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What you and your lawn need to know for spring

Friday - 3/21/2014, 8:46am  ET

Puppy In Grass (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)
Spring is finally here. But what do you and your grass really need? (WTOP file)

WASHINGTON -- Finally: It's spring. It's time to get in the spirit.

Meet Mike this weekend and next

I'll be at different events until the end of the month. On Saturday, March 22 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and Sunday the March 23 at noon and 2 p.m., I'll be at the Home & Garden Show at the Fredericksburg, Va., Expo & Conference Center.

On Saturday, March 29, I'll be at Severna Park Home Show at the Severna Park Community Center.

On Sunday, March 30, catch me at the Harford County Home Show at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md.

Spring lawn care check list

  • Time for your annual reminder to get a new blade for your lawnmower or sharpen the old one before the first cut. Blades less than razor-sharp tear the grass apart and make the lawn look awful.

  • Don't even think about cutting the lawn if it's wet. Wet grass cuts as badly as a dull blade.

  • If your old mower is, well…old, consider trading it in for a dedicated mulching mower. They cut super-clean and pulverize your grass clippings into perfect lawn food.

  • No matter what kind of mower you have, always return your clippings to the turf. They're the perfect extra food for your lawn, and returning clippings to the turf helps eliminate thatch.

  • If you have a cool-season grass such as bluegrass or fescue, make sure your turf is three inches high after cutting to prevent weed incursion.

  • Don't cut warm-season grasses until they have completely greened up.

  • And to prevent crabgrass, be ready to spread corn gluten meal next month -- just as the soil temperature approaches 55 degrees, which is when forsythia and redbuds begin to bloom. If you have a soil thermometer, set the probe four inches deep -- and send me your readings, so I can share them with our listeners.

Woodsman, don't top that tree

Bob and Katy in Gaithersburg write: "Is it too late in the season to trim the tops of our Leyland cypress trees? When we got them four years ago, they were five feet tall. They're now around 10 feet high, and our goal is to make them fuller."

You saved yourself a lot of money and grief by asking before cutting, Bob and Katy. Cut the tops off of pointy evergreens like these and they will look awful for awhile and then they'll die. Like arborvitae, Leyland cypress are bred to go straight up, not out.

The best way to make them an effective screen is with a staggered planting of two rows, to give the illusion of one solid mass of plants.

Spring into a new lawn with sod

Karen in Eastport writes: "When will be the best time to lay sod in our partially shaded backyard this spring? I'm thinking tall fescue is the best choice."

Yes, Karen -- you do want a fescue grass for shady areas.

Just be aware that fescues are clumping grasses that need to be over-seeded in the fall every couple of years because they can't fill in their own bare spots like sun-loving bluegrass. So it's critical that you identify the exact named variety of your sod so that you can buy matching seed in the years to come. Fescue grass blades come in many shapes, shades and sizes, so only buy sod that you'll be able to match -- or you'll have a checkerboard out there five years from now.

Don't add soil for sod, take some away

Karen in Eastport continues: "When will be the best time this spring to lay sod in our backyard? I know that I'll need to add top-soil or compost and till it up first."

You typically don't add soil for sod, Karen. In fact, you often need to remove some old dirt, as sod already has a considerable height of its own. Do till up what you have, and then carefully level the soil to where it's about an inch and a half below nearby paved surfaces.

Timing? You can lay sod pretty much anytime in the spring -- just have the surface prepared first, as sod should be laid the same day it arrives on site. If it can't be, make sure it stays out of the sun and don't delay for more than that one extra day.

Oh, and sod is really heavy, so consider having it professionally installed to prevent an aching back. The pros also know how to lay it so that it fills in perfectly.

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