Garden Plot: Tips for spring lawn care

This undated photo courtesy of Mike Goatley shows the Virginia Tech logo on his lawn at his home in Blacksburg, Va. The logo is warm season zoysiagrass, which goes dormant in winter and stands out in a contrasting carpet of cool season fescue. Regardless of the type, spring is the time to feed your lawn. Wait until August to plant grass seed. (AP Photo/Mike Goatley)

Meet Mike this month!

Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23: The Home & Garden Show at the Fredericksburg, Virginia Expo & Conference Center. For more information, visit

Saturday, March 29: Severna Park Home Show at the Severna Park Community Center. For more details visit

Sunday, March 30: Harford County Home Show at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md. For more information visit


Forget spring seeding; just get your gluten down

Joe in Hagerstown speaks for many listeners when he writes, “Now that we can actually see the grass again can you give us a time frame for when to seed bare spots, and when it’s okay afterwards to apply corn gluten to prevent crabgrass. Am I right in assuming that once the grass seeds have germinated they can’t be harmed by the gluten?”

Yes, Joe. But crabgrass germinates at a soil temperature of 55 degrees, while actual grass seed needs much warmer temps (closer to a toasty 70 degrees measured four inches down). So your crabgrass would be up and growing long before you got to the gluten.

Spring soil is just too cold for successful seeding. So stop the crabgrass instead by spreading corn gluten meal – the only natural pre-emergent weed and feed – next month. Hold off on any reseeding until August.

Soil temp countdown; still way too cold for crabgrass

It’s time for your weekly update on soil temperature! As we have hammered at you for untold millennia, crab grass plants die over the winter, but they drop a lot of seed before they expire. Those seeds lie dormant until soil temperatures reach 55 degrees as measured four inches deep and then sprout to become the dominant weed in area lawns.

This invasion of the fescue snatchers typically occurs in April, just as forsythia and redbuds begin to bloom and when the water temperature in the Chesapeake Bay also approaches that magic number of 55. (Right now those temps are hovering around 40 degrees; here’s the link if you want to keep tabs on the waters.)

Applying corn gluten meal just as we approach that magic 55 will prevent crabgrass germination, feed your lawn, and do it all well within the new lawn care laws in our area.

But don’t jump the gun. The pre-emergent action of corn gluten only lasts for about a month, so you want to get your timing right. Once that crabgrass germinates, it’s almost impossible to stop.

Why can’t I sow grass seed now?

Michael in Herndon is one of a legion who writes: “My grass is a disaster. I want to tear it out and replace it. I’ve heard that the fall is an ideal time to do this, but would it be suicide to spread seed in the spring?

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