Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2008
Regional Report

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Fertilize now to thicken the lawn and maintain deep green color.

Time to Give Lawns a Boost

If your lawn is like mine, it has survived another long, hot summer. Or has it? Maybe unsightly weeds, thinning grass, and brown and yellow patches have more than likely turned your emerald carpet of green into Death Valley.

Don't despair, however. Late summer and early fall are perfect times for nurturing tired, thin lawns back to full health and vigor. Cool-season grasses including bluegrass, turf fescue, and perennial ryegrass will respond to some tender loving care.

A lawn makeover can be as simple as "spot sodding" small areas or as ambitious as re-sodding or reseeding the entire lawn. Warm soil temperatures and cooler air will help grass seed germinate and encourage roots to grow deeply so the grass can compete with annual weedy grasses and other broadleaf weeds.

If you do decide to overseed, steer clear of cheap grass seed mixtures that will give you a hodgepodge of coarse grasses and a patchy look. Buy grass seed from a reputable company. Investing in top-quality seed will pay off handsomely later on with a dense, uniform carpet of green.

Tips for Soil Health
The condition of the soil is the most important element to the long-term health of your lawn. Soil maintenance involves core aeration maintaining a pH balance and good organic content in the soil, and fertilizing. When the soil has sufficient air, water, nutrients, and organic material, it can support the life of microorganisms that help to release valuable nutrients and help eliminate thatch through decomposition.

Now is a perfect time to core aerate. This mechanical process opens the soil to better air movement, reduces soil compaction, allows for deeper root growth, and improves drainage. The holes left from aeration also serve as excellent lodging places for new seed to make contact with the soil and germinate more quickly. If needed, you can level out low spots by topdressing areas in the lawn after a core aeration. Be sure to use a quality organic material, such as more finely pulverized compost, when topdressing. Avoid fresh manures or cheap bagged products that are more likely to carry lots of weed seeds and may have a higher soluble salt content.

If you had to choose one season to apply a lawn fertilizer, autumn should be the choice. Fall fertilizer helps ensure that the turf stores carbohydrates to survive fall and winter conditions, plus the lawn will green up earlier without excessive top growth that occurs with early spring fertilizer applications. My personal recommendation is to apply an organic lawn fertilizer that will not only provide nutrients to the turf, but will also help improve soil conditions underfoot.

Now is the time to take action to get your lawn in shape. The extra effort will result in healthier, thicker turf that can survive the months ahead.

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