Landscape Now: Fall Is The Time to Restore Your Lawn

Saturday, September 07, 2013


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The summer can do a number on a healthy lawn, but come fall it can be looking like new again.

Whether you plan to install a new lawn or renovate an existing lawn or repair damaged areas of your lawn...September is the ideal time to complete the project. Advantages to fall seeding include: cooler temperatures and more rainfall for increased germination, lack of serious weed competition and without the pressures of summer heat the grasses can work on root development in preparation for going dormant for the winter months. Fall seeding can occur from late August until Columbus Day weekend depending on the weather. Best results will be achieved when completing installation and renovations in September to give the newly planted grasses time to establish themselves.

Installing a new lawn

The keys to installing a new lawn are the quality of the loam used, choosing the appropriate seed mixes, making sure the pH of the soil is around 6.5 and watering the newly installed lawn properly for effective germination.

  • The loam being used should be of a high quality, tested, and applied at least 6-8” thick. Having a base of 6” of sub soil will be ideal. Although it is an extra step having the loam tested for organic matter, pH and nutrients will be very helpful in the long run. Remember, although it only take hours to seed your new lawn the substrate will be there forever so make sure it is of good quality and appropriate for your conditions!
  • Having a basic soil test is vital to the success of the seeding. Ideal pH is around 6.5...if the test shows acid soil (4.5-6) you will need to apply lime to raise the pH. Depending on the results you may need to apply a significant amount of lime but only apply a maximum of 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet in the fall and make a second application in the spring.
  • Choosing the right seed mix for your lawn is critical to achieving the success you want. There are mixes appropriate for sunny areas, shady spots, high traffic areas, and drought tolerant blends. Considering your situation, consult with your local garden center, seed store, or Agway to choose the best blend for you. Using entophytic seed mixes (mainly fescues) will afford you protection against some surface feeding insects...without the use of chemicals! In southern New England, the U.R.I. #2 blend (perennial ryes, fescues, blue grasses and annual rye) is an all-purpose mix adapted to our soils, conditions, and climate. Time spent researching lawn mixes will pay off with a lush, healthy, and successful lawn!
  • Even though the fall conditions will be cooler and wetter you will still need to ensure that the newly seeded lawn is watered daily for the first several weeks to make sure the seeds germinate. Make sure the soil is moist and does not dry out so the best germination will take place. After germination, water the new grass 20 minutes or so every other day for two weeks then once a week deeply until the temperatures approach freezing. Then stop for the season.


Renovating your lawn

During the summer months, your lawn can be damaged by insects, crabgrass infestation, and fungal diseases. September is the ideal time for over-seeding (using a machine designed to slice the existing turf and drop in new seeds), grub control and fertilizing for thickening lawn growth. It is normal for the northern, cool season grasses to go dormant in the summer and begin to grow again in September, particularly expanding their roots.

  • Over-seeding your lawn will help to repair bare areas, thicken a weak lawn and fill in areas covered with crabgrass. A note about is an annual that will die at the first frost. Applying a chemical herbicide to kill crabgrass now is unnecessary since it will die anyway and try to minimize chemicals applied to your lawn, especially with kids and pets playing on it. The goal is to thicken the lawn so it will outcompete weeds and become healthy without unnecessary chemical applications.
  • Grub control can be best achieved in late August, early September. The new grubs are tiny larvae, easy to eliminate and haven’t started burying themselves into the ground for the winter. Organically, you can apply beneficial nematodes, which have proved very effective. If you must use a chemical treatment, be sure to post the treatment, keep your children and pets off the lawn, and consider having a professionally trained applicator do the treatment.
  • Along with over-seeding, fall is an ideal time to aerate your lawn. Aeration pulls tiny plugs out of your lawn several inches deep so water, fertilizers, and compost can penetrate into the root layer and be more effective. Yearly aerations can help make your lawn healthier and lusher. Applying lime to improve your pH can be accomplished at the same time. A complete fertilizer can be applied in September to help the grass recover from the summer stress and increase root growth in preparation for winter. Late fall, early winter fertilizer applications are discouraged because when the ground is frozen there is the potential for excess fertilizers being washed away into streams and rivers ultimately a source of non-point pollution.


Healthy lawns are established in the fall!

Over the years I have seen almost all fall seeded lawns germinate, green up and fill in as lush, weed free and the fall and long-term! With fewer stresses to overcome, turf seed will germinate, develop healthy roots, and establish itself before winter dormancy. Time spent researching seed varieties for your locale, making sure your loam is of high quality and correct pH and watering your new lawn appropriately will ensure you have a green and healthy lawn for years to come!

In my next article, I will discuss the allure of water gardens in your landscape and 7 key points to consider when adding one to your yard!

“I live in a landscape, which every single day of my life is enriching.” –Daniel Day-Lewis


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Frank Crandall, Horticultural Solutions. Frank is a R.I. resident specializing in coastal landscaping, organic land care, small business consulting, writing, speaking and photography and will be submitting biweekly articles about Landscape Solutions. Frank just published his third book, Creating a More Peaceful, Happy and Successful Life! You can read more about his book on his website, Comments about Frank’s articles are welcome by contacting him at [email protected].


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