Fall lawn tips

Generally speaking, the summer of 2014 on average was a little cooler and wetter than the past few years. The few hot and humid periods did cause a spike in disease issues like red thread but overall our lawns’ were fortunate not to have to endure extended drought. What does this mean for the average lawn as fall is a mere few weeks away?

 

Back to school time is fix up your lawn time

Back to school time is fix up your lawn time

 
First, actively growing lawns means faster recovery and a more robust turf plant going into the winter, especially if you take advantage of the weather. Aerating, over seeding, lime, a few fertilizer applications, and perhaps potassium will put your lawn in top condition for next spring. My advice is not to squander this unique scenario and time period but seize its advantages.

 
A bit of caution, healthy growing grass can easily mask grubs eating your lawns roots. The classic brown patchiness may not be visible until the invaders are much larger and difficult to control this fall or next spring. If you have not had a preventative grub treatment earlier this year, take a brisk walk around your lawn, especially in the sunny areas, and pull up on the grass to see if it is weakly rooted. If so, you may well see small white grubs within the first few inches of loam below the grass. Treat them now, don’t wait!

 
Over seeding with such warm, moist soil is a dream come true for lawns and can yield fantastic results to help thicken up your existing lawn. Bare patches should be top-dressed and then seeded after aeration. September and early October are the best time periods to seed a lawn, no question about it. Seed your lawn now, don’t wait until spring!

 
Healthy grass will grow aggressively and save extra energy down below in the root system. Providing a generous supply of nutrients during the fall allows for a healthy growing lawn that can save extra energy for winter and next spring’s green-up. Don’t forget to fertilizer a few times and be sure to lime. If you forgot to lime this year, it’s never too late as liming any time is just fine.

 
A final word on year-end lawn mowing. Keep your cut high at 3” for now but you can begin to lower it in October by about ½” per week. The slow decline in height will help harden your lawn off and not expose it to a harsh scalping on one massive slicing. Most lawns will grow well into late November so your final cut should end up at around 1” to 1.5” in November. Mowing short in height is ideal for helping minimize snow mold and winter damage caused by long grass.

 
This fall could be the best in years, don’t let your lawn miss out on a great growing opportunity.

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Prepare your lawn for fall this August

As summer winds down, I hear a lot of folks saying they always like to wait until September or October to begin lawn repairs. My response is, “Why wait until fall”? While fall is ideal for many lawn repairs after a hot, wet or dry summer, (seeding, topdressing, aeration, and over seeding), a wetter, cooler summer means you can get a jump start in August. These extra weeks gained by not waiting for fall means more growth and a better chance for new grass to survive the upcoming winter. I recommend August lawn work with several important objectives and facts in mind.

 

An established lawn looking great after topdressing and seeding.

An established lawn looking great after topdressing and seeding.

 

 

First, annual weeds, including crabgrass and other obnoxious plants, begin the slow process of dying, losing their iron clad grip on previously damaged or thin patches of turf. Crabgrass no longer germinates as it did in the spring or early summer; the threat of being overrun is subdued simply because of the time of year. This is a big reason to start lawn renovations in August versus later in the fall.

 
Unlike the past several summers, this summer has been wet and moist, making an ideal environment for August seeding. The soil is moist and warm, both critical factors for any kind of lawn renovation, from a small patch to a complete lawn installation. The extra weeks gained by August repairs can tip the scale for winter survival simply by allowing for more growth before the season winds down to a close in November. Seed needs warm soil and moisture to properly germinate and grow; we have both conditions as I write this blog post.

 
Is your lawn thin? Does it have weak areas? Don’t just throw down any seed. The most successful reseeding means core aeration, top-dressing with compost or loam over the bare areas, then seeding/over seeding with a blend of hybrid grasses best suited for your location. All grasses are not created equal for the same site or location. For more information on the importance of selecting the correct grass seed click here   http://www.mrgrassblog.net/2012/08/11/grass-seed-facts/

 
As fall approaches, build up your lawn’s energy reserves by adding high calcium lime, spraying compost tea, and adding vital nutrients with any high grade fertilizer that is low in phosphate and contains organic material (natural or organic). Once the new grass exceeds 3”, be sure to mow; mowing is more helpful then not mowing. And, while I always recommend mowing to a 3” height during the season, your last cut before winter should be the only short cut right around 1.5”. This will help prevent winter snow mold and discourage mice damage.

