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What’s First: Feed, Weed or Seed?

This is a big question in early spring:  “My lawn needs everything what should I do first, put down seed or kill my weeds?  The reason why this question is tricky is because many of the weed controls will harm new grass seedlings.

Weed, Feed or Seed?

Here are your best two options:

Do you have less than 75% good grass with bare spots larger than a few inches in diameter?

Answer: If lots of larger spots, then seed this spring.  Be sure to use a special Starter Lawn Food plus Weed Preventer that is compatible with grass seed (the regular crabgrass preventers will keep grass seed from growing).  If you do not prevent weeds when you seed, you are likely to be very disappointed as crabgrass and other weeds will germinate and choke out your good grass before it has a chance to take hold.  A machine called a slit-seeder will help make sure the grass seed comes in contact with the soil.  You just select the Turf Builder Grass Seed blend that is right for your conditions, such as sun, shade, heat-tolerant, etc.  If you only have a few bare spots to take care of, consider Scotts EZ Seed.  I think this is the best bare spot repair product we have ever sold!  Spread the Starter Lawn Food plus Weed Preventer after you put down the seed.  Feed your lawn again in one month after seeding with Turf Builder Lawn Food.  Once your new grass has been mowed 4 times, you can kill weeds with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer OR Roundup For Lawns.

Do you have more than 75% good grass however your lawn is thin and weedy without widespread bare spots?

Answer:  If you have more than 75% grass, you may be surprised how your good grass will fill in with four feedings a year at 6 to 8 week intervals.  With this option you skip spring seeding (you can always seed in fall if your lawn still needs it).   Here is a schedule for the year:  Feed your lawn now with Scotts Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer.  In 6 to 8 weeks after your first feeding, feed again with Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed if you have lots of weeds or if you only have a few weeds, your second feeding can be Turf Builder Lawn Food and spot treat your weeds with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer OR Roundup For Lawns.  Put down Scotts GrubEx sometime in May or June.  In 6 to 8 weeks after your second feeding, feed again with Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard to control insects.  In 6 to 8 weeks after your third feeding, in late summer/early fall, feed with Turf Builder Lawn Food.

If you have questions during the year, the Scotts Help Center folks will be happy to help you.

How We Started Our New Lawn Several Springs Ago

We started a new lawn several years ago when we moved to Georgia.  The pictures below show how our new grass filled in when I followed my 6 tips to help your new lawn succeed.

·         Cheap seed will give you problems down the road.  Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed blends are sold for different lawn situations using the best available grass varieties.  Old seed that has been stored in a garage causing it to experience big temperature changes will germinate poorly. It is best to buy fresh seed and use it all up that season.

·         Rough up the top inch or so of your soil.  The idea is to make sure the seed is in good contact with soil and that it is no deeper than the top 1/8 inch. If you are seeding into an existing lawn, a slit-seeder can be rented to help the seed come in contact with the soil without damaging your grass.  If you do not use a slit-seeder, you can expect some of the grass seed to find its way to the soil and live after germination; however a good bit of the seed will sprout without finding soil for the roots to spread before drying out.

·         After you seed, feed and prevent weeds. I like to make one pass across the newly seeded area with an upside down leaf rake (tines pointed up). Note: this is a leaf rake, not a garden rake. . It is ok to still see some seed on the surface.  Then spread Scotts Starter Food for New Grass plus Weed Preventer to feed your new grass seedlings as they germinate while preventing crabgrass and other weed seeds from growing.  Note:  This is NOT the same as other crabgrass preventers that also prevent your good grass seed from growing.

·         Keep your new seed moist until your new grass is established. With colder spring soil you can sometimes count on 2 weeks or more before you see new grass sprouts. In fall this time can be cut down to 7 to 14 days because the soil is warmer. Also understand that no matter when you seed, you will generally see some of the grass seed come up a week or so before the rest of your seed germinates because of the different varieties in the seed blend and their different germination times. This is why it is important to keep up your watering a week or so after you begin to seed new seedlings.  If you suspect you will have a difficult time keeping the soil moist, a thin layer of straw can be spread over the seed.

·         Feed your new grass a second time. A feeding of Scotts Starter Food for New Grass (without the weed preventer) one month after seeding will really help your new grass fill-in any thin areas.

·         Don’t kill your new grass with a weed control. It is best to hold off using a weed control for dandelions and other weeds until your new grass has been mowed 4 times.

