A beautiful green lawn this summer starts now!
Now that the sun has forced a hasty retreat for the remaining ice and snow, a little TLC for your lawn will reap rewards later this year and next. Modern turf grass needs three things to thrive in its environment.
Living in the Northwoods, surrounded by majestic trees, is one of the main reasons why we all love it here. Unfortunately, living in the forest often means having areas of our lawns that will struggle every year. Thinning the over story or removing some unsightly trees can have a positive effect but can become expensive.
Your lawn needs a rainfall equivalent of .75” to 1” per week to maintain its green color and active growth. Abundant rainfall is unreliable at best, but with the use of irrigation dormancy can be avoided. Using hoses and sprinklers off of your house water is time consuming and requires frequent movement to ensure adequate coverage. If you are fortunate enough to live on a lake, the use of a lake pump or automatic irrigation system will help eliminate the need to move hoses all day.
All plants need nutrients to live, and your lawn is no exception. Well irrigated lawns that receive adequate sunlight will still need to be fertilized throughout the year. A well designed lawn program will promote deep rooting, robust top growth, and a deep green color.
Applying the proper fertilizer to your lawn is the single best way to make a significant improvement in its overall quality. As with most things in life, not all fertilizers are the same and you usually get what you pay for. All fertilizers have their nutrient content listed on the label in the form of the confusing set of numbers. A typical analysis looks something like 21-0-11, where the first number is the percentage of Nitrogen, the second is Phosphorous (P2O5), and the third is Potassium (K2SO4).
Nitrogen is the element that is responsible for the green color and top growth of your lawn and ideally is applied in a form that is slowly released so that it won’t be lost to the atmosphere or leached in to the soil, too rapid of a release will result in excessive growth and poor color.
- Phosphorous helps promote root growth, and although not allowed in WI fertilizers is readily available in our soils.
- Potassium promotes plant health, a strong cellular structure, and disease resistance. Adequate potassium is also needed to help your lawn recover from the stresses of summer heat, winter cold, and the wear and tear put on it by traffic. Potassium is so important that sports turf managers as well as golf courses often apply twice as much Potassium as Nitrogen.
An added benefit of a healthy lawn is less weeds. A strong and healthy lawn will crowd out those unwanted and pesky weeds, requiring less weed killers.
Last but not least, when the Glaciers made their last pass through the area 10,000 years ago, all of the beautiful topsoil that was here is now in the farm belts of southern Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. What is left in our local area for topsoil is ground up granite deposited here from Canada, which is extremely acidic. Because of the high acidity, many nutrients that are needed by your lawn for survival are bound up in the soil profile and are unavailable for the plant. A simple lesson in chemistry is that the more acidic the soil, the more Hydrogen Sulfide atoms are bound to the soil instead of the needed nutrients (N-P-K). Because there are only a limited number of soil receptors, highly acidic soils often mean that applied fertilizer never fully reaches its intended target.
Fortunately the problem of acidic soils are easily reversed with the application of lime. The best lime to apply to lawns is Dolomite based lime, instead of the Calcium based lime that is used in barns. The Dolomite reacts with the acid molecules that are bound to the soil and neutralizes them. When the Hydrogen Sulfide molecules are pulled off there becomes ample room for the needed macro-nutrients to bond to the soil particles and become usable by the plants. A soil test will help reveal how acidic your soil is, although the rule of thumb for our area is that an ample dose of lime every year will help improve your soil.