LAWN AND ORDER
Now's the time to make grass greener on your side
By Chandra Orr
Copley News Service
Jealous of your neighbor's lush, green lawn? Now is the time to do something about it.
With the stress of the summer heat and sun fading, grass is at its prime for absorbing nutrients. A little work now will help banish bald spots, keep weeds in check and ensure a lush, lavish lawn come spring.
"After a long, hot and dry summer, our lawns are feeling stressed and depleted of nutrients. The onset of cooler weather in the fall gives our lawns a chance to breathe," said botanist Jon Feldman, owner of the landscape design firm G. biloba Gardens in Nyack, N.Y., and a recent winner of HGTV's "Landscaper's Challenge."
"Past the stress of summer, it is easier for the plants to absorb nutrients without getting burned or shocked as they would if they got infusions of food during the stressful months."
As winter approaches, grasses begin to shut down for the dormancy period of their life cycle, but they're still actively storing food and nutrients in preparation for the coming spring.
A little TLC now will give your grass the boost it needs to weather the winter months and come alive, refreshed and rejuvenated next spring.
"Fertilizing, adding organic material, aerating, thatching and over-seeding an existing lawn are all good practices for fall lawn care," Feldman said. "The lawn will have a tremendous jump-start when spring brings the plants back to active growing."
FEED THE ROOTS
While fertilizing in the spring promotes new leaf growth, fertilizing in the fall promotes new root growth, and healthy roots are essential for a lush lawn. As soon as the temperatures dip, feed your lawn before the final mow with a natural organic fertilizer. The nutrients will be stored in the roots and give your grass a healthy start in spring.
KEEP IT SHORT
Cold weather can have a devastating effect on lawns that are too long. Shortly before winter arrives, cut the grass one last time to remove new growth, which can dry out quickly in cold weather, leading to a brown lawn come spring. Cutting the lawn shorter will also reduce moisture buildup that can lead to mold and fungus growth under the snow.
KEEP IT CLEAN
As soon as the leaves start falling, grab a rake and get to work. Even a small layer of fallen leaves can smother individual grass plants and lead to a patchy lawn in the spring. In moderation, organic matter does wonders for a lawn but if all those leaves are left to break down during the winter, they can release excessive phosphates and nitrates into the soil. The leaf layer can also promote the growth of mold and fungus, which can destroy large sections of the lawn.
LET IT BREATHE
Fall is the perfect time to aerate your lawn. Proper aeration loosens compacted soil, allowing air, water and nutrients to reach the plant roots. The increased airflow means higher oxygen levels in the soil, which stimulates root growth for a strong, stable lawn. The aeration process also cuts through grass roots, which encourages new growth and helps transform patchy, uneven grass into an envy-worthy lawn.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE
Lawns have a shallow root system so they're more susceptible to moisture and temperature fluctuations. That means regular maintenance in the spring and summer is a must.
"If you think about the extremes in temperature and moisture fluctuations our plants go through over the course of 12 months, it's amazing they can survive at all," Feldman said. "Regularly scheduled treatments of fertilizer and controlled irrigation will arm the lawn with the tools to withstand harsh conditions and provide a thick, lush green carpet throughout the year."
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