Steamboat Springs Now that warm weather is here, it's time to think about lawn care. Dormant lawns have begun to green up, and it's time to begin a fertilization and irrigation program.
The first step in spring lawn care is to apply a fertilizer. Nitrogen is the nutrient that maintains growth. If nitrogen is not available in an adequate and regular supply, the grass will stop growing and turn light green or even yellow. Urea-containing fertilizers and ammonium sulfate work well.
Nitrogen should be applied at a rate of one-half to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf during May to mid-June and again in mid-August to mid-September. A fall application of 1 to 2 pounds of phosphorus should be applied in September or early October as a final winterizing application. Applying nitrogen past September makes lawns susceptible to Gray Snow Mold damage, a lawn disease that can harm grass. Phosphorus helps with winter storage of nutrients, spring root growth and reduces spring disease problems. Also, your lawn should be core-aerated at least once a year. Aeration allows oxygen and water to get into the compacted clay soils common to the Steamboat area.
The typical Colorado lawn requires about one-half inch of water every three days. It is better to water the lawn thoroughly and then let it begin to dry out so that the roots are able to obtain oxygen. Watering less frequently for a longer period encourages the grass to develop deeper roots that will help the lawn withstand the heat of the summer.
The best time to water a lawn is before 9 a.m. If the lawn is watered in the late afternoon or early evening, the irrigation water plus the dew that collects on the leaf blades can lead to fungus problems. One way to determine when the lawn needs water is to look for the bluish-gray tint that occurs as the lawn is drying out. In addition, footprints will still be visible an hour or so later on a dry lawn.
One final note on watering your lawn in light of the current drought conditions in Colorado. Many cities in Colorado have initiated either voluntary or mandatory water restrictions. Watch for notices in the paper or contact the city or appropriate water district to determine if water restrictions will be initiated in the Yampa Valley in the coming months.
Debbie Spyker is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County.