove more than a third of the leaf blade at any one time.

Many of us mow so infrequently that we could bale our yard clippings. This removes too much of the plant at one time and may even remove the growing point of the grass.

Frequent mowing is not what most homeowners want to hear, but it is one of the secrets to having a dense lawn.

And finally, how should you water your lawn?

Most homeowners overwater their lawns. Water when the lawn needs it and to a depth of 6 inches with each watering. In our clay soils, you may have to run your cycle a few times in one day in order to get the water down that deep without running off.

Quick, frequent watering will produce shallow root systems that don’t survive our hot summers. You can wait to water your lawn until when you see symptoms of drought stress such as a dull bluish color and the leaf blades rolling up.

Lawns that are watered deeply can go five to eight days between watering.

Water is a limited resource and we have many online publications available to help you better understand how to use water responsibly to create a beautiful landscape and green lawn.

For more information, call 940-349-2892, email master.gardener@dentoncounty.com or visit www.dcmga.com.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.