Saturday, September 27, 2003

Fight spring weeds by feeding lawn now



By Richard Mullins
Gannett News Service

This may seem a tempting time to just give up on the lawn. After all, soon the leaves will fall, and then comes snow, right?

But a few simple steps now will work magic on the lawn that comes up next year, say landscaping experts.

Dropping down a general weed killer designed for fall will work better now than any other time because the weed's leaves are there to catch the droplets or flakes of herbicide, says Bob Ottley, president of One Step Tree and Lawncare in North Chili, N.Y.

This includes weeds such as clover and dandelions, which are both active now.

At this stage in the season, both grass and weeds are trying to build a deeper, more extensive root system for the winter.

If grass gets a leg up on weeds, it can compete better in the spring for space, sunlight and nutrients. Fewer, weaker weeds will make for an easier battle next spring.

A good, general fertilizer will help give the grass an edge in that fight, Ottley says.

To hire a lawn service to lay down an application of general weed killer and fertilizer on the average 7,000-square-foot lawn will cost about $50, Ottley says. Home-store products that use drop spreaders are cheaper, though they can take some planning and care to lay down the correct amount of product.

It's also a good idea to check that store-bought weed killers and fertilizers won't conflict.

Another problem in many parts of the country that experienced heavier-than-normal rainfall this year is moss.

"Moss is an interesting problem," says Brian Eshenaur with the Cooperative Extension Association of Monroe County, N.Y.

"Typically, moss grows in wet, shaded areas, but a new strain has emerged that grows in the full sun. Moss is a primitive plant that does not have a true root system, so it is not a good competitor with grass when the grass is thick and healthy."

Sometimes only tearing up the large sheets of moss and planting grass seed will solve the problem. Keeping lawn mowers set at three inches or above also will help, since grass cut too short actually helps moss, giving it more sun.

Some off-the-shelf products say they can kill moss, Eshenaur says, but only healthy grass, starving out the moss, will prove effective over the next year.

"The most effective thing against weeds is strong grass," Eshenaur says.

"So anything you can do to help it now will pay off in the spring."



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