Reviving Your Lawn
Our lawns haven’t had to endure as tough of a summer as they have in recent years, but some are starting to show the typical signs of summer struggle. Long dry spells and pesky weeds can take their toll, turning lush green spaces into patchy brown spaces, but fear not, with a little effort your lawn will bounce back.
Lawns are ground covers that not only add to the appearance and value of our homes, they are also environmentally important, sequestering carbon, providing oxygen, and helping control pollution. When they look bad, our entire landscape looks bad. Once the cooler weather arrives, let’s take advantage of it and get our lawns into shape.
First, the weeds! Weeds compete with our existing grasses for water and food, they look unsightly, and they spread like wildfire. Most of them are annuals, so consistent weekly mowing with the blades set as low as possible is the first line of defence. If you make a point of mowing in opposite directions each week, this will also help prevent thatch. Maintaining good cultural practices for your lawn grasses is the next best way to keep out weeds, that means building a good soil base through aeration and proper watering and feeding. Most weeds, with the exception of velvet grass, couch grass, clover and horsetails, can be controlled by simply digging them out as they appear. If you take a little time to keep tabs on your weeds, you will be amazed just how easy it is to control them.
Over-seeding is another great way to help choke out weeds and September is a terrific time of the year to do just that. Cooler night temperatures and morning dew really help the seeds germinate and take hold. Use a mix of seed that has perennial rye grasses, preferably the stoloniferous blend called ‘Natural Knit,’ at the rate of 5 lbs. per 1000 square feet. Amazingly, it is actually aggressive against weeds. Even though these grasses are fast germinators (about 7-10 days at this time of year), they still need daily watering until the seed has become rooted. Putting a skiff of peat moss down with the seed will assist in keeping the seed moist as it germinates too. You will be delighted by the difference these grasses will make to the appearance of your lawn. Many folks are also adding 10-20% micro-clover or white Dutch clover to lawn seed mixes to enhance the thickness of their lawns and to make them more self-sustaining and extra beneficial to pollinators.
For long-term success with your lawn, you really must aerate, which means removing plugs of soil, either by hand or machine, to improve drainage. Those of you who have sandy soil are not off the hook here either. Winter and spring rains beat down on the soil surface, making it hard and subsequently difficult for roots to breathe and penetrate deeper into the soil. Aeration should be followed by applying a ¼ inch layer of coarse or washed sand on the lawn area. The sand will work its way into those aeration holes to keep them open, thus improving the drainage.
Finally, the fertilizer. Should you fertilize at this time of the year with fall so near? The answer is absolutely yes. Lawn grasses need nitrogen to stay green and grow well. Fall lawn food with stabilized nitrogen will feed and strengthen your lawn so that it’s in terrific shape for next spring. In a nutshell, stabilized nitrogen extends the amount of time that the nitrogen is available in the soil, and makes it more readily available for the plant to draw up. Scott’s Fall Lawn Food 32-0-10 is a great option for your final feed of the year (later in October).
The Final Touches
There are a few really fine lawns out there, but most do need some work to get them into shape for the fall and winter months. Remember that not all steps can be done at once; leave at least a two-week interval in between activities, or the time it takes you to mow your lawn three times. This window will allow your lawn to mature enough to make it ready for the next activity.
Once you have done these steps, apply some Dolopril lime (at a rate of 10kg per 200 square metres) to keep the pH level up over the winter and further discourage moss. Lime can be applied at any point over winter, but it’s ideal to get it down before the heavier rains begin later in fall.
The best deterrents to weeds and moss are a thick, healthy lawn with neutral, well-draining soil. A little effort now will pay big dividends for many years to come, so give your lawn some attention this fall. It will be worth it!
For more information on year-round lawn care, you can view our Lawn Care Guide here!