Spring Lawn & Garden Preparation

by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
April 4, 2004

How lush, vigorous and dark green is your lawn grass? When was the last time the soil was analyzed? If the soil has a high clay content, it probably is compacted, making it  difficult for air, water and fertilizer to penetrate into the root zone. You should aerate it, then apply gypsum, and organic matter. Once the soil is aerated, the water, air and amendments will move into the root zone easier.

Fertilizing & Mowing Your Lawn

If the soil needs fertilizer, you should wait until after the new grass growth has been mown two or three times. Apply only a small amount of fertilizer (six pounds of 15-5-10 per 1,000 square feet). If you applied fertilizer earlier, it probably served the benefit of weeds more than grass, and with St. Augustine grass, brown-patch disease may occur later. Long-lasting, slow-release nitrogen fertilizers develop stronger slower-growing grass that is more resistant to disease and insects problems and needs mowing only once a week. Do not apply fertilizer too early or too much and force your lawn grass into problems!

Leaving grass clippings on your lawn will add nutrients to the soil and reduce the need for fertilizer by about one-third. If the grass is cut high (three inches or higher), it will slow weed growth, reduce water evaporation, keep the soil cooler, and reduce the need or mowing.  Scalping the grass allows sunlight to penetrate to the soil, so that more weeds can germinate and grow. Never cut more than one-third of the grass blades off at any one mowing!

Apply gypsum to your lawn to soften clay soil and counteract sodium in irrigation water.

Controlling Spring Pests

If cankerworms (inchworms) ate the leaves on your trees and shrubs and are dropping to the ground on a thread, it is much too late to apply any kind of treatment. To be effective, the treatment must be applied before the adult female climbs up the plant or the larvae (caterpillars) are very small. Cankerworms may re-emerge as problem in the fall.

Healthy trees and shrubs can grow another crop of leaves. However, if fertilizer is applied under the drip-line, it should replenish nutrients that were in the leaves that the worms consumed.

Prune early flowering trees and shrubs after their flowers mature.

Aphids can be controlled with dusting, spraying, or the release of ladybugs.

Flower & Vegetable Selection

The following flowers may be planted in April: coral vine, cosmos, elephant ears, gladiolus, hibiscus, marigolds and zinnias.

Mums should be divided and placed into other beds. Temperatures are still too cool to plant periwinkles.

Vegetables that can be planted are: beans, celery, Swiss chard, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplants, Romaine lettuce, melons, mustard, okra, Southern peas, peppers, pumpkins, radish, New Zealand spinach, summer squash, winter squash, second-crop tomatoes, and turnips.

More on Lawn Care

Dr. Elmer Krehbiel is the former President of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.