Our new Atlanta lawn just after putting down Scotts Heat Tolerant Blue grass seed on March 14, 2011  Notice the red Georgia clay.  (click photo to enlarge)

Our new Atlanta lawn on May 19, 2011; two months after seeding.  Notice our vegetable garden on the hillside beside the new lawn.  (Click photo to enlarge)

How to Deal with Snow Mold in Your Lawn

With the recent weather I am hearing about Snow Mold questions this year.  Gray Snow Mold and Pink Snow Mold are caused by fungi that thrive in moist conditions under melting snow that is on your lawn for several months. The Snow Mold patches are covered with gray, pink or white matted grass blades that appear to be stuck together. These patches can be up to several feet wide.

It is usually not necessary to put a fungus control on a lawn with Snow Mold.  In stead, rake patches as soon as you can in spring with a leaf rake to allow air and sunlight to get to grass plants. Lightly infected grass plants usually recover when the grass is fed and temperatures start to warm. If the patches are dead (showing no small green grass shoots after you rake), you may need to spread grass seed in these spots.

Your feeding should include a crabgrass preventer if crabgrass was a problem last summer. Click here to learn about Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer. If you are seeding, be sure to use a crabgrass preventer that will not prevent your grass seed from growing. Click here to learn about Turf Builder Starter Food For New Grass plus Weed Preventer.  If you had no crabgrass last year and you do not need to seed, you can feed your lawn with Turf Builder Lawn Food.

This is snow mold. A light raking with a leaf rake will break up matted grass so sunlight and air can reach new grass shoots

How to Create Your Lawn Care Plan

Need to revive a tired lawn? Wish your lawn looked greener and healthier? Just trying to maintain what you’ve got? In a few easy steps, you’ll be on your way to a better lawn.

Scotts “My Lawn Care Plan” is an interactive tool designed to help you achieve your desired lawn quality.  Answer a few simple questions based on where you live (your zip code), and you will learn the right lawn food & maintenance program for your lawn.

Just sign up for your FREE lawn care plan by clicking here.

This lawn could be greatly improved with a lawn care plan that puts down the right product at the right time.  (click photo to enlarge)

Suggestions for Southern Lawns in March

You can help make your lawn denser and thicker by feeding regularly during the year.  Four to five feedings a year at 2 month intervals really helps your grass grow deeper roots and crowd out young weeds before they get a chance to get a toehold.  (Note:  Centipede Grass should only be fed two or three times a year.) 

This lawn owner feeds her St. Augustine grass lawn on a regular schedule. Most lawns thrive with 4 or 5 feedings a year.

For southern Lawns this month your option if you have no weeds or only a few weeds is to feed with Scotts Turf Builder OR Scotts GreenMAX Lawn Food.  You can spot treat any stray weeds if needed (more later).

If you have more than a few weeds you can apply a Weed & Feed designed for your type of lawn:

·         Scotts Bonus S Southern Weed & Feed – use on St. Augustinegrass (including Floratam).  Apply to a dry lawn and water after spreading.  (Note:  This product can also be used on Zoysia and Centipedegrass lawns, however Turf Builder Weed & Feed may be a better option for these lawns depending on the weeds you are trying to kill.)

·         Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed – use on all Southern Lawns except St. Augustinegrass.   Apply to a moist lawn and do not water for 24 hours after spreading.

If you just have a few scattered weeds you can spot spray them with one of these weed killers:

·         Ortho Nutsedge Killer (this spray kills other weeds beside Nutgrass) – Can be used on any Southern lawn

·         Ortho Weed-B-Gon MAX for Northern and Southern Lawns – Can be used on any Southern lawn except Floratam (a type of St. Augustinegrass)

·         Ortho Weed-B-Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer – Can be used only on these southern lawns:  Bermudagrass and Zoysia.

And finally, Spring rains and warmer weather are encouraging fire ant mounds to show up.   I have had great success with the Ortho 2-Step approach to kill the fire ants I see and control the ones I don’t see.

·         Step 1 – Kill the Mound: Treat mounds you see with Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer.  This product is designed to kill the queen and destroy the mound.  Do not disturb the mound prior to treating.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of product over and around each mound and do not water.  Over the next several days the ants and queen in the mound will be killed.

·         Step 2 – Protect the Ground: Treating only the mounds you see is not enough to completely get rid of fire ants. That is because not all fire ant mounds are easily seen. Colonies may remain active underground, hidden from sight. Additionally, new queens can fly in to establish colonies or foraging fire ants may enter the yard to look for food. Use a lawn spreader to put down Ortho MAX Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules to protect your lawn by killing foraging fire ants and controlling new fire ant mounds from forming for up to six months.  Water your lawn after spreading the granules.

