Archive for September, 2011

How to restore your Vermont lawn after Irene’s flooding

For those with a home lawn in a flood plain or next to a waterway, removal of as much sediment and silt becomes job one.  Many will opt for a professional with equipment capable of moving large volumes of river sediment.  This is especially important to the homeowner as there is a high likelihood that the silt and sediment, being of the finest particle size, will trap and contain petroleum products, organic waste, or other undesirable materials.  Leaving the removal of such sediment to a professional can provide a measure of comfort to the home owner versus attempting such a daunting task themselves given the inherent risks.  After this “river frosting” is removed, the next phase is lawn restoration either this fall or next spring.

Freshly Reseeded Lawn and Hay Spreading

 Damaged lawns will fall into two main categories ranging from a complete reinstallation with truck loads of loam down to basic turf treatments like core aeration, calcium lime, and fertilizer.  The more extensive the flooding and sediment layer, the more likely loam will need to be brought in, spread out with a tractor, seeded, and then rolled.  Any seeding this fall will pay dividends with quicker grass thickening versus having to wait for the soil to warm up and dry out next spring.

In many cases, a complete lawn renovation may well be the best choice compared to trying to patch up or fix thinned out or dead sections of lawn.  Attempting to match any existing grasses can leave a calico appearance to a lawn while starting over allows more desirable blends to be utilized yielding a more consistent turf cover. Before proceeding with a complete restoration it may also be the opportune time to decide how much lawn you really want in your planted landscape – do you love it and like the maintenance chores or do you really dream of creating other outdoor living spaces with patios, walkways, and gardens with native flowers, shrubs and trees? Only you can answer this question that Irene has raised….

The second type of lawn repair would be a partial renovation where perhaps the back or front was buried in silt yet or another area simply became either submerged in water or soaked by heavy rain.  Given the massive amount of rainfall during hurricane Irene, many soils, particularly sandy ones, will have lost significant nutrient value and will require supplemental treatment of Nitrogen and Potassium.  In this scenario, a normal lawn would do well to receive a balanced, low to zero phosphate, slow release fertilizer treatment to aid in improving turf health this autumn.

Any energy stored in October and November will be used to repair and establish a healthy root system prior to winter resulting in a better spring green up (see ‘winterizer’ blog post at mrgrassblog.net).  A high calcium lime treatment will aid in softening the soil itself while adjusting soil pH into a desirable range for the new and existing turf.  Core aeration is an excellent tool to reduce compacted soil, perhaps even those with some remaining sediment as a coating on the surface of the lawn.  These situations can be further improved by overseeding once the lawn is aerated with a superior blend of turf grass.

Most lawns can be seeded into late October and still have some germination prior to winter in a normal growing season.  Although you will not see a whole lot going on, taking the shot now is still normally worth the gamble of an early snow.  I have seen great lawns emerge in the spring from a late seeding and in the case of this catastrophe, I think the ‘doing’ outweighs the ‘waiting’ in most cases.

Although lawns may rate low on the scale of post-Irene reconstruction compared to bridges, roads, or house repairs, ultimately the job will arise and when it does, doing it right makes more sense than to not.

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Winterizer applications for NH & VT lawns

A fall winterizer application can be of great benefit to your lawn

You read the phrase ‘lawn winterizer’ in newspaper advertisements and hear the chatter in the local hardware store.  With a name like ‘winterizer,’ it must be important but what does it mean to prepare your lawn for winter? 

If you are considering a late season fertilizer application to your lawn, many will call it a winterizer given the time of year, usually done in October or November in NH & VT.  The goal of a late season fertilizer treatment is fairly simple due to slow leaf blade growth and aggressive root growth.  A winterizer fertilizer is usually applied to encourage root growth and allow the lawn to store vital carbohydrate reserves for use in the spring, aiding in recovery and a faster green up.  Since leaf blade growth is much slower in the late fall, any N-P-K generally does not stimulate a typical flush of top growth but the opposite below ground in terms of healthier roots.

The Scott’s company actually trademarked their “WinterGuard” fertilizer for just such a treatment.  Many folks like to use a balanced fertilizer (24-5-11 or 20-1-5) application as a winterizer, but some lean toward a higher potassium (0-0-62) treatment designed to improve cold hardiness and drought tolerance the following year.  I have personally seen the results of a winterizer treatment and they are most impressive when done at the correct time.

If you don’t do much for your lawn during the year, now would be the time to seriously consider a winterizer treatment before you slice your Thanksgiving turkey!  Autumn is here and so is the time to help your lawn.

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Autumn brings out the best in a lawn in NH & VT

chippers can create a picture perfect lawn outside your window

With autumn in full swing, most lawns in NH & VT should be well recovered from what was a record setting summer in terms of high heat.  Any lingering damage should be very obvious and can be fixed before winter such as dead patches of crabgrass or ongoing grub activity.  September and October are ideal months to improve your grass due to warm soil, ample moisture, and cool days/nights.  Fertilizing, liming, aeration, seeding, compost tea, and optional weed reduction are all most effective at this time of the year in NH & VT.  Any insect activity should be addressed now as the longer you wait; the more lawn you lose and the more difficult the control becomes as the pests grow larger such as with grubs in the soil.

If your lawn has issues with weeds such as shepherd’s purse, chickweed, or henbit; consider a treatment this fall with products such as Dimension.  Use of the aforementioned product this fall will also provide some crabgrass suppression next spring.

Autumn is a great time to improve your soil since it is the supporting mechanism for a healthy lawn.  Topdressing with compost, adding sea kelp, or spraying on compost tea rich in humates, fungi, and bacteria are encouraging ways to improve the microbial state of your lawn before winter.  Using a high calcium lime is a positive step to not only adjust your soil pH, but provide calcium which turf greatly appreciates by improving the cation exchange within the soil itself.  What does that mean?  Calcium helps loosen soil up while Magnesium based lime tends to bind it up more.  The better the cation exchange, the less your soil will leach nutrients, especially when combined with a healthy microbial environment below ground.  Soils high in organic matter have high cation exchange capacities while sandy soils have very low ratings.  As you can see, healthy soil is more important to your lawn than you may have imagined.

As always, be sure to recycle your lawn clippings whenever possible and mow high even in the fall to promote deeper root systems.  As the leaves begin to fall and accumulate, don’t let them mulch out shaded areas- rake them up or mow them into pieces.  Improved sunlight can help those marginal areas which were blocked by a tree canopy or forest edge.  Even shade tolerant grass will appreciate a little extra sun in the fall before winter snow arrives.

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