GTI Lawn & Garden Letter

Entertaining advice for home gardeners with a focus on lawn and garden care and the outdoor gardening lifestyle. Suitable primarily for people living in northeastern North America and similar temperate climates in other parts of the world.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lawn Care Window Opens

Late summer and fall are an important period in lawn care. Right now is the time to apply the first part of a two part fall fertilizer application. An application of fertilizer to your lawn now will help it recover from the stress and strain of summer heat. Combined with cooler temperatures, some fall rains and heavy dew as well as continued mowing, this application of nutrients will help your lawn increase in density and crowd out undesirable weeds. An application of 0.5 kg of nitrogen per 100 square meters is sufficient. Read my early post about fertilizer selection and application for more details. You should plan to follow this application with a second similar application in late fall - late October into November depending upon how quickly winter comes this year. The late fall application will help your lawn survive the winter and provides excellent spring green up next year without the excessive growth associated with early spring fertilizer application.

Late summer and early fall is also an excellent time to seed new or renovated lawn areas. More reliable rains, heavier dews, cooler temperatures and less weed competition make this the ideal time to establish new lawn areas. A blend of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and red fescue remains the grass blend of choice for most lawn situations. The Kentucky bluegrass which is the predominant species in the blend takes a few weeks to germinate so be sure to provide regular light watering through the day particularly if we have a few spells of hot weather which hopefully we will - I'm not quite ready to give up on summer. For a lower maintenance, more drought resistant lawn you may want to consider going with a fescue blend. It will not give the deep green colour of a Kentucky bluegrass lawn and will have a finer texture as the leaf blades are finer textured. Regardless of the type of turf you go with, be sure to look for high quality seed. Buy the best seed you can afford, preferably a blend of named cultivars (look at the fine print on the bag). Inexpensive seed can have high amounts of annual grasses and other less desirable grasses or weeds to help fill the bag.

An alternative to seeding is sodding which can be done anytime until the ground is frozen. It is advisable to get your sod established before frost sets in, particularly on slopes where unrooted sod can slip if laid too late in the season.

This has been an exceptional year for weeds throughout the lawn and garden. Repeated rains combined with good heat brought several flushes of weed germination and growth through the season. Crabgrass has been particularly nasty this year and at this stage there is really nothing you can do to eradicate it unless you are inspired to try hand removal. Crabgrass is beginning to seed now and will soon turn purple and die as temperatures cool. This annual grass overwinters as seed so plan now for next season. It is rarely a problem in thick lawns that are mown high but is often found growing along the curb where road salt accumulation causes problems for the more desirable lawn grasses (see below). Pre-emergent herbicides are available and are applied in the spring around the time forsythia is blooming. Corn gluten meal is an alternative method preventing the seeds from germinating. Make a note now to plan your crabgrass control for next season. Broadleaved weeds can be effectively controlled as they are growing in the late summer and early fall. Again, a dense lawn mown high is the best defence against weed growth.

Enjoy your lawn and garden as we move into the cooler fall season. It's an excellent time of year to get out in your yard and prepare for next year.