Doug Soldat, Extension Turfgrass and Urban Soil Specialist
Department of Soil Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
3:06 – Total time
0:18 – Any concerns about this spring
0:41 – Recommendations for lawns
1:11 – When to do lawn care
1:57 – New grass varieties
2:23 – Advantages of Bella
2:57 – Lead out
Sevie Kenyon: Looking ahead at lawn management, we’re visiting today with Doug Soldat, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Doug, we’ve had an unusual winter it seems, anything to be concerned about with our lawns this spring?
Doug Soldat: Yeah, so right now as we speak it’s about 70 degrees outside in February, right? People are starting to think about their lawns. It has been really unusual, but there’s nothing in the weather pattern that I’ve seen that makes me especially nervous about any one particular thing. All in all, it’s still pretty good shape for our lawns.
Sevie Kenyon: What kind of recommendations do you have for lawn owners?
Doug Soldat: One of the most common mistakes people make is going out and doing too much to their lawn too early, because it will come up brown. Some people will come out and try to dethatch the lawn, where they kind of pull up all the brown stuff, really what you are doing is preparing the seed bed for weeds to come in and weeds need some sunlight and good soil contact and that’s what you are doing when you are dethatching. So, the best thing to do is just wait.
Sevie Kenyon: When should people start taking lawn care more seriously?
Doug Soldat: One cool thing that happens over winter is there is a ton of soil microbes that live near the roots and they have a lot of the nutrients in them. Many of them will die and will release those nutrients so that there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil early in the spring and that’s one thing you will notice when it snows in March and the snow melts and all of a sudden the grass is just bright green. That’s like a free mother nature fertilization and so there no need to go out fertilize your lawn in March or April even early May. So, really the first time we recommend people go out and start adding nutrients to a lawn would be about Memorial Day.
Sevie Kenyon: And Doug, is there anything new in the world of lawn grasses, lawn grass varieties?
Doug Soldat: This past year we’ve been studying one called Bella Bluegrass. It’s a variety of Kentucky bluegrass and what’s unique about it, is it basically doesn’t grow. So we lay down the sod, and it’s only available in sod right now, and we mowed it once a month. Sometimes when we mowed it monthly you looked at it “ehh, I’m not sure if it needs it or not” so it’s a really, really a slow growing grass.
Sevie Kenyon: And what are the advantages of that?
Doug Soldat: I think everybody says, “I wish my grass would be green and not grow” and that’s what this grass does. It’s green, doesn’t grow, you don’t have to mow it, presumably it’s using less water and fertilizers. So, there’s a lot of environmental benefits you can think of, but the concerns we have about something like that is how will it recover from damage? Most people dislike mowing their lawn but that’s how a lawn rejuvenates and repairs itself. So, one of the things we’re concerned about is a slow or low growing grass, is how well is it going to hold up over time.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Doug Soldat, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.