Category Archives: Spring gardening

Never Put a $10 Plant in a 10¢ Hole and Other Gardening Tips From Denver Master Gardeners

planting-1898946_1920Passionate gardeners love to talk about gardening, so with that in mind, we recently asked Denver Master Gardeners for their best gardening advice. Responses included tried-and-true practices, creative suggestions and good reminders for all of us as the gardening season kicks into full gear.

As the title of this post implies, we believe that great plants come from appropriate soil preparation. Amending with compost is often imperative as soil in our region tends to lack organic matter. But proceed with caution, as some plants, such as natives, prefer a leaner, less fertile soil. Too rich soil will cause these plants to underperform and often just flop over. It pays to do a little homework before planting, read seed package directions and have your soil tested.

One of our gardeners shared her recipe for amending soil: Add 1/2 a handful of both Alaskan fish pellets and triple super phosphate to half a bucket (such as a kitty litter pail) full of compost. Mix this into the planting hole for strong root development and beautiful blossoms.

A tip borrowed from the Rock Garden Society is to plant bare root. By gently shaking off most or all of the soil that the plant is purchased in, the plant will adjust to the garden soil without the soil interface (or boundary) that can occur between two soil types. Bare root planting promotes healthy root development.

mulch-1100555_1920Mulch, mulch, mulch is the mantra of many of our survey respondents as it keeps weeds out and moisture in. Add it like crazy each time you dig in the veggie, perennial and annual gardens and don’t forget container plants too. Small to medium-sized bark chips are popular, practical and pleasing to the eye. Natural mulch options are very effective, including not quite finished compost from the compost bin which will add carbon, feed living organisms, prevent water runoff and prevent compaction. Local arborists are often willing to drop off wood chips which would otherwise fill up the landfill. In the fall, mow over your leaves and spread them throughout the yard, they’ll breakdown by spring and add organic matter to your soil. Consider purchasing a chipper to grind up branches and other garden waste.

garden-hose-413684_1920Suggestions for responsible use of water include watering when the plant needs it instead of on a set schedule. Soaker hoses, often made from recycled material, are effective for watering plants at the soil line. Plants (even xeric ones)  need moisture to maintain healthy roots and overall strength, but often less than we think. For example, the Water Smart Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens is watered about seven times during the season.

Weeding can feel like a no-win battle, but attacking weeds after a soaking rain makes the task easier. Pull weeds and unwanted volunteer shrub and tree seedlings when they are small, before they take hold in the ground or develop seed. Add stepping stones to the garden to avoid stomping on plants and compacting soil when working in the garden.

bindweed-1207738_1920A clever tip to eliminate stubborn weeds, such as the nasty bindweed shown here, is to take a large piece of heavy cardboard, make a cut from the edge to the center. Keep the cardboard as level as possible, slip the vine in the center and spray the vine with the herbicide of your choice or horticultural vinegar, which is sold in garden centers. The cardboard will protect surrounding plants from overspray. Aggressive weeds may require multiple treatments during the season.

One of our members recommends a tomato planting technique passed on through generations of farmers. She adds blackened banana peel to the soil and feeds them with skim milk upon planting and again one month after that. This less conventional practice yields her sweet, abundant fruit. While CSU can’t vouch for the scientific efficacy of this, the banana could be adding potassium and the addition of calcium may reduce the chances of blossom end rot.

plant-1585251_1920Growing tomatoes in containers is recommended for those with limited space. Select varieties which produce smaller fruit such as Patio, Cherry or Sungold. Use a large container (18+ inches in diameter), a sturdy support and a tray with casters. This allows plants to be moved from the path of hail or to optimal conditions. Container plants of all kinds benefit from weekly feeding of 1/2 strength fertilizer.

To keep pests at bay, try a thorough weekly spray of water during the growing season, including the walls of the house and fence. It’s a kinder way to shoo pests away.

If your vines need a sturdier trellis consider building one out of remesh, which can be found at hardware stores. It makes a durable, cost-effective support and can easily be cut with bolt cutters. It also can be attached to supports to create a dog run or create plant cages.

botanical-garden-413489_1920In the flower garden, invest in perennials for texture and dimension and add annuals for bold color. “Enjoy the randomness of some plants that choose their own spots to thrive” suggests one gardener. What a positive way to think of the seedlings that sprout up at this time of the year. Remember, too, that perennials may not come into their glory until the second growing season.

