Warm weather has arrived!
It is the time when we turn our attention to our yards to fix what nature, plowing, salt and snow have damaged. Spring provides an opportunity to rejuvenate our little part of the watershed to look good and perform its important watershed functions of water collection, storage and filtration. When you start your spring landscaping, first assess the damage from winter. Try to avoid walking on saturated soils, as it will compact the soil. Rake up the leaves and other debris that have been pressed to the turf. Rake mole hills flat. Replace the turf that has been peeled back by plowing. Patch damaged areas with a mixture of grass seed and soil and protect from erosion with straw mulch or erosion control blankets on steeper slopes. For patching, you can buy pre-mixed soil, seed and fertilizer mixtures or mix your own. Mix one part grass seed to three parts soil in a pail and spread over damaged area. The patch should have 15-20 seeds per square inch. Frank Rossi (aka ''Turf Guy'') of the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University shows you how at: blogs.cornell.edu/hort/2011/04/12/lawn-myth-busting-skip-spring-'weed-and-feed'/.
Rossi says, ''Spring is a race for space between grass and weeds. If you can see soil, broadcast and rake in grass seed to fill that space.'' Rossi's other recommendations include:
The arrival of warmer weather provides an opportunity to rejuvenate your little part of the watershed.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Skipping the weed and feed. ''Early spring probably isn't the best time for you to fertilize your grass or apply herbicides unless you have a history of weed problems,'' he says.
Repairing salt damage along sidewalks and driveways. The usual advice is to water these areas to leach the salt from the soil, but if salt damage is severe, the soil will lose its structure and become compacted. ''You'll just end up with a big puddle and runoff,'' says Rossi. You may need to remove and replace the soil to solve the problem.
Set your mower as high as it will go for regular mowing, but lower it slightly for the first mowing to allow the soil to warm up more quickly and encourage early growth. Check out more detailed recommendations at the websites above and below.
Marty Petrovic, a colleague of Rossi at Cornell University, recommends against bagging lawn clippings. He says that leaving grass clippings on the lawn allows nutrients to be released back into the soil, so fertilizer needs for your turf are significantly reduced. If you use a lawn care service, insist that they don't remove your grass clippings. If you are in the market for a new mower, select a mower with mulching capabilities. The New York state law regulating phosphorus in lawn fertilizers is now in effect. If you choose to fertilize your lawn, don't buy a ''weed and feed'' or other fertilizer-pesticide mixture, and choose only a phosphorus-free product. Regarding fertilizing, Petrovic suggests that fall and late spring are the best times to add some nitrogen fertilizer to lawns. He says early spring fertilizing tends to give emerging weeds a boost, rather than benefiting the turf. See his entire article at www.gardening.cornell.edu/news/lawn.html.
Don't roll your lawn. It compacts the soil, which crushes core space, and impedes the ability for oxygen to get to roots. It also hurts the ability of the soil to absorb water, exacerbating runoff problems and making your lawn more susceptible to drought. Spot rake a topsoil-seed mixture to moderate the height of high spots and low spots that will otherwise be ''scalped'' with your mower.
Consider mowing less of your yard this summer. Return part of your yard a natural habitat with islands of native perennial plants, shrubs and trees. Leave an unmowed natural buffer between your lawn and any waterway. This will save on mowing time, save on gasoline costs and attract more interesting birds and other animals to your yard.
For more information on lawn care and grass varieties, please consult an experienced local nursery or landscaper, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension at 664-9502 or visit the following websites:
The CWC invites you to attend its Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Waters workshop on Monday, March 26, featuring Dan Segal of The Plantsmen Nursery, to learn about the use of native plants for landscaping. The cost is $15 per person, and registration information can be found on the CWC's website at www.chautauquawatershed.org.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. To sign up for notifications of upcoming watershed education programs, tours and events or for more information on the CWC's watershed conservation and education programs, visit our website or call 664-2166.