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MSU Turfgrass Expert Advises Patience in Preparing Lawns for Spring

Russ White
Kevin Frank

Kevin Frank is an associate professor in Michigan State University’s renowned Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and he’s an Extension turf specialist.

“In general, we had more of a predictable winter,” Frank says. “Overall, I don’t think winter did any lasting damage to turf. The record February flooding may have caused some issues on some golf courses locally. But for home lawns in general, winter’s impact hasn’t been significant.”

Frank does a lot of work with golf courses and adds that most Michigan courses have come through the winter pretty well, too.

For homeowners itching to get outside and do some yard work, Frank says we still have a ways to go and that it’s best to wait for things to start growing. Soil temperatures and heating degree days are still low. He says a good time to start working on your yard is when the forsythia are blooming. The ground is still too cold for seed to take hold. And he says seeding and applying pre-emergent herbicides do not go together.

“So if you’re thinking that at some time you’re going to seed some areas, don’t apply any pre-emergent to prevent crabgrass because that will also prevent your new seed from establishing.”

When you do apply any fertilizer, it’s important to make sure the product stays on the lawn.

“You don’t want to get any on the sidewalks, driveway, or in the street. If you do have some that spills over into those areas, you either want to pick it up or blow it back into the turf. If it’s off target on impervious surfaces, that’s the quickest way for it to enter our water bodies.”

Frank also encourages us to leave the clippings on our yards when we mow. The clippings are natural fertilizer.

“Mow at your normal height; don’t try to drop the blade down to reach the grass. Wait for the grass to start growing. If you need something to do, just go out and rake up some of the dead tissue and hopefully we’ll be off to a good start.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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