Six Fall Lawn Care Steps for a Better Lawn Next Spring
The hot and dry Summer of 2010 has left most lawns in distress. Many varieties of grass go dormant from the heat, and though they look terrible now, they will mostly renew themselves in the spring.
For obvious dead spots, now is the time for repair and reseeding. You want to do any reseeding now, in time to allow roots to grow and spread before facing freezing temperatures. Mid-September is a good target date for having your reseeding and lawn repair projects completed. Where to start? We consulted with one of our local experts, the UCONN Home and Garden Education Center, for some great advice on fall lawn care. Here are some great tips they shared:
- Choose the Right Seed: Do your yard a favor by investing in quality grass seed that is appropriate for your geographic area and the amount of sun or shade it receives. UCONN recommends also adding some Dutch clover to your planting, to help keep your lawn healthy and well-fed with natural nutrients.
- Rake and Prep: For best results rake up all dead grass and get rid of the debris. It’s important for any new seed to be able to work its way into the soil, which means a serious overall raking and/or slit seeding your lawn. For your lawn as a whole, it’s a great time to fertilize with organic compost and overseed your lawn to encourage thicker, more robust grass in the spring.
- Tackle Bare Spots: Rake them up well – really well. Each bare spot in the lawn should be dug up to a depth of around 4 inches. Of course, removing rocks and weeds is a good idea while you’re at it. Then add ¼ inch of organic compost to each spot, and rake it into the soil to re-innoculate it. The biological activity of the compost will help rebuild your soil, creating a healthier base for your grass seed. This is also a great time to fill in any dips or holes, using a mix of topsoil and compost, to even out your lawn. When your bare spots are nicely prepared, seed them and cover with straw mulch.
- Fertilize Organically: This is the time to fertilize your entire lawn, and of course at GreenCycle we recommend only organic methods. Organic and slow-release fertilizers release nutrients over a number of weeks, instead of dumping a big load of nutrients on your lawn all at once. It’s better to give grass nutrients over a period of many weeks, because anything that isn’t used right away will simply be washed from the soil. As recommended by UCONN, a thin layer of organic compost applied over the whole lawn is the best natural fertilizer you can use. They recommend 1/8 inch of finely screened compost applied over the whole lawn and raked in before overseeding the lawn. Call your local GreenCycle for help in determining how many yards you’ll need for your specific lawn size.
- Seed Well: Use a slit seeder if you can. Otherwise, seed by hand broadcasting or with a spreader. Follow broadcasting with a good raking to work the seeds into the existing lawn.
- Water on Schedule: Water your newly seeded lawn faithfully until it germinates. A good thorough watering every morning for the next two to three weeks (taking into account, of course, watering provided by Mother Nature) will be required, so investing in a good cycle sprinkler and even a timer will help you accomplish this.
For more organic lawncare tips, UCONN recommends Paul Tukey’s “The Organic Lawncare Manual, A natural low-maintenance system for a beautiful lawn,” published by Storey Publishing, ISBN #10:1-58017-649-6. (about $20) You can also visit www.ladybug.uconn.edu for great tips and fact sheets on many organic lawncare and gardening topics.