Friday, March 26, 2010

The National Pastime… Baseball and Lawns

Your lovely lawn and baseball…. what’s the connection? I am not talking about the days you spent as a kid tossing the ball around. Nope, I am talking about crabgrass and grubs and dandelions.

Marketing experts have probably figured something out…. Guys take care of the lawn and guys listen to baseball on the radio. So it is not surprising to hear lawn care advice when these two come together. For the past three weeks I have been advised to apply crabgrass control or meet certain disaster from the claws of crabgrass. I guess I can’t blame the marketers… their crabgrass control timing is in the ballpark. A bit early, but with crabgrass control it is better to be early than late. Factor in the procrastination factor and other manly distractions and I understand the marketing strategy.

Crabgrass is an annual grass that germinates when soil warms to a critical temperature. The date varies from year to year but in Southeastern PA but is reliably after the team comes north for opening day. Sometimes weeks after. But to be on the safe side, and since most of the preemerge products will not control crabgrass after it has emerged and all of the products require Mother Nature to water them in... getting the job done before you get a look a the fifth starting pitcher is a good idea. If crabgrass applications begin to conflict with the federal tax deadline you are skating on thin ice.

Before we tackle the crabgrass herbicide options though, let’s step back and ask a question. Got crabgrass? If you have not observed crabgrass in your lawn for the last several years and your lawn is reasonably dense, shift you attention to the bull pen problems or the backup catcher instead. Not every lawn needs preemerge crabgrass control every year. Putting your efforts into growing dense turf and raising the mowing height can eliminate the potential crabgrass problem. Get a Penn State soil test and follow the recommendations. Kick the deck up a notch. Lime, fertilizer and proper mowing height are the basis of lawn weed management.

OK, assuming you require crabgrass control, what are your options? This publication describes pre-emergence herbicides that will do the job. There are many options including one (dithiopyr) for major league procrastinators! You can apply this one before or after crabgrass germination and still get excellent control. Most of these products are sold as an additive to fertilizer. Or you can hire a lawn care company to do the job for you.

Next up… grub control. Another manly endeavor brought to you by salesmen who know their audience. I’ll try to talk you out of that another time.