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How to have the lawn of your dreams!

By Richard Carter, M.C.L.P.

You know the feeling. You're out on a Sunday cruise and you drive through a neighborhood that you wouldn't normally visit. But you've got nothing else to do, so why not right? Then you see it! It's that house that you've dreamed about. It's the one that you haven't yet saved enough to buy. Maybe you never will.

What grabs your attention first is something else you've always dreamed of one day owning. It's that sea of green leading to the front door. It's a thick, lush lawn calling to you.

You may not be able to afford that house just yet, but following a few proven steps, you can have that lawn of your dreams.

Here's how:

1) Start early. As soon as the weather allows in early spring, and as long as the ground is solid enough for you to walk on, get to it! Take a walk around your lawn and look for anything out of the ordinary. Pick up fallen sticks and branches. Clean up any treasures that Rover may have left throughout the winter. Gather any trash and recycle what you can. Survey your lawn and take breath. I know the task at hand may seem insurmountable, but believe me the end result will be worth your efforts!

2) Work begins. Most lawns in the spring time have suffered some winter damage. Some lawn s more than others. I would suggest beginning the dream with a power raking, also known as a dethatching. This can be done by either lightly raking away last year's dead grasses, or mechanically removing them. A dethatcher will remove much more than you'll get by raking the lawn yourself. However, if not done properly, you can cause damage to the crowns of your turf grass. If the crowns are damaged, then that area of lawn may not live to see the summer! As a general rule of thumb, after you make a pass with the dethatcher, your existing grass should be intact. What should be removed from the lawn is last year's dead grasses, and other small debris.

3) Now the fun part. Let's MOW! After cleaning up the sticks, debris, and thatch, and you've made sure there isn't anything sitting on the lawn, you get to do what you do best: mow!

A mowing at this time will benefit your lawn by removing extra thatch you may have missed. It will let your lawn know that it's back in business for another year!

Set the mower height properly so you're not removing any more than one third of the grass plant. If your lawn is about 3" long, then about 2 ¼" would be a decent height for your first cutting of the year (applies to bluegrass and fescue type lawns). Make sure the mower blade has been sharpened, the oil changed, and the cup holder is in place. This isn't the time to mow fancy patterns in the lawn however. You can save that for later in the spring, when your lawn begins to green up.

4) Time to green up. Once you're done mowing, trimming the edges, and blowing off the clippings, it's time to green it up. An application of fertilizer right now is just what the doctor ordered!

If it's around mid April, you may want to apply a crabgrass preventative as well. This one treatment may help suppress those nasty weeds throughout most of the year. You can find many combination products of fertilizer with a crabgrass preventative at your local nursery or garden center.

If you feel uncomfortable handling and applying this product (it is a pesticide), you may want to contact a lawn care professional. Before they can treat your lawn, professionals need to be licensed and insured to make pesticide applications.

Several factors apply when dealing with these products: Proper handling, spreader calibration, and knowing how much to use are just some of the critical elements involved when dealing with chemicals. Besides, sometimes professionals can do it for you for almost as much as the bag of fertilizer costs.

5) Now it's time to wait. Just sit back, put another drink in your mower's cup holder, and watch the magic happen! Actually, at this point, you should really come up with a plan for the rest of the year. This is the time to decide if you will use a lawn care company to make the remaining applications for you. Or, if you do it yourself, when will the next one be due. What your schedule will be like for watering. How often you will mow, and whether or not you will alternate your mowing pattern every other week. As well as the type of maintenance schedule you will have on your mower. Then, after you ve answered those questions, you can feel confident knowing that you are well on your way to having the lawn you've always dreamt of!

Oh, and one other thing. You'll want to make sure that your cup holder is nice and secure! You don t want to waste any of your ice cold beverage on that beautiful bluegrass lawn!