From Across the Field – Growing Grass

I had the opportunity to head to southern Ohio this past weekend, and help my brother build some fence. While it is a tedious job, I sure enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and swing the hammer for a couple of days, before we were rained out on Sunday afternoon.

This week I mowed the lawn for the first time and I enjoy doing that early in the season when the grass in dark green and growing. If you want to keep the lawn looking nice, there are up to four times a year you can fertilize. The first is early spring, then around Memorial Day, Labor Day, and before Thanksgiving. I think if you are only going to fertilize once or twice a year, the best times to do it is before Thanksgiving and/or around Memorial Day. Late in the season builds roots and color for the winter, and fertilizing around Memorial Day will help it through the summer.

The key to letting you know when the best time to fertilize is when you finish mowing the seed heads off the grass in May. Right now the movement of energy in grass and many other perennial plants is up, trying to produce leaves and seeds. Once the plants are done producing seeds, movement of energy will be down, taking the sunshine, converting it to sugar or energy, and storing that in the roots to help it survive another year. This is when fertilizer works the best as the movement of energy is down to help build roots. I recommend a slow release high nitrogen fertilizer with only ½-1 # of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet, this will green up grass but not make it grow too fast. The added root development will help grass through the summer stress period which we have most years (last year was an exception).

Here is another perspective, if you do not mind clover in your yard, especially the small White Dutch Clover; it can provide all of the nitrogen your grass will need. Clovers are legumes, which produce nitrogen from bacteria that attaches to the roots and “fixes” atmospheric nitrogen, which becomes available to grass. So if you want a nice looking lawn without adding fertilizer, clovers will be a big help. In addition, clovers are excellent pollinators. Up until the 1960’s it was actually common practice for seed companies to mix white clover with bluegrass as a way to incorporate nitrogen fixation.

However, if you do not want White Clover in your lawn, it is the Weed of the Week! The best defense against a clover infestation is maintaining a dense, vigorous stand of turfgrass. Growing conditions that favor turf often discourage the growth of white clover. Increasing nitrogen fertility (see above) and reducing soil moisture will help create an environment better suited for turfgrass growth and less conducive for white clover. For chemical control, herbicides containing the active ingredients aminocyclopyrachlor, fluroxypyr, triclopyr or quinclorac have performed well in university research. I’ll end this week with a quote from Steve Jobs: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Have a great week.
Garth Ruff,
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator
OSU Henry County Extension

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