Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
October, 2011
Regional Report

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A good fall core aeration will pay off now and next spring with a more vigorous lawn.

Get Your Lawn in Shape

Autumn, with crisp morning air and warm days, is one of the best times to get the lawn in shape for the winter and next year. My lawn took it hard this year with the hot, dry and windy conditions that stressed the turf. Despite all this, cooler conditions are allowing the grass to recover. A little help will make recovery even faster.

Lawn growth slows in the fall in response to shorter days, so we don't have to mow as frequently. It's a good idea, however, to mow as needed until the lawn fully stops growing late in the season. As the leaves fall from deciduous trees, it is fine to mulch them into the lawn, which saves time and benefits the lawn. Shredded leaves are a good source of organic matter and supply some nutrients to the lawn.

Perhaps the most important lawn fall lawn care practice is core aeration. Aerating supplies the underlying soil with air and allows for more efficient water penetration. It reduces soil compaction and helps to reduce thatch buildup by allowing macro- and microorganisms to breakdown thatch layers. Apply lawn fertilizer after aeration to allow nutrients to move into the root area.

Aeration is most effective when the equipment removes cores or plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn. The aeration holes should be two to three inches deep and three to four inches apart. Sorry, spiked golf shoes will not accomplish aeration!

Be sure to thoroughly and deeply water the lawn the day before aeration is scheduled. This allows for plugs to be easily pulled at the deepest level. Mark your sprinkler heads, any shallow irrigation lines, and shallow utility telephone and cable TV lines to prevent damage.

Thin or bare spots and dog runs can be more heavily aerated and then seeded. Seed that falls in the holes will germinate quickly and fill in problem areas.

Take advantage of the nice weather and get out there and do your lawn a favor this autumn. The time you take now will pay off in a healthy and vigorous lawn next spring.

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