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Volume 15, Issue 24 ~ June 14 - June 20, 2007

Keeping Lawn and Bay in Balance

The doctor’s prescription for a healthy yard — and a healthy Bay

In Chesapeake County, a lush green lawn throughout the summer months is prestigious. Such a lawn, however, requires a super abundance of fertilizer applied all summer long. The main ingredient of that green-boosting fertilizer is nitrogen: The more you apply the greener it grows.

But I hope to teach readers to use only the amount of fertilizer needed to grow a lush, healthy lawn.

If your soil is acidic, for example, applying fertilizer is a waste and a hazard, as the soil cannot absorb the nutrients, which therefore run off and find their way into the Bay.

Quality lawns only need one cubic yard of compost per 1,000 square feet. Spreading between 700 to 900 pounds of compost per 1,000 square feet, however, becomes a lot of work. If your lawn is thick with thatch and low in organic matter, try the best, simplest and least expensive method to rejuvenate it — without the heavy lifting or detriment to the Bay:

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your soil tested to ensure that its pH and nutrient concentrations are adequate. If you have not had your soil tested in the past three years, test it to establish a base line.

Do not spend your money on home soil testing kits. Let professional test results guide you in correcting your soil. They provide instructions and, if you follow the instructions and send air-dried samples, return results in about a week. When you get your results, follow the recommendations for adjusting the pH to the proper level.

There is no in-state lab, so here are four reliable out-of-state soil testing labs I recommend:

• A & L Eastern Agricultural Laboratories: Richmond, Va.: 804-743-9401;

• Pennsylvania Agricultural Analytical Services: Penn State University: 814-863-0841; .

• Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory: 540-231-6893;

• University of Delaware Soil Testing Program: 19717; 302-831-1392;

Next, apply a single application of 10-6-4 fertilizer at the rate of 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet during the last week in September or the first week in October.

In late August every four years, apply 60 pounds of dolomitic limestone per 1,000 square feet.

Set your lawn mower’s cutting height to at least three and one-half inches — preferably four inches — and leave the cuttings to fall in place. Mow frequently enough so that the length of the grass clippings does not exceed two inches.

I have followed this formula for the past five years, and my lawn remains green, without irrigation, all summer long except for a few weeks in late August. I’m free of crabgrass, goosegrass and broadleaf weeds, and there is no thatch.

Follow this prescription all year and come next summer, you’ll be living in lush green.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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