DEAR AMOR: My husband had the most beautiful lawns. After he died, I felt that keeping the lawn lush was a tribute to him. There was this green plastic device that spread a few pellets of fertilizer at a time. I thought it was broken so by hand I put a lot of pellets all over the lawn. Within days it was dead. The whole lawn. So, I watered and watered and by fall it was sort of green. Then snow came and voles burrowed everywhere because all the watering had brought grubs. I may get artificial turf. — Bobbie

DEAR BOBBIE: I am sorry to hear about your lawn care disaster. It must be heartbreaking for you, especially that keeping your lawn lush was a tribute to your beloved husband. Anyway, I see three important issues that might help you care for your lawn.

Calibrating fertilizer spreader

Ever heard of calibrating a fertilizer spreader? It is recommended that we regularly clean and lubricate our equipment so that we never feel the need to broadcast by hand for thinking our spreader must be broken.

The wear and tear of a fertilizer spreader as it ages may also cause its settings to gradually change and they could become less precise. Over-application of fertilizers caused by a defective device could do more harm than good. This is a reminder not to be tempted in buying second-hand equipment from thrift stores or garage sales. They may look cheap but a dysfunction may cost us a fortune.

Lawn fertilizing

One thing I learned from my Master Gardener class years ago is that we should return grass clippings back to our lawn. Nutrients from clippings will enrich the soil, thereby eliminating the need for chemical dependency. But if clippings have to go, fertilizing annually is recommended.

As a reminder, we need to know what kind of grass species we have before fertilizing. Some species perform sufficiently with lesser fertilizer rates than other species.

Quick-release nitrogen that are considered inexpensive may burn leaf blades if application was done incorrectly. Slow-release nitrogen is expensive comparable to quick-release, but was said to hardly burn leaf blades.

It is best to apply fertilizer when we know it is going to rain sometime soon. It will wash the chemicals out of the leaf blades and into the soil where it is intended. If there is no forecast of rain, a sprinkler will do. Then again, some fertilizer/herbicide combination products cannot be wet. It is important to read label instructions for the fertilizer we are using before application.

Purdue Extension offered this advice: “Fertilize lightly in spring and early summer, little to none in summer, and heavy in fall. A heavy fall fertilization program will produce the healthiest turf throughout the year. Applying high rates of nitrogen in spring and summer stimulates excess leaf growth at the expense of root growth. Not only does this force you to mow more often, it reduces turf quality during the summer. High rates of spring and summer nitrogen can also stimulate disease, weed, and insect activity.”

Grub control

European chafer grubs and Japanese beetle grubs feed on grass roots. They seem to thrive on healthy, well-manicured lawns because those were apparently irrigated. Too much rain also boosts the grub population.

If our lawn were plowed heavily by voles, skunks, raccoons, and other unsuspected creatures including turkeys, it become necessary for us to use an insecticide to reclaim our lawn. Just like everything else, read label instructions!

Michigan State University Extension gives this warning: “Do not use products containing ONLY lambda-cyhalothrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, cyfluthrin or permethrin for grub control. Products containing only these ingredients will not work for grub control because the active ingredient binds with organic material and will not move down to where the grubs are feeding. There is a widely sold trade name called Triazicide from Spectrum that lists grubs on the label and states it will control insects above or below ground and has a picture of a grub on the front of the bag. It contains only lambda-cyhalothrin or gamma-cyhalothrin. Triazicide will not control grubs.”

To learn more about lawn care and grub control, visit:

DEAR READERS: Do you have garden questions for me? Let me know! Email your questions to me at

Amor Chamness of Howe is an intern in the Purdue Extension Master Gardener program. She answers questions about gardening each week in “Dear Amor.” Send your gardening questions to her at

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