Spring greening: Experts say a little work can lead to lush garden in summer

Eastern New Mexico University grounds employee Danny Silva aerates the school’s soccer field Friday in Portales. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Sharna Johnson

Recent warm weather may have local residents inspired to begin sprucing up outside. Curry County Extension Agent Stan Jones said it’s still a little early to begin gardening, but it’s a great time to start preparing for a luscious, green lawn.

Before hooking up the hoses and arranging the sprinklers, a little weed extermination will go a long way toward a yard suitable for bare feet, Jones said.

Cool-season weeds are already beginning to sprout and grow, Jones said. Sprays and chemicals designed to kill weeds can be used when a lawn is brown without fear of harming grass.

Weeds get a jump-start on grass, according to Jones. By the time a lawn begins to turn green, many of the early-season weeds are already dying, leaving behind unwanted stickers and burrs.

Having a green, plush yard is not just about the type of grass planted, but proper care, Jones said.

“All grasses can be soft and luscious if you water and keep weeds out,” he said.

“If you get control (of weeds) now, it will have a major impact on your lawn and grass later.”

Bill Greenlees, groundskeeper for Eastern New Mexico University, agreed, saying there are many things people can do to get ready for summer.

Groundskeepers work year-round to maintain the campus and outdoor sports facilities, Greenlees said. These days, they are aerating — poking holes in the ground, which helps prepare the soil to accept water, fertilizers and treatments in addition to encouraging grass to spread.

Rental equipment is a good solution for the homeowner, Greenlees said. Groundskeepers utilize tractors to aerate, while the average home owner has a much smaller area to maintain.

After aerating and weed treatments, watering can begin.

Greenlees and his staff are on a three-day-a-week, 20-minute-per-area watering regimen. As the season progresses and temperatures rise, watering will be done closer to evening, he said. However, this time of year, lunch-time watering is ideal.

Even though water and maintenance are the key factors in a successful lawn, selecting certain grass types can make a difference, Greenlees said.

“If you want your grass to be green longer in a heavy traffic area, Bermuda grass can take a lot of abuse,” he said, explaining that for a family yard or children’s playground, Bermuda grass will hold up well.

The university uses a mixture of Triathlon, a cool-season grass and Bermuda grass, for its athletic fields and lawns. The combination gives tougher, more drought resistant coverage that stays green a little later in the year, he said.

Occasionally, fertilizer can be used to give an extra boost to the green of a lawn.

Jones and Greenlees agree that lack of rain and snow this winter will play a major role this summer and a little extra attention may be required. However, even with the best care and planning, nature takes its toll.

“My stuff looks a lot nicer when it’s raining,” Greenlees said. “Most grass right now is brown. We’re fixing to have spring football here and we’ve never played in March before. Right now we’re putting white lines on yellow grass.”