PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- If you've made it into a lawn and garden section of your favorite home improvement store in the last few days, you know that people are itching to get out and do something, anything, in their yard.
Penn State's Turf and Turfgrass Management specialty is rated #1 In the country by Universities.com, so it seemed like the logical place to find expert advice.
Jeff Fowler is a PSU Senior Extension Educator and says, "There's not a whole lot we can do today. It's still pretty early."
That's not exactly what the lawn enthusiasts want to hear right now.
So if you've got the itch, Fowler says, "So if there are leaves, we can get rid of or debris from the winter, whether it's twigs or branches that have fallen, we can get rid of those at this point, leaves should be removed. We can get out and start raking up the spots in the grass that have kind of fallen over, over the winter time and maybe compacted down on top of each other, and we can get out there and rake those up so that air can move around through them."
Fowler says forget about renting that thatching machine, "If we take out the thatch in the spring. We're also making a perfect seed bed for weeds. So we don't want to do that in the spring we want to do that in the fall."
And if you have a brown spot or two, "So we can, we can go out and rake those areas out then put some seed down in them. We can do that right now. But If we're going to over-seed or we're going to put down seed, we have to be careful not to put down a pre-emergence herbicide on our yard. Those treatments will not only stop the crabgrass or the goose grass and other annual grasses, from germinating but they'll also stop the good grasses from germinating."
In fact as far as spreading anything, now we've hit a Fowler pet peeve. "Probably the one that bothers me the most is, is people just throwing things down to fix problems that they don't know what the problem is. Oh, I have to go out and fertilize my yard. I have to go out and lime my yard. They may be wasting money, because they haven't done a soil test, a soil test kit is under $10. It will tell you how much lime or how much fertilizer you need to add to make your dinner table for your grass fill."
Fowler says not doing a soil test first is like a doctor giving you blood pressure medicine without ever taking your blood pressure.
Watch as KDKA's John Shumway reports:
As for mowing Fowler warns, "Once you mow it the first time, there's no going back. You have to keep mowing it. Mowing stimulates growth. Especially in the early spring sometimes it takes twice a week to to stay ahead of that one third rule."
Oh yes, the One Third Rule. "If your grass is three inches tall, you should never mow it lower than two inches."
As for dandelions, "We need to chemically control dandelions, if we're going to control them. And that time to do that is right before they bloom right before they turn real yellow. Go out there with a, a broadleaf weed killer and, and knock them out."
Or as he points out, you can harvest the dandelions and make a salad or wine.
But most people just want to get rid of them, so be patient and wait for things to get a little warmer.
The optimal time to start spreading things that help your lawn, Fowler says, is when the soil temperatures get up to about 50 degrees.
Now no one expects you to go stick a thermometer in the ground.
Fowler says watch for "when the forsythia blooms. That's that beautiful yellow flower we see along the road early spring. When that starts to grow, or starts to turn yellow, the soil temperatures have reached 50 degrees."
Then grab your spreader. "We need to get on a pre-emergence herbicide when the soil temperatures reach 50 degrees."
And if there is one thought Fowler wanted to leave us with -- when it comes to managing your section of turf in this world, nothing happens quickly and patience is the hardest part.
for more features.