Fall is the Best Time to Improve your Lawn

With cooler nights as well as more and longer lasting dew on the ground each morning, fall is the best time to improve the quality of your lawn. If your lawn looks terrible due to the long drought we endured this summer, this post is for you!

Recovering from Summer

My lawn held up amazingly well (some weeds moved in along the curb, but the grass recovered) in the drought this summer, much better than many others in my neighbourhood, and also much better than it ever has other summers. I suspect the TLC I showed it last fall is the reason for that.

Fall lawn repair
front lawn

Fall Lawn Regime

That sign of success means I will be following a similar protocol this season:

  • aerating
  • adding composted manure and seed
  • applying a fall fertilizer six weeks after seeding
  • cutting the lawn shorter than usual before the first snowfall

Aerating

When you aerate, ensure you use a proper aerator (hire someone to do it for you) that digs out plugs of soil. The inexpensive, so-called aerating tools that you step on do more damage to your lawn as they compact the soil instead of aerating it.

Fall lawn repair
aerated lawn

Composted Manure vs Garden Soil for Lawns

I choose composted manure, either sheep or cattle/steer, because I have yet to find a bad bag of it. By bad I mean no weeds or junk in it. In the past I have purchased bags and loads of soil, from garden soil to black earth, that were loaded with weeds seeds, garbage and even cigarette butts. Never again! You can purchase composted manure at Home Depot, Lowes or locally at Ritchies Nurseries. I would not however, recommend the brand that Canadian Tire sells.

Fertilize

If you plan to fertilize your lawn, pay attention to the three numbers on the bags. In order, they represent the nutrient levels of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash/Potassium in the fertilizer. In September, as lawns recover from the summer weather, choose a fertilizer highest in Nitrogen for a slow growth.

Later in the fall, choose one with a higher middle number to stimulate root growth and protection over the winter.

Reseed

If you plan to reseed because your lawn has bare spots and lots of weeds, you should wait six weeks after seeding to apply fertilizer. Be sure too to invest in grass seed specific for your location and sun exposure. If you are one of the lucky ones and do not plan/need to reseed, you can fertilize twice as indicated, once now (September) and again in November.

I promise, it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds! Next summer your lawn will be grateful for the extra TLC you provide this fall.

April showers bring May flowers; the advantages of spring rain

The rain in the weather forecast for the next 10 days here in Ottawa brings the saying  “April showers bring May flowers” to mind.  The rain showers will water the spring bulbs and perennials, encouraging their bloom.  A few days of rain makes the lawns so much greener too.  All the rain showers and cool weather forecasted this spring is also good for planting grass seed or fertilizing your lawn and trees.

There are many products available for spring treatment, some with just seed, some with just fertilizer, and some that combine seed and fertilizer.

Some combinations for your lawn even add peat which is beneficial in keeping the soil rich by absorbing moisture.  These combination products can be a good thing for novice landscapers and home owners, as the research is done for you.  The proper type of fertilizer and the amount to use is calculated for you.

Corn gluten is a popular, organic, pre-emergent treatment for crab grass.  Pre-emergent means it should be applied before the crab grass seeds germinate (start to grow) very early in the spring, as soon as the snow is gone from the lawn.  I use corn gluten on my lawn in the fall, after the first frost, but before the first snow fall.  I have found this practice convenient (one less thing to do in the spring) and most effective against crabgrass.

Fertilizer spikes are efficient ways to feed your trees.  Make sure you choose the proper product package for your trees though.  There are packages for evergreens (pine, spruce, cedar etc), ornamental trees (crab apple, lilacs etc) fruit trees (apple, plum etc) and other popular trees (maple, elm etc)    Simply pound the spikes in the ground around the perimeter of your tree’s dripline as specified in the package directions.  Obviously, the larger the perimeter of your tree’s dripline (the outer edge of branches), the more spikes you need.  It is best and easiest to pound these spikes into the ground when the ground is wet and more rain showers are in the forecast.

Make the most of the forecasted rain; your lawn and trees will thank you!