Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Autumn Lawn Care

Homeowners often make the mistake of thinking that the secret to a good lawn is lots of work in the spring. However, perhaps the most vital period of time for healthy turf is the fall, where proper feeding and care will result in a naturally lush and beautiful lawn in the spring, which will keep its green all year long.

Grasscycling for All Season Lawn Care

Healthy lawn care year-round starts and ends with grasscycling -- leaving those nutrient-rich clippings on the lawn when you mow. Do not be fooled by the old myth of bagging clippings when the weather turns nippy. Clippings can be left behind right up to the last mowing of the year. Worms will continue to pop out of their burrows and drag clippings deeper into the soil as long as soil is not frozen, and bacteria will continue to help break down the organic clippings even under a mantle of snow!

Grasscycling Means Leaf-cycling

As leaves fall onto lawn areas, your lawnmower can be used as a mobile chipper-shredder to run over the leaves and shred them into smaller particles. No raking or bagging required! You can continue to mulch leaves right into your soil all autumn long provided that the layer of fallen leaves does not exceed more than half and inch. It also helps if the leaves are primarily dry. Those colorful leaf “bits” provide much-needed organic matter for your soil. Soils that are organically well-fed are healthy soils which will easily grow healthy lawns.

Fall is Feeding Time

One of the major causes for turf disease and unhealthy lawns is overfeeding and fertilizing at the wrong time of year. Bad feeding practices and relying on synthetic “quick fix” fertilizers and lawn chemicals can have long term harmful impacts on your lawn and on the environment, especially groundwater and streams. To ensure a healthy lawn and environment, feed your lawn now and do it right.
  • Use your soil test results to determine proper application rates. If you haven’t tested your soil -- do it now! Call your local Cooperative Extension Service office for a reliable five-ten dollar test kit.
  • Underfeed rather than overfeed; too much fertilizer leads to disease and thatch. Also, grasscyclers are already recycling a substantial amount of nutrients every time they mow.
  • Lawns should “eat” slowly. Avoid quick-release or water-soluble fertilizers. Generally, using a organic mix or low-analysis natural fertilizer (contents usually include bloodmeal, bonemeal, rock phosphate, and various manures), will provide plant roots will most of the nutrients they’ll require all year long. If synthetics are more readily available, make sure that the fertilizer is water-insoluble, or you’ll lose most of the nutrient benefit after the first rain.
  • Compost is a near complete meal -- and hefty dose of valuable organic matter -- for most lawns. You can use your own home-grown compost or purchase a commercial product, the most common being Milorganite, although many communities (and zoos!) often sell composted leaves and biosolids locally, in addition to various composted manure products. Compost can be spread over a lawn area as a topdressing about one-quarter inch thick.
  • Apply lime and other rock minerals, as indicated by your soil test. Normally, ground calcitic limestone is preferred over dolomitic lime, unless your soil suffers from a magnesium deficiency. Using ground rather than powdered lime will also ensure that the lime breaks down slowly during the winter and spring without washing off.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Aerating lawns is perhaps one of the most beneficial measures to ensure healthy soil and vigorous roots. Core aeration, which pulls plugs out of the soil, is the most effective method, and can be done by a lawncare contractor -- or by renting the equipment. The cost is usually the same either way. Aeration helps air reach organisms in the soil which break down organic matter and produce nutrients for the grass roots. It also allows organic matter, like leaf and grass particles or compost, to enter deeper into the plants’ root zones, improving soil and lawns all at once. The soil “plugs” also provide minerals for the soil surface.

Going to Seed

This is your last chance to get cool weather grass growing in bare patches. For trouble areas, it is best to roughen up the area with a rake, topdress with a thin layer of compost, and then apply the appropriate variety of grass seed and water evenly.

Remember that fall is the real beginning of the lawn care season. A little extra work now will allow you to enjoy those longer, warmer days of spring and summer a lot more next year.

Copyright 2013, Joseph M. Keyser

1 comment:

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