Seven Steps to an almost PERFECT Lawn
Autumn may not seem like an ideal time to think about lawn care, considering that your grass will go dormant for the winter in a month or two. However, autumn is the opportune time to groom your lawn for beautiful growth next spring. Fall’s cool and moist weather helps grass roots develop much better than in summer, and taking advantage of this growing period will pay lush dividends.
“The increased moisture and cooler temperatures at that time of year cause grass to grow rapidly and recover quickly,” – David J. Robson (Extension Educator for the University of Illinois)
Ensure a greener yard in the spring by preparing your lawn in the fall
1 – Do a Soil Test – Soil testing provides an accurate measure of your soil’s current pH level and other factors, such as soil type, that affect the amount of lime or other soil amendments it may need. Without soil samples, you can’t accurately judge your lawn’s needs.
In many parts of the country, adding lime to your lawn is as essential as mowing it. Without lime, lawn grasses may be unable to benefit from the nutrients in your soil, including those you add through fertilizers. Lawns need lime when low soil pH starts inhibiting the availability of nutrients.
Soil pH preferences vary between regional lawn grasses, but most grasses prefer soil pH between 5.8 and 7.2. Warm-season grasses tolerate slightly lower pH, while cool-season grasses prefer pH slightly higher.1,2 When within preferred pH ranges, the nutrients lawn grasses need most — including added nitrogen from lawn fertilizers — stay available for grass to use. When pH strays too far in either direction, even plentiful nutrients are restricted. Lime restores balance in overly acidic soil to bring pH back to optimal growing levels.
2 – Check for Pests – When it’s thick, healthy and emerald green, your lawn is one of the most inviting parts of your home landscape. But when your turf is brown and sickly due to pest invasion, it quickly loses its appeal. Learning about the various pests that threaten your grass – and then arming yourself with an effective treatment plan – will help ensure your lawn stays healthy and beautiful. Lawn pest damage often goes unnoticed and unchecked until major damage occurs.
3 – Power Rake – Power raking a lawn, also called dethatching, is a great way to remove the buildup of excess dead plant material, improve water and nutrient flow to the roots and to stimulate new grass growth. Heavy thatch can choke grass plants, protect weeds and insects from the chemicals that fight them, and increase runoff from rain and watering. Power raking should be done either in the spring or fall, when grass is growing vigorously but heat stress is not a problem. This will give plants a chance to recover before they become dormant in winter or midsummer. Experts say fall is better than spring.
4- Lawn Aeration – Aeration is a cornerstone to having a well maintained lawn. The process of aerating is essentially spiking the lawn to allow for more air (and nutrients including water) to get to the grass roots.
5 – Top Dressing – Once the lawn is flat and aerated it is the ideal time to put some top dressing down. Top dressing improves soil structure and encourages strong root development so helps to support a healthy lawn. Spread the lawn dressing evenly over the grass with the back of a rake, working it well into the holes created by spiking.
6 – Overseeding – There’s a secret behind achieving a beautiful, lush lawn. Landscape professionals know what it is, but many homeowners don’t. Overseeding as part of a comprehensive, proactive plan—keeps lawns looking great. The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance service recommends overseeding at least 45 days before your average first fall frost. Overseeding lawns in fall reduces or eliminates competition from summer weedy grasses, such as crabgrass, foxtails, and other weeds. Soil temperatures are still warm in the fall, which is necessary for seed germination, while the cooler air temperatures are better for grass growth. Rain amounts and soil moisture is generally better in the fall. Overseeding lawns in the fall gives the grass a head start. The roots have become established before winter, which greatly reduces crop loss should you have a hot, dry spring.
7 – Fertilization – Apply fertilizers now. Fall is here and it’s time to fertilize. Why now? Taking the time to fertilize in the fall will strengthen your plants’ and lawn’s roots, giving them a strong base on which to thrive next spring. The first thing to understand about fertilizer is the formula, which is represented by three numbers, such as the common 5-10-5. The first number represents nitrogen, which promotes lawn blade and foliage growth; the second number stands for phosphorus, which helps root growth; and the third for potassium, which promotes cell function and absorption of trace elements.
September is the best time to fertilize your lawn. Grass is recovering from a long hot summer and may be coming out of a drought-induced dormancy, so you’ll want to give your lawn a shot of nitrogen to push blade growth. A fertilizer with a formula of 20-8-8 will get it growing again. While this fall lawn fertilizer dose is important, an application at the end of October or early November is essential. At that time, apply a fertilizer with a formula of 13-25-12. The push of phosphorus will stimulate root growth through November and even into early December. By helping roots grow before winter sets in, you are insuring that the lawn will green-up quicker in the spring and become more resistant to disease and drought.
The Anatomy of Grass
An individual blade of grass lives an average of 40 days. Yet grass plants are able to form the long-lasting expanse of green space called a lawn because of their structure and how they grow. Understanding a bit about both can make it easier to maintain a lawn, The basic grass plant structure is pictured to the left.
Below ground is the network of plant material called the root. All of the aboveground section of a grass is collectively called the shoot. Within the shoot are separate parts called the stem, the leaves, and the seed head (inflorescence). There are two parts to a grass leaf. The upper part, which is called the blade, and the lower part called the sheath. The section where the blade and sheath meet is called the intercalary meristem, an area of cell division where new growth begins. On most types of plants, this area of growth (meristem) is located at the tip (apical). On grass, this growth point is located below the tip (subapical). The location is important because, when only the tip of the grass plant is cut away, and the meristem remains, the grass can grow a new tip.
Nodes are enlarged areas spaced along the stem of a grass plant. The vascular system of a leaf connects to the stem at the node. The node also is the connection point for buds which are able to generate new plants. Grass roots and shoots meet at the crown. It is the thick, light colored part of the plant located at soil level. The crown could be called the plant’s control center because it contains many nodes, each with an attached bud that could produce a new, independent plant, called a tiller. Because the crown is at soil level, it escapes cutting and continues to support regrowth for trimmed blades and generate new tillers. The ratio of tillers to dying blades determines the number of actively growing blades and thus, the density of the grass.
almost PERFECT Landscaping of Bergen County
almost PERFECT Landscaping (APLNJ) of Bergen County, N.J. is a multi-faceted landscape design, build, installation and property maintenance firm. APLNJ offers both residential and commercial lawn care and maintenance services which address any and all of your lawn care needs. Your lawn can be the envy of the neighborhood, just give us a call at 201-389-6979 and we’ll schedule a consultation with you to address your lawn’s situation.