Wisconsin's Major Cities:

  • Milwaukee

  • Madison

  • Green Bay

  • Grand Rapids

  • Wausau

  • Winona

  • Appleton

  • Sheboygan

Wisconsin Turfgrass

Lawn fertilization in Wisconsin

Care must be taken when fertilizing Wisconsin lawns. Because of its northern climate, soil temperatures play a critical role in when to fertilize. Weeds such as the perennial dandelion, creeping Charlie, violet and thistle begin to root long before bluegrass. This means if fertilizer is put down too early in the spring, the only plants that will benefit are weeds! Hold off fertilizing until around Memorial Day when soil temperatures usually have reached the 60 degree mark which is when grass has started growing.

Weed control for Wisconsin lawns

If you had crabgrass last year, plan on having it again this year unless you apply a pre-emergent application. Pre-emergent stops crabgrass from taking root.

There are 2 types of pre-emergent: organic and chemical. If using an organic pre-emergent, wait until the soil temperatures approach the 50 degree mark. For chemical controls, apply about 4 weeks or more prior to crabgrass seed germination. Because soils are still cold at this time, don't apply chemical pre-emergents with fertilizers.

Broadleaf weeds such as dandelion, spot treat those as soon as they begin to show new growth.

In Wisconsin, only a few species of grass are really suitable for home lawns. Those include:

When considering installing or renovating an Wisconsin lawn, selection of the proper turfgrass species is one of the most important decisions to be made. Lawns are meant to be permanent, and therefore a grass species should be selected that has been adapted to the Wisconsin climate. The species selected must also be capable of meeting certain aesthetic expectations of the homeowner.

Many lawn problems result from the failure to address these subjects during the grass selection process.

Grasses Not Recommended For Use In Wisconsin

Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass is used primarily in regions of the country south of Wisconsin. This species is not compatible with cool-season turfgrasses. The biggest drawback is that zoysiagrass becomes dormant and turns brown in mid-fall and does not re-green until mid-spring. The lack of winter color, slow establishment rate, low mowing heights and proneness to develop heavy thatch layers make it incompatible with the other cool season turfgrasses. Therefore, it should not be grown in Wisconsin.

Annual Bluegrass

Annual bluegrass is better adapted to cool, wet climates. Because of the shallow root systems, this grass dies out during hot, dry periods, especially in areas where irrigation is not performed. The inconsistent nature of this grass reduces its acceptance for use in Wisconsin.

Annual Ryegrass

Annual ryegrass is a stemmy, coarse-textured grass that germinates and establishes very rapidly in lawns. This grass only persists for one growing season or less. The need for quick germination and cover can often be satisfactorily met with the improved perennial ryegrass cultivars.

All warm season grasses should not be considered.

Wisconsin Phosphorous Levels

In 2010 Wisconsin enacted a state-wide ban on phosphorous application by consumers. Under the bill, phosphorus can be used only on first-time lawns and if a soil test shows that a specific area has too little phosphorous.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently conducted a 5 year study on the effects of their phosphorus ban. In 2005, laws similar to those passed in Wisconsin were enacted to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering their waterways.

The MPCA tested properties falling into several conditions: plots given no fertilizer at all, plots given phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, and plots given only nitrogen and potassium. Results in the 2nd year of the 5 year study showed that lawns given no fertilizer at all, actually generated the most phosphorus runoff and in subsequent years it provided as much phosphorus run-off as the plot given supplemental phosphorus.

What this study shows is that proper lawn care actually reduces the amount of phosphorus run-off. Also, that on those test properties that had phosphorus applied along with the fertilizer, the phosphorus run-off occurred from one period when heavy rains fell on recently frozen ground. In fact, this one rainfall accounted for 81 percent of the phosphorus run off for the entire year!

Wisconsin Hardiness Zones: 3a - 5b

Common Pest Problems Associated
with Wisconsin Lawns

Insect pests: grubs, chinchbugs are the primary insect pests associated with Wisconsin soils.

Weed pests: crabgrass, dandelions and the 2 most common lawn problems. Ground ivy is also a troublesome weed that is somewhat difficult to control. There are a number of broadleaf weeds that are common to Wisconsin, but most of these can be spot treated with an effective herbicide

Lawn diseases: There are several diseases that could potentially infect turf in Wisconsin. The general environmental conditions occurring on the turf, how the turf is managed, and weather conditions all impact turfgrass disease development. Turf diseases need favorable conditions to develop. The best defense against diseases is to maintain healthy turf through sound cultural practices, avoiding favorable conditions for disease.

Disease outbreaks often occur when turfgrasses are not managed properly or are under extreme stress, such as from poor soil conditions or perhaps weather conditions.

Promoting healthy growth and avoiding conditions that cause stress to your turfgrass is the best way to prevent a severe disease outbreak. Stressed lawns are an open invitation for a lawn disease to gain a foothold. Optimal maintenance practices are the best way of avoiding stressed turfgrass.

Even if a pathogen is present in the soil, infection will not occur unless the environmental conditions are conducive to disease development. Once turf diseases have become active, they can cause heavy damage if not treated properly. Here is a list of common diseases to Wisconsin lawns:

Lawn diseases should properly identified before trying to treat. Local, professional lawncare services are your best source for identifying and treating lawn care diseases.

Professional lawn care organizations: Wisconsin Turfgrass Association and University of Wisconsin Turfgrass,