 
As you shop for back-to-school items, don’t forget your grassy friend outside called your lawn. Remember, fall is the best time of year for many aspects of lawn care and this year it looks as though we have gained August as well. Don’t wait, make your plan and take action today.

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Summer lawn tips

Dramatic weather fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause real problems to your summer lawn. Daily temperatures in the upper 80’s or low 90’s directly contribute to our cool-season grasses shutting down to protect themselves resulting in brown or tan patches in your lawn. High heat also contributes to fast drying of the soil which speeds up the browning in a normally green lawn.

 

Grub control being applied to a large lawn

 

Lawns really prefer temperatures in the 70’s, so grass browning is a normal part of summer. Even with adequate soil moisture, high heat slows lawn growth and the typical lush lawn you had in the spring fades to lighter shades of green. July and August can be brutal on lawns, especially if you are mowing too short and have not been diligent in preparing your lawn in the spring and even the previous fall for summer weather.

 
Thin lawns or those predisposed to quick drying, perhaps with a higher sand content or southern exposure means the soil will become very hot, leading to crabgrass germination and annual weeds like spotted spurge, oxalis, black medic, and purslane. These heat-loving weeds will pop up in a short time, barely noticeable until they begin filling in thin or bare areas within weeks. Spurge is particularly aggressive and will literally grow up and over your lawn like crabgrass. Crabgrass thrives in hot and dry weather, seemingly growing inches overnight under ideal summer conditions. What can be done?

 

 

Spurge is a fast growing summer annual weed.

Spurge is a fast growing summer annual weed.

 

 

Preventative measures are the best course of action starting off the year with a spring pre-emergent, broadleaf weed control, and high mowing, and mulched clippings to recycle valuable nutrients. However for severe weed infestations or those with a low tolerance for such invaders, summer spraying can provide some relief. There are several products available which will specifically target the crabgrass and annual weeds during July and August. A few treatments can do a nice job restoring a civilized lawn which may have become overrun by crabgrass along the driveway, walkway, or patio sections.

 
Areas prone to high heat such as along roads, thin areas, and pavers are particularly vulnerable to weed invasion even with a spring treatment of inhibitor simply due to the weak turf foundation and the harsh conditions of summer. Any pre-emergent product applied can only stand up so long in thin or bare areas of a lawn which is why a thick, healthy lawn is the best defense. High heat is not the only down side to summer lawn blues; high humidity can spell double trouble as diseases like summer and brown patch can really take hold and do damage in short order.

 
In the case of brown patch, too much water when combined with high heat can set your lawn up for damage and thinning virtually overnight. Watering in the morning is your best friend and a little less water is better than too much when it comes to irrigation systems. I’ve seen a lot of lawns killed with kindness as irrigation systems drown the grass, and although the color is better and there is less dry brown, damage from summers diseases can cause more significant turf loss.

 

 

For a free mowing magnet, just e-mail or call anytime.

For a free mowing magnet, just e-mail or call anytime.

 

 

On the flip side, short mowing and not enough irrigation promotes summer patch, especially in sod or bluegrass lawns. Summer patch damage becomes evident as pitting, scars, and crescent-shaped lesions due to heat, humidity, and turf under stress like drought. Short mowing further compounds the problem which means even more stress placed on your lawn resulting in permanent damage. Seeding with a disease-resistant rye grass into the patches in the fall will help ease the visual trauma.

 
Think of the summer as a time to get your lawn through a bad cold or flu and fall as the cure. The goal is to prevent as much damage as possible from weeds, insects, drought, and disease. Sometimes a light touch is better than spraying materials which further stunt and stress out an ecosystem already under duress. Each lawn is unique, but many underlying principles remain the same in respect to irrigation, mowing, and lawn treatments.  As always, the best offense is a good defense in the spring and fall. When in doubt, seek professional advice; what you chose to do or not do this summer really can impact your lawn.

 

In any case, take a vacation, this is great beach weather!

 

 

Enjoy your summer vacation but be sure to follow basic lawn tips.

Enjoy your summer vacation but be sure to follow basic lawn tips.

 

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