In Cyr Plantation and Caribou, Maine, we see the warm weather rising and snow melting. As spring continues to appear and our lawns get cleaned & repaired, it also brings the start of the lawn care application season closer. However, you might think that as soon as the first new, green grass blades peek out of your dormant turf or the first pesky yellow dandelion flowers appear that it’s immediately necessary to apply fertilizer or weed controls. Instead, patience is truly the key to growing a thriving lawn.
The Spring Lawn Care Application Process For Maine Lawns
Fertilizing your lawn
Let’s start with applying nutrients in the form of fertilizer. While proper plant nutrition is a critical component to winter turfgrass recovery and spring green-up, the plant must be able to uptake the nutrients effectively. While soils may warm rapidly on the surface, temperatures can vary greatly just a few inches below where most turf roots are present. This difference can result in soils being only partially thawed, despite being able to see a slight green-up, so water and nutrients cannot move freely through the soil.
Roots are also a vital component of nutrient uptake. If roots have not fully recovered from any winter dieback, they cannot process nutrients. In addition, for nutrients to be uptaken by roots, specific processes must occur within the plant that requires energy. For the plant to produce energy, it must be able to photosynthesize and, therefore, have green, viable leaves to absorb sunlight.
When timing spring fertilization, the informal rule of thumb is to wait until the lawn has achieved roughly 50% green-up. That is, half of the total turf stand is green rather than the ugly brown of dormancy. If fertilization is performed before this, it will not promote earlier growth, as this depends mainly on temperature. In addition, spring fertilization should not be relied upon as the sole mechanism for early season green-up, as a proper fall fertilization routine is more efficient for providing lush grass.
Broadleaf weed control
Broadleaf weed control is also a critical spring lawn care practice. The goal is to eliminate any annual summer weeds that have recently germinated and perennial weeds that have overwintered. However, as with fertilization, patience is vital in pursuing weeds. If our control measures are applied too early, only some of the weeds in your lawn will have germinated, and thus only this small percentage of weeds will be controlled. In addition, broadleaf weeds can only be maintained when they are up and actively growing. Based on this, blanket applications should be timed when as many weeds as possible are present to maximize the efficiency of the application.
Another reason precisely timing blanket applications of herbicide is critical is that different formulations provide better overall weed control at different times of the year. For example, certain herbicides can only be used in spring and fall. These seasons are when the turf is under minimal stress and can better process the collateral effects these specialty herbicides may have on turfgrass plants. If the majority of the weeds present are not controlled in the spring due to premature application, it may not be until fall that they can be satisfactorily controlled. While other herbicides can be used during the heat of the summer with caution, they do not usually target harder-to-control weeds and, depending on environmental conditions such as drought and heat stress, may not be able to control any weeds at all.
Dealing with dandelions
While many different species of broadleaf weeds exist within your lawn, let’s focus on a very common one: dandelion. These pesky weeds are perennials, meaning they persist for more than one growing season. This aspect means that just because you see their yellow flowers for the first time in the spring doesn’t mean that they haven’t been there since the fall prior.
Perennial weeds also reproduce by seed as well as vegetative parts. In the case of dandelions, they can reproduce via their thick taproots and the millions of puffball-like seeds that float onto your lawn from the neighbors. Even the smallest fragment will multiply, so don’t be tempted to hand-pull because your efforts will be in vain!
Many sources argue that dandelions should be controlled before they go to seed as white puffballs, and technically, that is not wrong. However, many viable dandelion seeds are floating around in the grand scheme of things. Whether they come from your neighbor’s lawn, the ditches along the roadside, or the meadow behind your house, the list is endless. Trying to prevent dandelion seedlings from contacting your lawn is an impossible task. Instead, waiting for a healthy number of dandelions to show their face and eliminating them all at once makes much more sense.
Patience is key to a healthy lawn
The moral of the story is this: whether it is fertilization or weed control, patience is truly the key. In the long run, waiting for a little more green-up or a few more days for dandelions to appear before a lawn care application will not hurt your lawn in the slightest. In fact, it will ultimately lead to the best-looking lawn in the most efficient way possible. As always, if you have any questions or are interested in having us take care of your lawn in Cyr Plantation and Caribou and beyond, don’t hesitate to contact us!
Want to wave goodbye to weeds this spring? At Northern Turf Management, we stop dandelions at the root of the problem with top-tier early spring weed control services. Learn more about our lawn care services in Maine by calling (207) 544-9420 or contacting us here.