PINE RIVER -- Lawn fertilizing should begin with a soil test, according to Wadena County Extension Educator Tom Hovde.
Today, it is important not to over-fertilize with nitrogen, because it can seep into ground water as nitrates. It is important not to over-fertilize with phosphorous, especially near lakes, because that can run off or seep into lakes and cause algae bloom.
Lawns kept longer, three inches tall or more, require no fertilizing, he said. Those maintained at 2.25 to three inches tall require fertilizing only in September.
Lawns maintained at two to three inches should be fertilized mid- to late August, he said. A high maintenance lawn mowed at one to two inches needs fertilizing late May to mid-June and again mid-August to mid-October, he added, or more even four times a summer.
The most important fertilizing period is late summer or early fall to give grass plants food to store over winter, he said.
Calculate the amount of fertilizer by multiplying the bag weight by the percent of nitrogen by 1,000 to equal the number of square feet it will cover, he said.
Weed and feed products conflict in application times, he added, recommending against these. Feed products need moisture to incorporate, while weed products should not be watered.
Fertilizing should be done on a cool, cloudy day to avoid burning lawns, while weed products should encourage burning the weeds, he said.
The most important food you can give a lawn is its own grass clippings, Hovde said. This does not produce thatch. Thatch actually is decomposed root material, not leaf material. Leaves decompose quickly, he said.
Don't rake grass clippings unless they clump.
If your lawn is plugged with thatch, using a product that pokes holes into the soil is the best alternative, he said. If the problem is extreme, rent a sod cutter and replace the lawn, he added.
Mowing should always be done with sharp mower blades to avoid tearing grass blades, he said. Most important, he warned, do not disable the mower system designed to prevent injuries to the operator.
Today's mowers are more intelligent than most operators, he said. The secondary mower handle, which stops the mower when released, prevents many injuries, he said, admitting he has cleaned his mower blades with his hands, not a stick.
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