Gardening is a four season hobby. Winter watering of trees and shrubs will help keep them healthy and  veggie gardeners can get a jump on the season by using a cold frame or floating row cover to get an early start on lettuce, spinach and other cool season crops. Fall is a fantastic time to fertilize, aerate and over-seed the lawn. It is also an ideal season to divide perennials so that they settle in and are ready to take off in the spring.  Share your divisions with your neighbors, too, or trade for plants you’ve admired (envied?) in their yards. If you need more gardening space, solarizing or sheet composting is an excellent technique to ready a new garden bed and can be started throughout the year.

And lastly, a veteran gardener advises us to “Remember each little garden flower or planting arrangement is a moment in time. It will change. Don’t worry about it or take it too seriously.”

 

Written by Linda McDonnell with thanks to the many Denver Master Gardeners who shared their advice.

All photos courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com, a source of royalty free images.

Where Does Baby Corn Come From?

A few weeks ago, one of my vegetable gardening friends asked me where she could buy seeds to grow baby corn.

She thought the tiny rows of corn stalks would look cute growing in her elevated garden bed.

I thought about it for a minute before telling her, “Baby corn comes from the same place as baby carrots.”

She looked confused until I explained what I meant. Then we both had a good laugh.

The baby corn found on appetizer plates and in stir-fry recipes isn’t a special variety of sweet corn. The tiny ears are the second ear from the top of regular sweet corn that’s been handpicked before the plant’s been fertilized. The top ear is left on the plant to keep growing into full size.

Because handpicking little ears of corn is especially labor intensive, almost all the baby corn we eat is grown and harvested overseas in countries like Thailand. Of course, there may be a few industrious U.S. growers who grow and harvest the baby ears of corn to sell in their husks at farmers markets.

But large farms steer clear of the early harvest because it can’t be mechanized.

The packages of baby carrots at the grocery store aren’t a special variety of carrot either. Baby cut carrots start out as full-size, slightly imperfect carrots that are sliced into smaller pieces, run through a mill and then polished into perfectly round “baby” carrots.

The idea for baby cut carrots came from one creative carrot farmer who was trying to find a way to increase carrot sales and reduce the amount of carrot waste from irregular or “ugly” carrots.

The leftover carrot scraps from the milling process don’t go to waste either. They’re usually composted, used as animal feed or turned into carrot juice.

The good news for vegetable gardeners is there are real baby carrots we can plant and grow in our gardens. These miniature varieties of carrots are sold in seed packets with names like ‘Romeo’ baby round carrots, ‘Baby Little Fingers’, and ‘Short ‘N Sweet’ carrots.

As for growing baby corn, you can always plant any variety of sweet corn and then start picking those little ears just after the corn silks emerge and before they have a chance to grow.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

Starting Seeds Indoors

It’s only January, but seed catalogs are arriving in the mail and gardeners are dreaming of summer. One way to get a head start on your vegetable garden is to start your own seeds indoors. It is relatively inexpensive to create your own seed-starting set up. In the long run you will save money because seeds are cheaper to buy than plants. If you want to take it a step further, you can save even more money by saving seeds from your favorite plants to start next year.

One of the great benefits of starting your own plants indoors is the amazing variety of seeds available at garden centers and in catalogs.  It’s great fun on a cold, snowy day to browse seed catalogs and find new and interesting varieties of your favorite vegetables to start for your garden.

Each type of seed has its own germination and growing requirements, but most seeds need to be started 6 -8 weeks before they will be planted in the ground.  To get seeds to germinate, you will need adequate light and soil temperatures above 70 degrees.  A warm sunny window may be adequate, but to ensure good germination and sturdy plants some extra help is often required. Cool soil temperatures and too little light will result in poor germination and spindly, weak plants.

To provide good light, use two four-foot florescent shop light fixtures suspended close

Shop light suspended from chain.

Shop light suspended from chain.

over the seedlings. The key to using florescent shop lights is to have one cool white and one warm white tube in each light fixture.  The combination provides the proper light spectrum for growing plants. Keep the lights on for 16 hours a day using a simple light timer. To avoid leggy, weak plants, keep the lights very close to the tops of the plants. This can be accomplished by hanging the lights from chains that you can adjust up or down.

To get the seeds to germinate you will need a warm, moist (not wet) environment. To ensure the proper environment for germination, use peat pots placed in seed starting trays with clear plastic covers.

