Yes, friends, it finally is time to start lawn fertilization.
As of April 17, we have been above 65 degrees at the 4-inch soil depth for 14 consecutive days. That is about two weeks ahead of the “usual” “normal” date of May 1. But Zone 9a is just across the Medway at Sunbury, so maybe our warm-up date of Tax Day will be the new “normal.”
Centipede lawns can get half a pound of nitrogen between now and the end of May. Another half-pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet applied in July, and centipede-lawn owners will be done with fertilization for the year. St. Augustine lawns need more nutrition, so they can start receiving a full pound of nitrogen in May, June, July and September. What amount of other minerals you apply depends on what your soil test recommends.
Of course, the return of warm weather brings gnats. Mosquitoes also are starting to grow with the recent rains. Gnats are just a nuisance, but mosquitoes can be deadly. For both of these pests, a first line of defense is to wear appropriate repellent. Please do not call Bryan County Public Works and complain about mosquitoes if you are not already wearing repellant when you venture outdoors. If you have pots of standing water in your yard that you have neglected to dump out or have failed to at least put a couple of mosquito dunks in the bird bath, then just what, oh what, did you expect would happen?
Your pets will be contending with ticks, mites, lice and tapeworm. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm. Don’t forget about a checkup at the vet for man’s best friend. Preventive care is so much less expensive, both financially and emotionally, than the suffering and loss of a loyal pet to preventable disease.
The fall of the catkins from the oaks announces the last of the oak-leaf fall. Once the catkins have fallen off the oaks, it will be safe to give the lawn a good raking to get up those matted oak leaves so your lawn can breathe. The catkins are the male flower of the oak tree and pollenate the female flowers to produce acorns. Like everything else on a tree, once a tree part has served its purpose, it gets shed. There is no welfare in nature.
Now that the grass is growing, the mowers are being cranked up on weekends. Good, sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots are essential tools, even if using a riding mower. I believe long pants are another good tool. Rotary mowers have very sharp steel blades that spin very fast and don’t care whether your feet slip under the mowing deck, but you will care very much. Of course, you didn’t mean it to happen — that’s why they call them accidents.
But all accidents are preventable. Mowing while wearing flip-flops or while the kids are in the yard. Defeating the safety devices on the mower. What do we call that, Forrest? “My Mama always said, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’”
As Michael Conrad’s character Phil Esterhaus said to the officers at the start of each shift on “Hill Street Blues”: “Hey! Let’s be careful out there.”