Is your lawn headed up or down? If it continues on course, will it be the showplace of the neighborhood this fall or the eyesore?
The time to change the direction of your lawn is now. Don't postpone things to September, when most homeowners suddenly discover they have a lawn crisis and want to do something about it. By then it's too late. Start renovating now and your fall lawn will draw accolades at about the time your neighbors are just getting around to the crab grass.
Weeds dictate the direction in which your lawn work will proceed.
If weeds constitute less than 60 percent of the lawn and there is a minimum of 40 percent good grass, start your lawn work this weekend. This is the 60-40 lawn program that this column will guide you through for the next four weeks.
If weeds make up more than 60 percent of the lawn, the practical answer is to kill what is there and install a new lawn on your own. This is the so-called "disaster lawn" program that will take you through the early weeks of September.
Because the 60-40 lawn program begins this weekend, let us focus on the tasks to be performed over the next week.
If you have not cut the lawn since Wednesday, go after the weeds this weekend. If you've cut the lawn since Thursday, wait three days before treating the weeds.
Check the forecast first. If rain is predicted, don't treat the weeds.
Always use the liquid concentrate and not the ready-to-use kind. If the lawn has trees, don't use dicamba in your weed control products. Choose from Ortho Weed-B-Gon or Rockland Turf Herbicide 22, both containing Mecoprop and 2,4-D. Use the hose-end sprayer. If you use Weed-B-Gon, put six tablespoons plus two teaspoons in the jar, add water to the three-gallon mark, and spray the contents over the weedy lawn. It should cover close to 1,000 square feet.
To mark where you spray, add an ounce of Rockland spray indicator (eight-ounce size) to the solution. If you use Turf Herbicide 22, add 2 1/2 ounces to the jar, add water to the three-gallon mark and spray the weeds. Again, it should do for about 1,000 square feet.
If no trees are on the lawn, rely on 33 Plus or Rockland 3-Way Lawn Weed Killer, both containing dicamba. Using the hose-end sprayer, add 3 1/2 ounces of 33 Plus to the jar and water to the three-gallon mark, then spray 1,000 square feet. With the 3-Way Lawn Weed Killer, add 4 ounces and water to the five-gallon mark, then spray. The spray indicator will help mark the area.
If you routinely use the hose-end sprayer for insect control, consider buying a second hose-end sprayer. Reserve one sprayer for insect and disease control and use the other exclusively for treating weeds. If you use only one hose-end sprayer, chances are the residue of weed chemicals in the nozzle will ultimately cost you one or more of your priceless plants and it will be too late to correct the mistake.
Once the weeds are sprayed, everyone (including pets) should be kept off the lawn for 48 hours.
Now for the bad news. The chemicals just applied will do absolutely nothing for crab grass. You will need another product and two treatments to put away the crab grass, as well as nutsedge, goose grass, barnyard grass and johnson grass.
There are some outstanding crab grass control products on the market, such as Acclaim, but they are not available to the consumer. Of those that are, the best are Rockland Super Crab Grass Killer (quart and gallon), Rockland Crab Grass Killer (pint, quart and gallon) and Security Crab Grass Killer (quart).
Weather permitting, attack the crab grass on Wednesday. Cut the lawn first. Set the wheels to cut at two inches, and have the bagging attachment in place.
Label instructions warn you not to treat the lawn with a hose-end sprayer and strongly recommend a plastic tank hand-pump sprayer. If you do, here are the product rates: Super Crab Grass Killer: a gallon of water, a half-ounce of the chemical and two teaspoons of the Rockland spray indicator.
Rockland Crab Grass Killer: a gallon of water, one ounce of the chemical and two teaspoons of the spray indicator.
Security Crab Grass Killer: a gallon of water, six ounces of the chemical and two teaspoons of the spray indicator.
One gallon should treat 1,000 square feet.
If the hand-pump sprayer is out of the question, rely on a plastic trash can. Add 10 gallons of water to the can, then the proper chemical. With Super Crab Grass Killer, add 2 ounces; with Rockland Crab Grass Killer, add 4 ounces; with Security Crab Grass Killer, add 6 ounces. Add an ounce of spray indicator, too. Wear rubber gloves so the dye doesn't get under your fingernails. Dip a 2-gallon sprinkling can into the solution and start treating the crabgrass. Apply all 10 gallons of the solution to the 1,000-square-foot area.
Two treatments a week will be required. If you use substitute crab grass control products, be sure to read the label and follow directions to the letter.
On the "disaster lawn," your only priority right now is to help the weeds grow. Cut the lawn low this weekend, scalping at the lowest possible setting on the rotary mower, and have the bag in place to collect the debris. If you don't own a bag, you have the best reason now -- brutal hand-raking in extraordinary heat -- to acquire one.
Immediately after, fertilize the lawn, using a hose-end sprayer. Add two tablespoons of MiracleGro or RapidGro to the jar, add water to the five-gallon mark, stir, then spray the solution over the lawn. It should suffice for a lawn of 2,500 square feet. If your lawn is larger, mix another batch for the next portion. Afterward, haul out the sprinkler and soak the lawn well to wash the fertilizer into the subsoil. Weeds will resume growing immediately.
Looking ahead, the second phase of your disaster lawn program occurs the week of Aug. 10, when a total weed control product will be applied all over the lawn. Don't cut the lawn again until the week of Aug. 17-22, when everything on the lawn will be dead to the roots. Jack Eden hosts "Over the Garden Fence" Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WTOP Radio (1500 AM).