Prep (Lawn) Talk

By Marian Amini & Hayley Woodward

With summer around the corner (yay!), it’s time to get your lawn and garden in shape. We asked local experts to help us put together this to-do list. Dig in!


Courtesy iStock

1 CLEAN. “Not only will a debris and leaf cleanup make the property look good, but piles of leaves can leave dead spots by blocking sunlight and suffocating the grass,” says Dan Maloney, owner of Beautiful Lawn and Landscape in Englewood. “Ideally, this should be done in the fall, but there are always a few leaves that blow off the trees over the winter.”

2 MAINTAIN. Clean and inspect your gardening equipment, like mowers, advises the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. If you left fuel in the tank over the winter, drain it, put in fresh fuel (with no more than 10 percent ethanol) and dispose of the old fuel properly. (Untreated gasoline left in a system will deteriorate, which can damage the machine, the OPEI says.) Replace old oil and air filters, and sharpen your mower’s cutting blade.

3 WEED. “The best way to avoid using chemical weed control is to have a thick, lush lawn,” says Tony Hahn, landscape care consultant at Denver’s Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care. “Using proper cutting heights, limited weed eater usage and watering your lawn in the winter will cut down on the bare soils that weed seeds need to germinate. But if a lawn is weedy, you have to use conventional herbicides to at least gain a foothold on the weeds. I like to cut the tops off perennial, deeply rooted weeds like dandelion or mallow before applying my herbicide directly on the freshly opened root.”

4 WATER. “Cool-season lawns require approximately 2 inches of moisture a week to remain green,” says John Smith, manager of Paulino Gardens in Denver. “Water in the early morning to avoid evaporation. Water deeply—usually 20 minutes per zone, until the area has been thoroughly soaked. Watering every third day works best.” Adds Keri Luster, owner of Denver’s Groundcovers Greenhouse: “If you have a sprinkler system, make sure you check all the zones regularly throughout the summer for broken or clogged heads so you don’t lose plants.” If you are unsure how much to water, Beth Zwinak, manager of Tagawa Gardens, advises using a moisture meter. And Hahn says: “Get to know your lawn and try to water when it needs it— close to the ‘wilting point.’ ”

5 AERATE. “The average lawn size in the metro area is 3,000 square feet,” Hahn says. “Believe it or not, I aerate my own lawn by hand—or should I say by foot—as soon as the north side of my lawn thaws out. I like the exercise. I use a hand aerator that has two tines with a core about 4 inches deep.” Adds Maloney: “Aerating can be done any time during the cooler part of the season, and should not be done when it is blistering hot. It helps extend the root system by tearing out a small chunk of the root and giving the rest a bit of room to grow.”

6 FERTILIZE. “Putting down a preemergent fertilizer before the grass begins to green up will not only kill off crabgrass seeds but also control a long list of broadleaf weed seeds as well,” Maloney says. “This should be done before turning the sprinklers on in late April or early May.” Smith suggests looking for a fertilizer that contains both sulfur and iron, and Hahn likes to use a slow-release nitrogen-based fertilizer.

7 SEED THE LAWN. “At the end of March, you can lay sown new grass seed down to thicken the lawn,” Luster says. “I like to topdress the seed with no more than ¼ inch of nutrient-rich soil (like compost or aged manure) to give the existing grass a boost, protect the new seed and help retain water.”

8 BE ECO-CONSCIOUS. “I never use the bagging feature on my lawn mower,” Hahn says. “I always keep my mower blade as sharp as can be. I recycle nutrients back into my lawn. Organic-based fertilizers also provide nutrients to the soil microbes, which play a huge role in lawn and soil health.”

9 PLANT. “Most of the garden centers have loads of plants delivered weekly starting in early March and going through late June,” Luster says. Adds Zwinak: “Cool-season plants like pansies, snapdragons, lettuce, potatoes, onions, dormant perennials, trees, shrubs and other frost-tolerant plants can be planted as early as mid-March. Warmseason plants like tomatoes, peppers, basil, impatiens and coleus are best planted after mid-May when there is no longer danger of frost. Numerous perennials perform well in Colorado, including sages, penstemons, sedums and other succulents, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, lavender and hyssop. You can also look for Plant Select plants, which have the backing and testing of the Denver Botanic Gardens.”


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