Suggestions for Northern Lawns in March

A good sign that spring weather is around the corner is when those of you in the northern states start to ask:  “What do I put on my lawn this spring to improve it?”

First thing is to pick up fallen tree limbs and rake any lawn areas that have a fungus called snow mold. These patches will be white or tan and will have grass blades stuck together in a mat. When you use a leaf rake on these patches, you help to expose the grass plants underneath the matted grass blades to sunlight and air so they can grow. You can also rake any matted tree leaves so your grass will fill in thin areas faster.

This is snow mold.  A light raking with a leaf rake will break up matted grass so sunlight and air can reach new grass shoots

This is snow mold. A light raking with a leaf rake will break up matted grass so sunlight and air can reach new grass shoots

Mow your lawn as soon as you start seeing the first sign of green growth. Some folks like to drop their mower height down a notch for the first mowing to remove the brown, dormant grass blades.  Just remember to raise it back up so your grass height after you cut is around 2-1/2 to 3 inches.

The next step is to figure out what to feed your lawn. You make your choice based on whether you had annual weeds, like crabgrass or foxtail, last summer. If you had these weeds, go with Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer with Lawn Food to do two jobs at one time: feeding and preventing new weeds from seed. Be sure to water your lawn after you spread this product. The alternative for those lawns with no annual weeds last summer is to feed with Turf Builder Lawn Food or Scotts Natural Lawn Food.

You should apply your crabgrass Preventer by the time forsythia bushes in your neighborhood have stopped blooming and lost their flowers, or if you do not have forsythia, by the time you see lilacs in bloom, or before you start seeing dandelion puffballs.

You should apply your crabgrass Preventer by the time forsythia bushes in your neighborhood have stopped blooming and lost their flowers, or if you do not have forsythia, by the time you see lilacs in bloom, or before you start seeing dandelion puffballs.

If your lawn has bare spots, spread Scotts EZ Seed. Remember to NOT spread Turf Builder Halts in areas you plan on seeding. If you have large areas to seed and you need to prevent crabgrass, you should use Scotts Turf Builder Starter Lawn Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer to stop crabgrass without stopping your new grass seed from growing.

This first feeding will help your lawn recover and fill in after winter. Your lawn will now be all set until you do your next feeding in about 6 weeks.

For answers to your lawn questions, my friends at the Scotts Help Center can help or leave me your question in the comments below.

Two Ways to Prevent Crabgrass and Other Lawn Weeds

Once crabgrass starts growing in early spring it is an aggressive, stubborn weed.  Even if you had just one crabgrass plant last year, your lawn could have thousands of crabgrass seeds lying in the soil right now ready to grow up and choke your good grass to death.

This photo of a mature crabgrass plant appeared in a Scotts publication about 20 years ago.  The caption:  “A single seed produced this monster crabgrass plant, which crowded out good grass as it grew.  Each plant is capable of producing tens of thousands of seeds for an even bigger problem next year.”

This photo of a mature crabgrass plant appeared in a Scotts publication about 20 years ago. The caption: “A single seed produced this monster crabgrass plant, which crowded out good grass as it grew. Each plant is capable of producing tens of thousands of seeds for an even bigger problem next year.”

I have good news.  There are two ways you can stop crabgrass and several other kinds of annual weeds before they begin to grow this spring.  Put down some Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer around the time of your first mowing.  This product does just what its name says:  halts crabgrass in its tracks by creating a barrier on your soil that stops it from germinating.  Plus it gives your good grass the deep Turf Builder feeding it needs to green up and create new roots this spring.  Unlike the bargain brands, the particles are tiny, which means you get a good weed barrier on every inch of your lawn.

The second way:  If you plan on putting down some grass seed this spring, you need to use a different crabgrass preventer that will not keep your new grass seed from growing.  Instead, use Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass plus Weed Preventer as it is compatible with grass seed and has the special food to help you get new grass faster.

You should apply your crabgrass Preventer by the time forsythia bushes in your neighborhood have stopped blooming and lost their flowers, or if you do not have forsythia, by the time you see lilacs in bloom, or before you start seeing dandelion puffballs.

You should apply your crabgrass Preventer by the time forsythia bushes in your neighborhood have stopped blooming and lost their flowers, or if you do not have forsythia, by the time you see lilacs in bloom, or before you start seeing dandelion puffballs.