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Spring Lawn Care Tips from MSU Extension Turf Specialist

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Russ White MSU Today
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Kevin Frank

Spring has sprung, so let's welcome Kevin Frank back to MSU Today. Kevin is an MSU Extension turf specialist, and an associate professor in Michigan State University's Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences.  

“I think overall the winter of 2019 wasn't too bad because it took a while to arrive,” says Frank. “Then from mid-January through mid-March we suffered through some really cold weather. But throughout most of that period, especially in the lower part of the state, there wasn't consistent snow cover. I played golf over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, so there was no snow on the ground.”

Frank says fall is the best time to prepare for the following spring, but there are things homeowners can do now to their lawns.

“The biggest thing this time of year for a lot of people is they want to try to control crab grass, so that means a crab grass pre-emergence application. Right now I'd probably say for most people, try to wait a little bit.

“What we look for with the crab grass pre-emergence, we always talk about those environmental indicators. For a lot of people, they might see a Forsythia bush around. When that's kind of in full bloom, that's usually an indication that it's about that time. We try to get those applications down when we have a soil temperature of about 50-55 consistently at a two inch depth.

“As a ballpark, for most homeowners especially in the kind of the lower part of the mitten, around April 15th-ish is a general guide. As you get further north, of course that backs up into later and later.

“If you fertilized last fall, and you're not going to do crab grass pre-emergence because you don't have a crab grass issue, I probably wouldn't do a whole lot. I might wait until late April, even early May before considering putting a fertilizer application down. A lot of times I tell homeowners, wait until it actually grows. Wait until you have to actually mow.

“If you want to get outside, go pick up sticks or remove the dog droppings from all winter long across your yard like I have to. But give the turf a little bit of a chance to catch up.”

And Frank reminds people to make sure that any time they put something down, make sure it stays on the turf. If you have a backpack blower, blow the particles or granules or whatever back into the turf or sweep them. Whatever you can to just get them back on the turf grass.

And Frank says leaving the clippings when mowing provides natural fertilizer for the lawn.

“You might look at picking up the clippings the first time you mow just because sometimes you've got a lot of dead material in there. A big factor is did you get the leaves cleaned up last fall? If you didn't get that done last fall, get out there with a rake because they're going to be matted to the ground. You're not going to be able to mow them. If they’re dry enough, you may be able to mulch them back into the turf.”

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

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