2016-09-21 / Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips

Fall Lawn Care
by Bob Beyfuss

Well technically, it isn’t fall until September 21 but we have had a few of those brisk, beautiful, clear days that remind us of what is on the way. There is also some fall color on the trees in the mountains and I suddenly have more tomatoes then I know what to do with! Traditionally Labor Day weekend is an excellent time for fall lawn fertilization but it has been so hot and dry this past August that I hesitated to send out the word this year. Since September 1, we have finally received some muchneeded rain and cooler temperatures, although much of the region is still in serious drought.

Test pH levels before you use fertilizer

This is an excellent time to fertilize your lawn as the grass turns green and starts to grow vigorously again. Shorter days and cool nights help turf grasses develop strong root systems and not simply grow taller leaves. If you have not had your lawn soil tested for pH in the past few years you should do so now. A pH test will tell you how much lime you need to add, if any, and may save you money, time and aggravation. Unless the soil is in the proper pH range fertilizer applications may be wasted. Cornell Cooperative Extension offices throughout the region will test your soil for pH if you bring in a sample, consisting of a few tablespoons of soil, taken from 6 different places on the lawn. Mix the six samples together to make a composite sample to test.

My generic lawn fertilizer recommendation is to apply 10 pounds of a 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. If you are using some other “name brand” fertilizer, just follow the label directions for application rates.

This is also a good time to plant grass seed to fill in bare spots and kill soil insect such as grubs, as well as lawn weeds like dandelions, ground ivy, clover, chick weed, broad leaved plantain. I usually do not recommend “weed and feed” types of lawn care products, but at this time of year, they can be effective.

There is still plenty of time to plant containerized perennials in your flower border or perennial beds. Mums and Asters lead the list of fall blooming plants that may or may not survive to bloom next year. They will look great for a month or so at the least! Take advantage of the fall sales at local garden centers. Spring flowering bulbs are also available now and if you shop early you will have the best selection (but not the best prices!). You c an also try cutting your annuals back hard now in the hopes of a final flush of bloom in October. Give them a shot of a water-soluble fertilizer to encourage new growth.

This is also a good time to dig up and divide iris as well as peonies. With Iris cut off and replant the outer edges of the clump since the inner section usually gets Iris borers after a few years. Be careful not to replant divided peonies too deeply, the buds should be no more than one inch below the surface.

Start a compost pile with spent garden plants and add tree leaves as they fall. Run your lawnmower over everything you want to compost to speed up the decay process. Avoid pruning trees that are starting to show fall color. Wait until next March to avoid winter injury brought on by late season pruning. Continue to water all trees and shrubs planted this season right until the ground freezes in December.

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