Taking your lawn’s temperature

                                                  As a gardener, I’m the type of person who is constantly watching the weather. In early spring, I subject myself to 7 to 10 day forecasts. I don’t know why I put myself through that agony. They always have a cold snap or rain mixed with snow somewhere in the long range forecast. It seems there’s always something to worry about in the future. I find myself like an out of control gambler at a slot machine. I sit at my computer trying to talk myself out of clicking on “the 7 day forecast.” When I click on it, I have my eyes closed. I then slowly open one eye, then the other allowing reality to sink in like a flash flood in a low lying area.

Another habit I have at this time of year is stopping in various places, taking my soil thermometer (pictured) out of my truck and taking soil temperature readings. If you find me in your yard, just ignore me I’ll soon move on. We had a long difficult winter in Michigan this past year. All the snow cover did provide insulation so in a number of areas the frost was not deep in the ground. With some spring sunshine, the soil had the potential of warming quickly this year, unfortunately the 7 day forecasts continue to include the dreaded phrase “wintry mix.”  Early in April here in Michigan, we’re in the lower 40’s for soil temperature. We need warmer air temperatures and some sunshine (is that too much to ask!?) or  “solar radiation” to get the soil to warm up. You do have some control on how fast your lawn soil warms. Thin poor turf soil warms faster than thick vigorous lawns due to the density. That’s why crabgrass does so well in thin poorly maintained turf areas. Regardless of fickle fluctuating air temperatures, when the soil temperatures hit 60 degrees, the real action starts. You’ll want your pre-emergent crabgrass control barrier in the turf by that time because crabgrass seed will germinate. A soil temperature thermometer is a much more accurate way to guage crabgrass germination than the old method of “when the forsythias are in bloom.” You’ll also be successful in getting grass seed to germinate when soil temperatures are at 60 degrees or warmer. Your fertilizer applications will give your plants a “kick in the plants” as the roots become active in drawing up nutrients.

In other words, when soil temperatures hit 60 degrees, we’re traveling at the “speed of ground.” Things will happen fast in the landscape and lawn at that point including weeds that seem to pop up over night. You might just see me in your yard with my soil thermometer in April……regardless of the 7 day forecast’s predictions of gloom and doom.