No more cold weather woes: spring into action armed with lawn care advice

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After a long and nearly intolerable winter, spring has finally arrived. The prolonged cold weather has brought several challenges and, in many ways, has made good lawn care this spring critical. Salt, used in driveways and on sidewalks, for example, will destroy the roots of a lawn and leave brown, lifeless patches. The overuse of salt this past winter season has damaged many lawns. Now that the snow has melted away, tackle your lawn and get it up to snuff.

Joseph Vitale, owner of Tru Cut Landscaping in Glenview, admits that this snowy winter has been one for the record books.

“Not only has it been hard on people, it has also been extremely tough on our lawns and gardens,” Vitale said. “Issues like snow mold, heavily matted lawns, salt and plow damage and extremely large piles of snow have wreaked havoc on turf and gardens.”

Vitale recommends taking the proper steps to ensure a quality lawn not only for the remainder of the season but also for years to come.

“We would recommend starting the season off with a spring cleanup: clean out all plant beds from unwanted debris and dead plant growth and power rake the lawn with a dethatching machine, which will remove the unwanted layer of thatch hidden under your grass and give it a good vigorous combing,” Vitale said. “Lawns are very matted down in spots due to the heavy snow so the power rake machine will help with this.”

In addition to fertilizers and pre-emergent weed control with a lawn feed, Vitale suggests employing core aeration.

“This is the process of removing 3-4 inch deep cores or plugs out of the lawn, allowing the lawn to breath better and encourage fertilizer and water to reach the root zone where it is most needed. Plus the plug that is left behind on the lawn will break down over time adding necessary nutrients to the lawn,” he said.

Having a gorgeous lawn isn’t as difficult as one might think. Ryan T. Reece, landscape designer and sales manager at Red’s Garden Center in Northbrook, said, “Spring is the ideal time to initiate grub control. The first application is a grub killer, then a grub preventer should be applied in late June, which will control the adult grub that emerges in the fall.”

According to Reece, homeowners should apply a lawn fertilizer containing crabgrass preventer to promote growth and greening while preventing seed from germinating. If seed does germinate, a plain higher nitrogen lawn fertilizer can be used.

Dan Marchiafava, president and registered landscape architect of Joe and Tony Landscaping, located in Highland Park, Northbrook and Prairie View, believes that the extended frosty winter may have had some perks in regards to lawn maintenance.

“This has been an especially brutal winter but it may actually be a benefit to your lawn,” Marchiafava said. “The milder the winter, the more pests that will survive, so we may actually see less pests this coming season.”

Marchiafava said homeowners could do some basic things for their lawns such as mow the lawn with a sharp blade and pay attention to shaded areas, slopes and high traffic spots.

“I see lawn care as being like loosing weight, you know what to do, you just don’t do it,” Marchiafava said. “Most people don’t have the time to deal with all of these issues; calling on professionals — with a good reputation — to handle their property is ideal.”

Kim Goers Boyer, director of marketing at Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale, said: “Spring is the best time to plant seed and lay down new sod. Just be sure to keep it well watered for about two or three weeks after planting.”

Once the weather warms up, Boyer suggests sufficiently watering your lawn so that it won’t go dormant.

“Simply make sure your lawn is getting about a quarter-inch of water each week to keep it alive,” Boyer said. “Once it has gone dormant, wait for the cooler temperatures to bring it back to life. You don’t want to stress it by bringing it in and out of dormancy.”