JoAnne Skelly: Spring lawn care |

JoAnne Skelly: Spring lawn care

JoAnne Skelly

We all want green lawns. Although a green-velvet lawn is challenging, labor intensive and environmentally unsustainable in Northern Nevada, you can definitely have an attractive water-efficient lawn by following a few important practices.

Core-aerate your lawn once a year, preferably in early fall, while grass is actively growing. This helps reduce compaction and thatch. Compacted soil results from regular use and foot traffic and prevents air and water from getting to roots. Avoid using solid metal tines when you aerate, because these contribute to soil compaction. After aerating, leave the soil cores on the lawn so they can decompose and filter back into the soil. Add a thin layer of compost after aerating, about one-quarter inch, to improve the soil and add nutrients. Fertilize no more than three times a year. Northern Nevada’s cool-season grasses stop growing when temperatures are high, so don’t fertilize in the heat of summer. Fertilize now and again in six weeks. Then, fertilize in September.

Mow your lawn to a height of 3 inches or greater, or at your mower’s highest setting. Mow regularly. This makes your lawn better able to handle heat and drought. The higher a lawn is mowed, the deeper the grass roots grow in the soil where there is more moisture available to roots. Deep roots make the grass stronger and more resistant to insects and other pests. When you mow often, you can leave the grass clippings on the lawn, where they easily break down and add organic matter to the soil. However, avoid leaving piles of clippings, which occur when you wait too long between mowings. Sharpen mower blades at least once a year to avoid ragged brown edges on grass blades.

To avoid high temperatures and wind, water early in the day or in the evening. Make sure your sprinkler system is applying water evenly to your lawn. Test this by placing straight-sided soup cans on the lawn and running your irrigation system for a cycle. Use a ruler to measure the depth of water in each can when the cycle is complete. Each can should contain about the same depth of water. If they don’t, you may have to adjust or replace sprinkler heads to supply the water evenly. Check your irrigation system often for leaks, breaks in the line and broken sprinkler heads. Adjust your watering schedule seasonally to meet the demands of higher temperatures.

Your lawn will be healthy and green.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at