Seed tray and clear cover

Seed tray and clear cover

The plastic covers keep the peat pots warm and moist until germination. Use a seed starting soil mix in the peat pots. Regular potting soil and soil from your garden are too heavy for starting seeds. Most seeds need soil temperatures of 70 degrees or above to germinate. To ensure adequate soil warmth, use heat mats under your seed starting trays.

Heat mat for starting seeds.

Heat mat for starting seeds.

Once the seeds have germinated and are growing, the heat mats and clear covers should be removed. The trays, covers, pots, starting mix and mats are all available at local garden centers.

Partial set up showing on light fixture.

Partial set up showing one light fixture.

Two four-foot shop light fixtures placed side by side fit perfectly over two standard 10.5” x 21” seed starting trays set end to end. Each tray holds 32 – 2.5” peat pots.

As the seedlings grow, raise the lights little by little to keep them just above the plants. Water just enough to keep the peat pots moist, but not soggy. The pots should not be sitting in standing water. Too much water will lead to poor germination and weak plants. You can also use a spray bottle to mist the plants to add moisture.  Once the plants are growing and develop true leaves, a weak solution of a Miracle-Gro type fertilizer will promote strong plants. Put two or three seeds in each peat pot to make sure at least one plant germinates per pot. As the plants grow,

Trays under lights after germination.

Trays under lights after germination.

keep the strongest plant in each pot and thin by snipping the weaker seedlings near soil level.  Always snip, don’t pull. Pulling out the weaker plants can disturb the roots of the remaining strong seedling.

Happy plants.

Happy plants.

About two weeks before you plan on putting the plants in the ground, start hardening off the plants by placing them outside for part of the day. Start off slowly! The leaves will be tender and susceptible to damage from too much sun or wind.  Start with a few hours in dappled shade on a mild day. The daytime temperatures should be above 55 degrees. Day by day, the plants will become stronger and can be left out longer and in more direct sun. Do not leave them out overnight if the temperature will dip below 50. Peats pots are small and can dry out very fast.  Make sure the plants have adequate water while hardening off. One way to avoid plants drying out while they are hardening off is to transplant the seedlings from peat pots to 4 ½ inch or one gallon pots with regular potting soil. The plants really take off with the extra room and the larger pots are not as prone to drying out.

After two weeks or so, your hardy plants are ready to go into your garden.

For more information check out these publications from CSU Extension:

Plantalk 1034: Starting Seeds Indoors

Fact Sheet 7.409: Growing Plants from Seed

Fact Sheet 7.602: Saving Seed

Written by Mark Zammuto, a Denver County Master Gardener

What are your 2016 Garden Resolutions?

picjumbo.com_IMG_7189 (1)Spring is such a tease. One day its warm temperature and brilliant blue sky lure you into the garden, the next day you’re frantically protecting  plants from late season frost with sheets and buckets!  For many passionate gardeners, this transitional season marks the real start of the year. So it follows that Spring also offers a do-over on January’s resolutions. Not the “I’ll never eat another french fry” type, but rather, goals that expand your gardening skills, accomplish something you’ve long wanted to tackle or spark your creativity. Here are a few ideas.

  • Embrace shade. Relocate those plants that used to be in sun, but are now shaded by  vigorously growing taller plants. Observe the kind of shade you have – moist or dry or semi-shady with early or late day sun. Re-plant with plants  that are suited to your area such as Annabelle hydrangea (like moisture, especially to establish), coral bells (many new beautiful varieties), sweet woodruff (vigorous and non-picky), Oregon grape holly, bleeding hearts or plumbago (needs some sun, great for late summer blue color). Many more shade gardening ideas here.
  • Grow something you’ve never grown before. Maybe it’s a new vegetable, like heirloom tomatoes or New Mexico chilies. How about some new-to-you herbs to take your cooking up a notch?  For an extensive variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers, we’re partial to our Denver Master Gardener Plant Sale on May 14th and 15, but wherever you get your plants or seeds, resolve to eat veggies you grow yourself.
  • Shake up your planters. Are you guilty of using the same plants in your container gardens? This year, try mixing perennials, grasses or herbs or using a new color palate. Select plants requiring the same light and moisture which will fit your container once mature. Also  consider waiting to plant containers till after the traditional Mother’s Day weekend when a wider variety of plants, which are often more mature, are in the marketplace. Or, if you have perennials to divide, consider using your new plants in containers. Some that work well include Denver Gold Columbine, Kent Beauty Oregano and May Night Meadow Sage.

