The Inside Outside Guys: Maintaining your lawn

Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
Special to The Detroit News

Spring is well upon us as trees, flowers and grasses have all awakened and begun to flourish.

The Guys are still getting a lot of questions regarding grass lawns. Perhaps the answer for all of those with brown thumbs is to “fardscape” like you might in Arizona, Nevada or other dry regions.

Use of decorative stone in place of grass can eliminate all of your concerns about whether the lawn will look as good this spring as it did last fall.

You might also consider mimicking the Las Vegas strategy, where much of the ostensible “grass” is actually high end artificial turf; some of which appears so “real” you almost have to touch it to realize it is not. Instead of mowing your lawn you simply vacuum every few weeks.

For the rest of us, greening up the grass and also controlling fungus, insects and weeds becomes a top priority. Always follow manufacturer’s directions for application and use of any products you might employ.

Timing is everything in a yard and garden.

Stories abound regarding the person that over-fertilized, burned the grass and had to re-create a lawn, or the owner that “broadcast” a fertilizer by hand and wound up with green patches throughout the yard.

Every year we also see emails from listeners who used an herbicide that kills everything including grass and shrubs when they only wanted a selective weed killer.  Be careful!

Ideally you applied a pre-emergent about a month ago to control most weeds. If not, you can still apply either a granular weed killer that needs to be “watered in” or use a liquid product that simply attaches to a hose end and uses water pressure to spray the product on. Try to apply to a lawn that has been recently cut and with a weather forecast of 24 hours or so without rain. Most of these products will act over time to kill the root.

Apply in the morning before any breezes have kicked up and it may not be a bad idea to mask up with a quality mask. Always apply upwind from even moderate breezes and protect sensitive shrubs and plantings. You should notice wilting of broad leaf weeds like dandelions within a day or so of application.

You generally do not want to apply such product in the heat of the summer. If you have waited too long, put it off until fall.

For insect control, use a broad spectrum insecticide. Like the weed killers, these products can either be applied in a liquid form using the hose attachments or tank sprayers or can be applied as a granular and watered in. Using such product may prevent your yard from being torn up by grub seeking critters like moles, skunks and others.

If the snow melt uncovered circular brown or yellow spots, your grass may be diseased. Application of a systemic fungicide might be required, but be careful. Such products should generally be applied weeks before applying any fertilizers.

Dethatching and/or aerating might be suggested in the spring for heavily compacted soils or if you note the thatch in your lawn is more than ½ inch thick. Looser soils allow for roots to more easily spread leading to healthier and thicker grass. Equipment can be rented for such tasks at many big box stores.

We are told a healthy lawn requires about an inch of water per week. In the Midwest, Mother Nature will often supply this for us. Be conscious of not over-watering. If you have an in-ground sprinkling system, connect it to water sensors that only supply what’s needed and timers that only water early in the day before the heat of the sun is on the grass.

Keep in mind seeded lawns are largely drought resistant and can withstand periods of little to no water.

Also be aware of any issues regarding children and pets and applied product. Manufacturers may advise that small children and pets avoid contact over a minimum period of time after application.

The Michigan State University Extension Service is available to help and advise property owners regarding best practices and products and can help you maintain your soils at the proper level of nutrients.

And, as always, the Guys like to think a qualified professional from the can assist you in growing and maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn.

For more home improvement advice, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon  or contact us at