The unusually dry weather has extended into September and even with cool weather, suffering turf remains brown while damaged lawns look more like broken boats on a beach after a hurricane. Where do you begin unraveling such chaos and what appears to be a seemingly dauntless project? There is still time to prioritize appropriate action, and even if they all cannot be done, setting goals now is critical so next spring you can continue with your lawn improvement plans.
First, is your lawn undergoing insect damage right now from grubs or chinch bugs? If you cannot find the enemy yourself, have a professional check your lawn and determine if treatment is warranted. If you miss this crucial step, most lawn pests will overwinter and not go away to Florida. In fact, the population that damaged your lawn will continue to expand next spring causing even more problems. Don’t be an ostrich, any repairs made now without addressing an underlying issue will be a waste of time and money.
Address the most important part of your lawn and focus on doing the job right. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by attempting to renovate a half acre or more by yourself on a few weekends. Unless you have access to a small army, you simply will not have enough time to remove the dead thatch, add loam/compost, seed, add starter fertilizer, and lime before it’s the end of October in New England. Do the job right, don’t throw down 20lbs of seed on top of dead thatch and expect a new lawn, this simply won’t work. For proper results, grass seed must be planted into a seed bed, be it compost, loam or a combination. Like pepperoni on a pizza, making good soil contact without burying the seed is vital, with watering being the most important factor in a lawn fix. No water equals no lawn. You must commit to at least 2-3 weeks of watering in order to establish a turf area under normal conditions. Even if the weather is cool, moisture is needed during germination and the early days of growth.
October generally brings leaves and debris as fall fades into early winter. Be sure to keep heavy leaf litter picked up, especially on new grass. Excessive leaves can mulch the newly planted lawn in mere weeks. Mowing height can be slowly dropped to around 1.5” at the end of October for a last cut generally occurring in November. A short cut can help reduce snow mold, winter kill, and other turf issues due to matting and long grass under the snow. A pure potassium treatment in October can offer some increased hardiness by increasing cell wall thickness. Don’t let the remaining weeks pass without addressing at least some of the lawn issues you are facing. Even if some projects have to wait until next spring, get a game plan together now because with such widespread problems, professionals like me will be busy booking work into 2013. Good luck!