Think Green: Planting the seed for a fresh, season ready yard

As the snow melts and unearths the hibernated ground below, it’s clear the lawn is in need of a spring refresh! The aftermath of winter and its below-freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on grass, causing a troublesome invasion of weeds and damaged soil. However, with a dedicated maintenance schedule and help from local lawn care professionals, working toward a healthy lawn is just a cut away.

Timeline of Care

When it comes to landscaping and yardwork, there is a timeline of care that can be followed to help achieve a healthy lawn. Getting ready for spring begins with cleaning out planting beds and raking the yard to clear out debris, weeds and dead grasses left over from winter. Doing so sets a solid foundation for a well-maintained yard later in the year.

Rich Curran, a manager in landscape management at Vande Hey Company, Inc. in Appleton also recommends adding quality fertilizer to the regime.

“Getting fertilizer down during the year is very important to strengthen your lawn,” he says. ”Nitrogen, iron and potassium are all important for good lawns.”

There are a variety of fertilizer options on the market ranging from conditioning products to natural and organic solutions. Along with fertilizer, weed prevention plays a key role in lawn care and should be established by late April to early May.

“You want to get a broadleaf weed control down,” Curran explains. “Without question, weeds are the greatest issue for most people.”

As ground temperatures warm, using herbicides, like a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer, can help control unwanted plants, and possibly, their associated pests.

“Fertilizer application times can be remembered easily by using the four main holidays of summer and fall,” Steve VanRyzin, a Horticulturalist and Senior Landscape Designer for Van Zeeland Nursery & Landscape in Little Chute, says. “Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and finally Halloween are great to use as reminders.”

As summer arrives, maintenance becomes even more crucial due to the heat and dryness of the season.
“Lawns need three basic things to thrive: sunlight, fertile soil and water,” VanRyzin says. “Sunlight is plentiful during the growing season, but rainfall can be irregular each year… Grass grows best with 1 inch of water per week, which may require regular sprinkling or the installation of an irrigation system.”

Individuals can then safeguard their lawn before temperatures cool and frost arrives.

“Once we get to fall, you should cut back perennials 3-4 inches from the ground,” Curran says. “Protect all sensitive plants such as roses and any plants or shrubs planted in the past two years.” Curran also recommends treating the lawn with a winter fertilizer that is high in potassium.

Not All Lawns are Equal

Properly landscaping a lawn is quite a process, and no two lawns are the same.

“Every lawn battles some variation of compaction, nutrient availability, soil type, traffic, water availability and shade,” Dr. Brad DeBels, Director of Operations for Weed Man Fox Valley, says. “We consistently provide the best products on the market to tackle these challenges and provide expert advice for every unique property.”

Between long stretches of yard to a beautiful landscaped oasis, each plan of care is unique. “Lawns that are in full sun versus mostly shade require different approaches,” Curran says. “Whether a homeowner is OK using chemical solutions versus a chemical-free, organic approach are all variables to consider.”

With the variety of factors that come with landscaping, professionals take many factors into account. Their services aim to provide guidance and high-quality products that enable individuals to independently upkeep their yard. While many may enjoy working in their yards, consulting with a service can help educate homeowners on proper care.

When it comes to upkeep, landscaping experts note typical care mistakes amongst their clients. From overcutting the lawn to incorrectly shaping shrubs, knowing how to correctly maintain your lawn will help it look its best.

“Underwatering a newly seeded lawn is probably the most common error made when establishing a lawn,” VanRyzin says. “It is critical for new seed to remain loose until it fully germinates before you can slowly reduce your watering times.”

Gemination, the process of sprouting from a seed, can take up to 21 days for desired grass types such as bluegrass and fescue.

“Homeowners are prone to back off on the watering as soon as the early grasses show up, which can decrease the chances of a truly successful new lawn,” VanRyzin says.

To increase the success in establishing a newly seeded lawn, it is recommended to increase watering for the full three weeks. Giving your lawn a little TLC will go a long way too.

“Be patient, let the grass grow,” DeBels advises. “Having a great looking lawn takes an investment in time and money.”
DeBels also encourages proper cultural practices: “mowing, irrigation, nutrition and aeration are key in creating a great looking lawn.”

“The Fox Valley area has a lot of clay for soil,” Curran adds. “For this reason, it is important to aerate your lawn in the fall to allow for more air and water into the soil.”

Adding compost to planting beds can also help shrubs and plants maintain health from the roots up.

New Season Trends

Despite longing for a clean cut and impeccably designed yard, new trends are trickling in that go beyond simple seed treatments and trims.

“Homeowners have taken an interest in their yard and want to enjoy being outside more,” Curran says. The trend to improve outdoor living spaces and shift to organic solutions are what is hot right now.”
Since the pandemic, the heightened awareness of health, safety and life enjoyment has inspired many to create divine yards.

“More people are entertaining at home, which makes them want to increase and enhance their outdoor entertainment spaces with new and updated paver patios which can include fire pits, kitchen areas, pergolas, as well as pools,” VanRyzin explains.

There are endless ways to design a yard, especially with all the decorative options to choose from. From intricate layouts made using stone, colored mulches and various water-related additions, yards can easily be tailored to an individual’s own style. Bringing in unique elements rich in character, such as conifers—trees with cones or needle-like qualities—have also been on the rise.

“The demand for these plants by our customers has been continually growing over the last 20 years, but has really climbed over the last 2 years,” VanRyzin says. “Customers want to plant something that will distinguish their landscape from their neighbors’ as well as offer character and interest throughout the year.”

Along with ways to decorate, innovative care options are ever growing and satisfaction comes down to the eye of the beholder.

“Some enjoy a weed-free, lush lawn while others prefer something different,” DeBels says. “The real key is matching the lawn with the homeowner and providing the result in an environmentally friendly manner.”

Simplistic measures are also trending when it comes to lawn makeovers and include introducing organic products that can benefit the yard, the family and the wallet.

“One of the biggest makeover trends we see happening is the moving away from chemicals for lawn and flower care over to organics,” Curran says. “The ability to keep pets and children safe from chemicals is one of the easiest makeovers any homeowner can make.”

Lawn makeovers can range from a standard weekly cut and reseed to a major overhaul with finesse. Regardless of the dream for an ideal lawn, the pros offer a solid piece of advice: patience.

“Thinking it will take one spring for a makeover is a mistake,” DeBel says. “It can often take an entire season of great care to complete a lawn makeover.”

Those wishing to reap the benefits of a gorgeous yard should expect to follow the timeline of care to nourish their lawn all year.

“The real key is patience and understanding proper expectations,” DeBel explains. “A great looking lawn does not happen overnight, but instead is a continual process of proper management.”

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