August 27, 2011 in Washington Voices

Cooler weather allows for fall lawn maintenance

Pat Munts
 

Our lawns have benefited from the cooler weather this year and didn’t get stressed out as much as they usually do. That means that this is a good year to do some fall maintenance to help build a better lawn.

Keep watering lawns until we have had two or three soaking rains. Water longer, but less often to get water deep into the soil. Resist shutting sprinklers down too early in October, if it stays dry, so lawns go into winter with plenty of water.

The cooler weather means the weeds will be growing better than they normally would this time of year. Once it cools a little more, dandelions and chickweed will be back in full force to set more seeds before winter. Spot-treat weeds as they appear to keep them in check. Don’t use a weed and feed product as this throws herbicide on areas of the lawn that don’t need it. Always read and follow herbicide label directions.

The fall fertilizer application is the most important one of the year and should be applied in late September. The grass plant will move the nutrients to its roots and store them until spring. When the weather warms, the plant will get a good start and green up faster. Use a good quality, slow-release product or an organic lawn fertilizer.

September is a great time to do some rejuvenation and repair work on bare spots. Aerate the lawn with a plug aerator crossing the lawn twice at right angles to the previous run. Don’t thatch the lawn. Lawns here don’t really create much thatch and tearing up the good grass plants actually weakens the sod just as it is building its reserves for winter.

Top-dress the lawn with an inch of compost and rake it into the grass and holes. For bare or thin areas, rake up the dirt lightly and apply a good quality grass seed. Rake it in lightly and cover the area with pelletized mulch. Water gently so the mulch expands and covers the area. Set your sprinkler or hand water a couple of times a day to keep the seed bed moist. The soil will be warm into early October so seed should germinate quickly.

Early September is also a good time to lay sod or seed a new lawn. If you are replacing a lawn, remove the old sod, lightly till and level the area. Water well to get weeds to sprout and then spray them with a glysophate (e.g., Round-Up) product. If you have a lot of weeds, do this twice. A week after your last spray, scatter and rake in seed, or lay your sod. The herbicide will have lost its potency and will not affect them. Water seeded lawns twice a day and sod once. Sod will usually anchor itself in about three weeks. Seed will sprout and the young grass will go dormant for the winter. Hand pull any weeds that pop up.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by email at pat@ inlandnwgardening.com.


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