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A ONE-TWO PUNCH TO REVIVE THE LAWN

You may not know it, but your lawn has taken a beating. If this were boxing, the announcers would be talking black eyes and broken noses.

"We had one of the worst winters in 10 or 15 years -- as far as turf grass is concerned," said Adam Mis, superintendent of the greens at the Brookfield Country Club in Clarence. "We had a lot of ice this winter and that's the worst possible thing you can have for turf."

The ice suffocates the grass. And when the grass dies, the weeds waste no time moving in after the funeral.

"Things got so stressed out this winter, and that's why there's so many weeds this spring," Mis said.

Bumper crops of dandelions. Fields of clover. Chickweed conventions.

The cool, wet spring is not helping matters. Grass begins its annual spring growth spurt when the soil temperature (not the air) hits about 65 degrees. So far, the ground has remained around 60 degrees.

"The turf hasn't had a chance to recover but the weeds are growing more aggressively than the turf is right now," Mis said.

Your lawn may have be on the ropes but it's not down for the count.

We asked the people who care for some of the best-looking lawns around how they maintain such thick, healthy, green lawns and how homeowners can achieve similar results.

The answer was surprising: First, get your soil tested. Many businesses provide this service to customers for free, such as Lakeside Sod Supply Co. on Goodrich Road in Clarence. You can also contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County at 652-5400.

Grass grows best when the pH of the soil is fairly neutral. A soil test will tell you whether to add sulfur (to increase acidity) or lime (to lower acidity).

At Dunn Tire Park, the field is fertilized twice a month and mowed about five times a week to keep it 1 1/4 inches tall and looking picture perfect, said Kyle Waters, head groundskeeper.

"In the summer time, you want to let it grow a little bit longer," he said. "The taller the grass, the longer the roots, which helps in the heat."

The grass at Dunn Tire Park is so thick and healthy that most weeds are not a problem. However, most homeowners will want to apply a weed-and-feed product right about now, which delivers fertilizer to the grass and herbicide to the weeds.

Apply this product in the morning when dew covers the grass, Mis said. The moisture causes the particles to stick to the weeds. You can also wet the grass with a hose.

Because more grass than usual died during the winter, most homeowners will need to reseed at least a few bare patches. The ideal time to plant grass seed is in late August. The ground is warm, weeds are not competing for space and the grass has all winter to become established. However, homeowners can apply seed now or any time this summer -- as long as they prepare the soil properly and keep it moist.

"Once you put the seed down, you've got to keep it wet until it establishes," Mis said. "You can't keep letting it go wet, dry, wet, dry. You need to be religious about watering until it comes up."

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com

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