What are your garden resolutions this year? We’d love to hear.

 

Submitted by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

Photo Credit: Picjumbo.com

Seed Research in Fort Collins, CO

Staff at the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, preserve more than 1 million samples of plant germplasm. Here, technician Jim Bruce retrives a seed sample from the -18 ºC storage vault for testing. Photo by Scott Bauer.

Staff at the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, preserve more than 1 million samples of plant germplasm. Here, technician Jim Bruce retrieves a seed sample from the -18 ºC storage vault for testing.
Photo by Scott Bauer.

The Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit, is part of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).   The  National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) is in Fort Collins, CO.  They collect, store, test and research  both plant and animal genetic resources.

The National Seed Storage Laboratory is part of the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation.

The seed storage lab “opened in 1958 and was expanded in 1992. • Seeds are packaged in moisture proof foil bags for cold vault storage (-18°C; 0°F). • Cryogenically (liquid nitrogen, -196°C; -320°F) stored seeds are sealed in polyole n tubes.”

“The testing and storage protocols developed at NCGRP are shared with other researchers and genebanks and our expertise is used worldwide.”  “Seeds are evaluated for viability (tested for germination or dormancy) before and during storage”.

They recently sent seed to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway which “included a wild Russian strawberry that an expeditionary team braved bears and volcanoes to collect.”

Field collection of seeds can be a very adventurous scientific career.  Collecting seed from your own garden is usually less exciting — but equally important.  I hope you saved some from last year for use in your garden this year.  Please subscribe to this blog for continuing stories about seeds.

Take a Soil Test to Start the Gardening Season

soil sampleWhen it comes to growing a garden, if a little fertilizer is good, a lot is better. Right?

Not really. Fertilizer applications should match the needs of the soil and plants. Too much fertilizer, especially applied to smaller areas, can create more problems. One proven way to avoid overfertilizing is to invest in a simple soil test. It’s a tool that gives the most accurate method to tell the fertility of a garden, lawn, field or pasture.

“It’s important to get a soil test to know how your garden will grow over the season,” says Tegan Deeney, a lab tech with CSU’s Soil, Water and Plant Testing Lab in Fort Collins.

“I tested my soil when my pumpkin plants started dying when they were only two inches tall. My soil test showed there wasn’t enough nitrogen nitrate in the soil, and there was a simple fix.” She says a lot of pumpkins grew that year after she amended the soil with the recommended nutrients.

“The earlier you test, the better. You won’t run into the issues of trying to amend the soil around plants,” she adds.

Instead of guessing what your soil needs, a routine garden and landscape soil test will give you the specifics. For the $35 fee per sample, you’ll get results on soil pH, EC (Electrical Conductivity measures the available nutrients in the soil), organic matter, nitrate, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, boron, lime, and texture estimates.

In 2015 CSU’s Soil Testing Lab evaluated 2700 soil samples from horticulture alone. That total doesn’t include research soils or soil samples from farmers.

A soil test uses samples collected from the yard, garden or field. Soil sample collection kits are available from CSU Extension offices or some garden centers. CSU’s Soil Lab website has soil collection forms, instructions and a list of participating garden centers. For more information contact the lab at 970-491-5061.

A typical sample uses only two cups of soil that’s a combination of 5 to 15 samples (depending on the size of the area). Here are the basic steps for collecting a sample:

1. Use a clean, rust-free trowel or spade.
2. Collect samples at a depth of 6 inches; dig straight down, not at an angle.
3. Take at least 5 samples of soil from the area and combine in a clean plastic container.
4. Remove about two cups of soil and allow to air dry.
5. Place the sample in a CSU soil container or a sandwich-size plastic bag.
6. Seal and label with name, address and location of the sample.
7. Send the sample to the testing lab.

The turnaround time for results is about two weeks. Results will be mailed to you or include an email address for a faster reply. The lab results will tell you which nutrients your garden needs or if there’s an overabundance of nutrients.

With all the time, money and effort it requires for successful planting and growing, it makes sense to invest in a simple soil test. Consider it a gardening investment, almost like buying a plant insurance policy.

