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Good Question: Why Is Some Grass Greener?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
Heather Brown loves to put her innate curiosity to work to answer yo...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every spring, as the snow begins to melt, our lawns are usually mushy with brown spots. All of us wonder when they might start to green up.

Sam Bauer, a turfgrass specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension, says don’t worry. He expects – with some more rain, sun, time and a little raking – most of the grass should green up later in May.

“Hopefully your grass looks a little green this year, but certainly we see the whole wide spectrum from snow mold to vole damage, and along sidewalks we see a lot of salt damage,” Bauer said.

This winter’s longer snow cover actually helped the lawns because the snow’s insulation kept the ground slightly warmer.

“When we see our lawns go brown during the winter, that’s the loss of chlorophyll in the leaf tissue, so those leaves actually need to regrow to get them green again,” he said.

Bauer says if you see green sprouts underneath the brown grass, it will likely grow back without any new seeding. He recommends raking a little once the ground dries and fertilizing in the end of May.

Some might wonder why their lawn doesn’t look as nice as their neighbors. Bauer says if the lawns are comparable throughout the year, it’s likely the differences are due to fall management.

A shorter cut, which isn’t necessarily recommended, might mean less brown. And fertilization in the fall could mean greener spring grass.

How well the leaves were cleaned up in the fall can also make a huge difference. Bauer also recommends two-thirds of your lawn fertilization should happen in the fall.

“Cleanliness can help you survive the winter,” Bauer said.

One of the biggest questions Bauer gets this time of year is when to apply pre-emergent herbicides for crabgrass. He says people must wait until the upper-inch soil temperatures are 55 degrees, which will likely happen in early May.

He suggests looking up soil temperatures at the University of Minnesota Climatology website or following him on twitter at @urbanturfmn.

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