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Fescue lawns deserve attention now

Perhaps the chief things on your mind these day are flowers and chocolates, but give a thought to your fescue lawn as well. The timing for midwinter lawn renewal is upon us, lasting from mid-February to early March. Fortunately, there are usually many days when the weather is just right for this activity.

It is not a huge project, mostly the application of fertilizer, some seeding and the inevitable weed control.

Many of you did significant reseeding of your fescue lawns last autumn, and I hope you have seen good results this winter. Fescue is a cool-season lawn, which is why major renewal is done in September and October.

But some care is important now to get the grass growing well so it looks good until it goes semi-dormant in the heat of July.

Fertilizer: Even if your lawn looks plush right now, it will benefit from fertilizer. Use a fertilizer formulated for lawns, meaning it is higher in nitrogen, which encourages green growth, and lower in phosphorus and potassium, which grass needs less of.

Read the label carefully and judge how much you need to buy based on the amount of lawn you have to fertilize. Round off the figures; no need to be as precise as your tax returns. This keeps you from buying too much fertilizer. A spreader helps to put down fertilizer more evenly than simply flinging it about with your hands.

Weed control. If crab grass has been a problem in recent years, use a product that keeps crabgrass from growing beyond the tiny stage after germination. It is generally called “pre-emergent crabgrass preventer.” This must be applied by about March 20 to be effective in stifling growth of new crabgrass plants. They arise from seeds distributed by the plants that bloomed last year and waited in the ground to make your life miserable again this year.

You must not use this on parts of the lawn where you intend to do some spot seeding because it will inhibit the real grass as well as the crabgrass.

Other weeds that are visible now can usually be dealt with simply by digging up and discarding them.

Bare spots. Work on any bare spots. Dig them up with a shovel; clear out any stray weeds, roots and rocks and make the ground smooth. Then sprinkle grass seed on top and tamp it down gently. Use the tines of a rake, if necessary, to spread them out. A thin layer of soil sprinkled on top will help keep the seeds in position when a hard rain threatens to move them around.

There should be enough rain to get the fertilizer going and protect any young seeds, but if there is not, plan to water with your sprinkler.

Mow your fescue grass at the highest level, about 3 1/2 inches or so. Fescue is a vertical, upright grass that benefits from high mowing. Never scalp it.