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener

How to Grow Blueberries in Colorado Gardens

BlueberriesColorado gardeners who fall in love with the idea of growing their own blueberries may be disappointed with the results. There just isn’t enough room on a planting tag for all the information they need.

Even if they carefully follow the basic planting instructions, blueberries need much more than “Full sun, acidic soil (incorporate peat moss or organic matter into soil), good drainage, fertilize in early spring, moderate watering.”

That’s because blueberry shrubs arrive in Colorado from growers in the northeast or the northwest where conditions are ideal for growing the plants. The climate on each of those coasts is significantly different from Colorado’s land-locked and semi-arid climate.

The two main challenges the blueberry planting tags don’t cover are the soil pH problems and the way winter dries out plants in our region.

Both of these problems can be solved, but it takes extra effort.

Thanks to CSU Extension blueberry experiments, gardeners have a proven blueprint for blueberry success.

The experiments, conducted by Joel Reich while he was a CSU Extension Horticulturist, are detailed in a one-hour webinar recorded in August 2012 called Blueberries for Colorado Gardens.

Anyone with online access can view the free program to learn all about the best blueberry varieties to plant, where to find them, how to plant and fertilize them, best practices for winter protection and how to keep birds and deer from getting to the juicy fruits before gardeners can enjoy them.

The blueberries growing in CSU’s trial gardens in Longmont show that if gardeners plant in sphagnum peat moss and provide special winter protection, they can enjoy fresh blueberries season after season.

Joel grew blueberries in the trial garden for more than 16 seasons in the same bales of peat moss. He devised a fertility maintenance program with a special combination of acidic fertilizers to use on a May, June, July schedule.

Planting

Best practices for planting blueberries mean planting directly inside the sphagnum peat moss bales. The bags are opened only part way to help retain moisture. Holes in the bottom of the bag provide drainage. Drip irrigation is important to make sure the soil stays consistently moist.

The bags are placed in trenches so they’re at grade level, but they could also be placed in a raised bed. Gardeners could grow plants in patio or balcony containers if they select the blueberries classified as “half-high.”  Plants growing in containers will need even more protection from wind in winter.

Protection

The key to providing winter protection is to prevent the damage caused by dry weather, low humidity and winds. It’s especially important to wrap or cover each plant so winter winds can’t suck the moisture out of the dormant buds.

The blueberry shrubs need to be wrapped in layers of burlap with the branches tied up and together. An alternative is to cover each plant with a trash barrel that’s weighted down.

By Jodi Torpey

Early May in the Garden

poppy pair

Early May brings us the beauty of iris, the  continuation of tulips and the grace of the shade loving Bleeding Heart. As of May 5th,  we are past our 10 year average final frost date. Even so, many gardeners watch evening lows for the next week or so before putting out tender plants such as basil, tomatoes and many annuals. If worried about a plant in your yard, a good tip is to cover it with a bucket or sheet. A light dusting of snow generally doesn’t cause harm; in fact, it serves as an insulator.

Now is a good time to evaluate your perennial beds.frontgarden

  • Will there be early, mid and late season color?
  • Would some plants do better in another area?
  • Is there an interesting variety of spikey, round and open faced flowers to create visual interest?
  • Do you have a mixture of foliage, color and shape?
  • Are there areas that are too sparse or too crowed?

All of these elements contribute to an interesting, informal, season-long garden. “Perennials sleep in the first year, creep in the second year and leap in the third”, is a common garden adage to keep in mind when designing a garden bed.

The Plant Select brand of plants, which are tested for success in our climate by Colorado State University, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Colorado landscape industry. Given the wide array of  these plants, you are likely to find many to fill your needs. Check www.plantselect.org for information on plants and creative garden design layouts.

We hope you’ll join us for our  Denver Master Gardener Plant Sale  for an  amazing array of veggies, herbs, annuals and perennials (including some Plant Select varieties). Stop by on Saturday, May 16th from 8-3 or Sunday, May 17th from 10-3 at the Denver Extension office, 888 E. Iliff Avenue. Here’s a small sample of the gems our Master Gardeners are growing:

  •  Lemon Cucumbers – yellow, round and sweeter than classic types. A new one to try.
  • Pumpkin on a Stick or Tree Pumpkin – a bright and curious ornamental that is long lasting in a vase. Fun for kids and adults alike.
  • Tomatillos – easy to grow plant produces lots of fruit for your authentic salsa.
  • Silver Fur Tree Tomatoes – Heirloom variety which produces heavy crops of red fruits. Unique ferny foliage which performs well in a pot.

