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With spring around the corner, local experts weigh in on lawn care

Is it true? Can it be? Is spring almost here? After a long and brutal winter, this week’s warmer weather has LOCALs thinking about brighter days. With the temperatures steadily holding above freezing during the day, some of the many, many layers of snow are finally melting away.

So what about that grass underneath? Did the harsh winter wreak havoc on your perennials? Will there be lasting effects on your border beds from all the road salt? We’ve got the answers you need. LOCAL experts, who know a thing or two about taking care of your lawn and garden, offer their tips for springtime lawn care.

“It will be interesting to see what happens once the snow melts,” said John Bokina, CEO of the Long Island Cauliflower Association. “Will the old saying, ‘the poor man’s fertilizer is snow,’ hold true? Once out of dormancy, will the grass thrive?”

2015_0313_lawn3This winter’s harsh conditions were unusual for our area.

“It never melted after the January blizzard. That’s six to seven weeks.” Bokina said, “this is Alaska weather.”

The first step towards a healthy lawn and garden will be to assess. Did the plows cut into the edge of your lawn?

“You want to over seed early,” Bokina said, “and use a slow release fertilizer.”

Sean Callahan, owner of Callahan Lawn and Landscape, recommends only seeding damaged areas. And now is not the time to thatch or aerate your grass. “Avoid disturbing the soil as much as possible because anytime you make holes, you open up the lawn to crabgrass.”

What if your trees and shrubs have broken limbs and wind burn damage?

“Prune back without destroying new growth,” said Bokina. And if the plant just couldn’t survive the elements, “transplant out [with new plants] as early as possible.”

The most important step, according to Bokina, is to employ a good, all-around lawn program. The sandy soil of Long Island tends to have a lower ph, so start with lime.

“We have to eat, plants have to eat,” said Bokina. He stressed the importance of feeding plants early and correctly, “What happens to you if you don’t eat?”

General Manager of Talmage Farm Agway, Bill Van Schaick, agrees that fertilizing is a good first step, “It’s a good idea to fertilize at least four times a year; early spring, late spring, early fall and late fall.”

New York state regulations, put in place to deal with the issue of nitrogen runoff, prohibit fertilizing before April 1.

Van Schaick said that some people prefer a combination fertilizer and crabgrass suppressor, others like to do them separately and still others prefer an organic approach.

2015_0313_lawn“Corn gluten is a popular pre-emergent to stop all seed germination, not just crabgrass.”

But Van Schaick is optimistic about the coming thaw. “The fall was very nice and many lawns went into the winter in good shape.”

There is some concern that the many weeks of snow cover may bring diseases like snow mold, into play. Van Schaick said, “Snow mold, which is not generally common here, but more so in colder climates, is basically a disease of the grass.”

Callahan also mentioned the possibility of disease, “If we get a lot of rain, the soil is already so wet, you might see some different diseases.”

However, Callahan doesn’t think this spring will be any worse than usual, “A good lawn shouldn’t have any problems.”

Both Callahan and Bokina recommend a lawn soil test.

“Especially if it’s a new house or if you’ve had problems in the past,” said Callahan, “We want to check what nutrients the lawn needs.”

A good lawn program, “helps with sandy soil and feeds nature,” Bokina said, “it doesn’t over fertilize and does the right things, if applied at the right rate.”

If you went into the winter with a healthy lawn, LOCAL experts agree that you’re grass will probably be no worse for the wear. When the snow finally melts, feed it the right recipe early on, practice good management and you’re likely to have a lush lawn all summer and fall.