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Gardening With Gutner: Getting Ready For Growing Season

By Mark Saidnawey, WBZ Gardening Expert
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BOSTON (CBS) – Each spring I make sure I have completed certain tasks by the time the Forsythia are in bloom and since they decided to burst into color a couple of weeks early this year I will follow suit and make sure that I apply my fertilizers and weed controls this upcoming weekend.

First the Garden:

Each spring I add a fresh layer of compost to my garden. This year I chose the Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend Lobster Compost. Available at select garden centers this compost is very nice mixture that will add nutrients and also help build your beds with very rich soil. Visit coastofmaine.com for product information. After adding a layer of compost I spend a some time adding fertilizer to all my perennials, trees, shrubs and rose bushes. I like the Espoma brand. It is 100-percent organic and easy to apply. Plant-Tone, Holly-Tone and Rose-Tone is all you need! A sprinkle here and a sprinkle there and you are all set and ready to go.

Second the Lawn:

Do you want your lawn to look like Fenway Park?

Well if so, it is vital that you apply the first, and most important fertilizer application by the middle of April. Either a synthetic fertilizer and pre-emergent weed control like Scott’s Step 1 or and organic options like Corn Gluten.

What Does A Pre-Emergent Control Do?

Pre-emergent herbicides are chemicals that prevent the germination of weeds in your lawn. These herbicides control annual grass weeds like crab grass, chickweed and dandelions by inhibiting their cell division in the young root system. The failure of the root system to develop, results in the death of the young seedling weeds shortly after germination.

When Do I Apply Them?

Timing is very important. Pre-emergent controls must be applied before the bad “weedy” seeds are allowed to germinate. For us, here in New England, it is generally the middle of April, especially when you see those brilliant yellow flowers of the forsythia in bloom. That is my signal.

So Which Type of Fertilizer Should I Use?

Synthetic vs Organic

We are all familiar with those television commercials for Scott’s lawn fertilizer with crabgrass control. This a great choice for a synthetic lawn fertilizer and is very effective the same year it is applied. However, with the increasing desire to use only organic products in your lawn and garden, there is now a great alternative for you to consider.

Gaining in popularity over the past few years, corn gluten meal (CGM) is a natural substitute for synthetic pre-emergent herbicides. The use of corn gluten meal as an herbicide was actually discovered by mistake during a turfgrass disease research project conducted at Iowa State University. Since then, CGM has been proven to prevent weeds from sprouting including seeds from many weeds such as crabgrass, chickweed, and even dandelions. You should apply CGM the same time you would any other pre-emergent, then a second time around mid-August. Spread the product evenly, at a rate of twenty pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Water it lightly into the soil to activate it. The CGM should remain effective for five to six weeks each time you apply it.

Tips:

Whichever type of pre-emergent crabgrass fertilizers you choose, you should apply it evenly over the entire lawn. Even if you have only noticed crabgrass in certain areas of the yard in previous years, take the time to cover the entire lawn. Spots that are skipped can allow stray crabgrass seeds to germinate, grow and spread.

Do not aerate your lawn after application and wait three months before reseeding any part of the lawn

If you are planning to over-seed on bare spots, or perhaps reseed the entire lawn, you will need to wait up to 3 months before applying new seeds as the pre-emergent will prevent any germination of new grasses.

So there you have it, garden and lawn ready for another growing season.

Feel free to email me with any questions or comments at Mark@PembertonFarms.com

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