Enjoy early May in the Garden!

Be sure to  subscribe to Denver Gardeners blog (see right column for directions). We aim to educate and encourage gardeners of all experience levels.

Balcony Gardening – Containers

Time to get your balcony garden ready for planting.

Rules:  ask the building management or homeowner’s association if there are any rules about having planters on your balcony.  You don’t want to invest money in pots and soil and not be able to use them.

Containers:  Check last year’s containers for cracks or sun-fading.  If you are buying new containers check out this link about container gardening basics 

When researching containers be aware that some articles may focus on patio containers – where weight and water run-off is not a consideration.  This link to house plant containers has useful information that could be applied to balcony containers.

You can buy up-scale containers that are light-weight plastic but look like ceramic or stone.  Most of these do not have a drainage hole.  Planting directly into these containers you run the risk of over-watering and drowning your plants.  It is best to put a saucer inside this pot and another container with a drain hole.

If you would rather re-use and re-purpose  – local thrift stores have many different types and sizes of pots and planters.  Just wash them out with regular dish soap.  In most cases that is sufficient.

Pots with a drainage hole need a saucer under them.  You do not want to water your plants and have the excess drip down into your neighbor’s balcony.  Deep saucers with sides at least an inch or more will work the best.  You can pour water into the saucer and the plant will soak it up from the bottom.

Pot sizes:  You can use large pots on your balcony if you do not fill them completely with soil.  Most annual plants and culinary herbs only about 6 inches of soil.  Fill the bottom of your 2 foot tall container with empty water bottles or other light weight items that will take up room and not break down in the soil.   You can top off the container with a saucer and a pot with the plants in it.  Or you could top with a saucer and then fill the top with soil.  Some soil and water will drip down into the bottom of your container but that will not usually not cause any problems.

Check back next month to hear about soil and plants or you can jump ahead to more detailed information in this Colorado State University Fact Sheet on container gardening.

How to Celebrate Lawn Care Month in April

green lawn with chairs

It takes a little work to whip a lawn into shape each spring.

After a long winter, it’s time to step outside and take a long look at the lawn. Most gardeners won’t like what they see.

While some lawns will look thick and green, thanks to that routine fall fertilizing, other lawns will need some help. To get the turf back on track means raking, aerating, weeding, reseeding, fertilizing, and watering. Fortunately it doesn’t all have to be done on the same warm spring day.

1. Grab a rake. Remove dead grass, fallen leaves and other debris from the lawn. If your lawn shows signs of thatch, like brown spots and general thinning, it may be time to use a power rake to lightly go over the lawn. The rake will remove the layer of built-up organic matter that sits between the leaf zone and the soil, usually caused by compacted soil.

2. Aerate the soil. Invigorate the lawn by aerating, also called core cultivation. Aerating reduces soil compaction, improves water infiltration, encourages root growth, and helps with seed germination. Rent a machine or hire a lawn crew to pull plugs of grass at regular intervals over the lawn surface. Be sure to leave the plugs on the lawn to decompose and help fertilize the lawn.

3. Manage weeds. It’s best to tackle grassy weeds, like crabgrass, with a pre-emergent herbicide in spring after the soil has warmed. With proper timing, one application will eliminate these troublesome weeds all summer long. It’s better to apply pre-emergent herbicides sooner rather than later. Apply either before or after aeration and water in well.

Because most pre-emergent herbicides can also kill germinating grass seed, delay adding grass seed to the lawn until late summer or early fall.

4. Add grass seed. The best way to keep the lawn healthy and weed free is to encourage thick growth. Apply a good quality, compatible grass seed after the lawn is aerated to give maximum seed-to-soil contact and to improve seed germination. Keep the seed moist, but avoid saturating the grass. It will take about 10-14 days for seeds to sprout.

5. Fertilize. Fertilizers add the nutrients your blue-grass lawn needs. Nitrogen is especially important if you want a thick green lawn. Use a balanced fertilizer that has nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron and sulfur. April is a good time to fertilize, especially if no fertilizing was done in fall.

For all the top turf tips, including how to handle dog spots in the lawn, visit CSU’s Turf Program website.

Now, what tips do you have for celebrating National Lawn Care Month?