The Time to Care for Your Lawn is Now
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
Grasscycling for All Season Lawn
Healthy lawncare 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 1/2 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 of
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. For 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-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-in soluble, or you'll lose
most of the nutrient benefit after the first rain.
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 LeafGro and Compro, which are produced locally,
and Milorganite, 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
Breath of Fresh Air
Aerating lawns is perhaps one of the
most beneficial measures to ensure healthy soil andvigorous 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.
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.
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