Spring Greening: Experts say with a little work now you can have a lush green lawn this summer

By Sharna Johnson

Recent warm weather may have local residents inspired to begin sprucing up outside. Curry County Extension Agent Stan Jones said it’s still a little early to begin gardening, but it’s a great time to start preparing for a luscious, green lawn.

Before hooking up the hoses and arranging the sprinklers, a little weed extermination will go a long way toward a yard suitable for bare feet, Jones said.

Cool-season weeds are already beginning to sprout and grow, Jones said. Sprays and chemicals designed to kill weeds can be used when a lawn is brown without fear of harming grass.

Weeds get a jump-start on grass, according to Jones. By the time a lawn begins to turn green, many of the early-season weeds are already dying, leaving behind unwanted stickers and burrs.

Having a green, plush yard is not just about the type of grass planted, but proper care, Jones said.

“All grasses can be soft and luscious if you water and keep weeds out,” he said.

“If you get control (of weeds) now, it will have a major impact on your lawn and grass later.”

Bill Greenlees, groundskeeper for Eastern New Mexico University, agreed, saying there are many things people can do to get ready for summer.

Groundskeepers work year-round to maintain the campus and outdoor sports facilities, Greenlees said. These days, they are aerating — poking holes in the ground, which helps prepare the soil to accept water, fertilizers and treatments in addition to encouraging grass to spread.

Rental equipment is a good solution for the homeowner, Greenlees said. Groundskeepers utilize tractors to aerate, while the average home owner has a much smaller area to maintain.

After aerating and weed treatments, watering can begin.
Greenlees and his staff are on a three-day-a-week, 20-minute-per-area watering regimen. As the season progresses and temperatures rise, watering will be done closer to evening, he said. However, this time of year, lunch-time watering is ideal.

Even though water and maintenance are the key factors in a successful lawn, selecting certain grass types can make a difference, Greenlees said.

“If you want your grass to be green longer in a heavy traffic area, Bermuda grass can take a lot of abuse,” he said, explaining that for a family yard or children’s playground, Bermuda grass will hold up well.

The university uses a mixture of Triathlon, a cool-season grass and Bermuda grass, for its athletic fields and lawns. The combination gives tougher, more drought resistant coverage that stays green a little later in the year, he said.
Occasionally, fertilizer can be used to give an extra boost to the green of a lawn.

Jones and Greenlees agree that lack of rain and snow this winter will play a major role this summer and a little extra attention may be required. However, even with the best care and planning, nature takes its toll.

“My stuff looks a lot nicer when it’s raining,” Greenlees said. “Most grass right now is brown. We’re fixing to have spring football here and we’ve never played in March before. Right now we’re putting white lines on yellow grass.”

Things to do now for a successful lawn later:

• Aerate:
Over time, the top layer of soil becomes compacted, affecting the movement of air, water and nutrients to the grass roots. This is solved by loosening the soil with a hand tool such as a hoe (for smaller yards) or with a motor-driven aerator.

• Weed eradication:
Spraying or spreading weed-killing chemicals removes unsightly weeds that steal nutrients and growing room from grass, allowing a lawn to reach its full potential.

• Fertilize:
Bill Greenlees, ENMU groundskeeper, recommends spreading composted cow manure, an affordable and effective fertilizer. He also suggests a 21-0-0 fertilizer on occasion for a little extra green.

• Water:
In the pre-summer months, if it’s dry, water two to three times a week for approximately 20 minutes during the middle of the day. As temperatures rise, water closer to evening with the same frequency. Over-watering can harm your lawn. Not only does it waste resources, it promotes fungus, bacteria and other harmful problems.

For region specific information, New Mexico State University provides the following resources:
• The Turfgrass research program, provides information on grass:

http://turf.nmsu.edu/

• Weed information, a tool to help identify native weeds:

http://weeds.nmsu.edu/