Lawn care season is sneaking up

March 7, 2019

It may not seem like it, but the lawn care season will arrive soon. Here is some information on an upcoming lawn workshop and what might be happening to lawns beneath the snow.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, or want to be better informed about lawn care, plan to attend my upcoming lawn workshop on March 25.

The class will focus on lawn recommendations that have changed, such as timing of fertilization and mowing heights, weed control and why lawns turn yellow in summer and some ways to deal with this.

This lawn workshop will be at 7 p.m. on March 25 at the Extension office, 2715 13th Street, in downtown Columbus. The cost is $10 per person or $15 per couple. Preregistration is not required but is appreciated.

To learn more about this class or to register, call the Platte County Extension office at 563-4901. You can also go to our website at platte.unl.edu and download the Lawn, Tree and Garden class pamphlet.

As for what’s happening with lawns now, snow cover can be a good thing. With the open winter we’d been having, there was a chance of desiccation, which is a more common type of injury than cold temperature injury.

Although dormant, plants continue to lose moisture during winter. Wind, sunshine and even cold temperatures can increase moisture loss, especially in the absence of snow cover.

We tend to see winter desiccation on evergreens like Arborvitae and Rhododendrons, but turfgrass damage occurs too. Snow cover reduces moisture loss from plants and as snow melts, it recharges soil moisture and re-hydrates plant tissue.

Disadvantages to snow cover may be vole damage and suffocation. Voles are small, mouse-like rodents who feed on grass beneath snow. Voles eat plant crowns to kill individual plants. As snow melts, 1- to 2-inch-wide tracks bare of grass are seen in lawns.

These areas recover once spring arrives and grass grows to fill in bare areas. Hence, vole damage is not a great concern for lawns. Voles will feed on and girdle tree trunks which kills trees. Protect trees by encircling the base of the trunk with hardware cloth.

Suffocation injury can occur in areas where snow is piled high and takes longer to melt. To prevent this, spread snow out when shoveling rather than piling it in one location.

Another good thing about snow cover is I don’t have to remind people to not apply lawn fertilizer or pre-emergence herbicides for crabgrass too soon.

In an average spring, the ideal time for do-it-yourselfers to begin applying fertilizer, or weed and feed products containing fertilizer and crabgrass products, is between April 20 and May 5.

If we have a warmer than average spring, apply during the early part of this range. If we have a colder than average spring, make the application during the latter part of this range.

And then there are those really not so average years. Since application is based on soil temperature, it is unlikely lawns will benefit from fertilizer applied earlier than April 20 in any year, despite the weather.

If we have a very cold spring like last year; there is a benefit to waiting until May 5 or even a little later to begin fertilizing and/or applying pre-emergence crabgrass herbicides.

Kelly Feehan is a community environment educator for Nebraska Extension-Platte County.