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Friday, October 1, 2010

Time to Pull the Plug

Attempting that perfect lawn for next spring? The clock is ticking. Fall is the best season to renovate your grass. With moisture in the soil from this week’s recent rains, it’s time to core aerate your lawn. The moisture holds the soil together, allowing the aerating machine to pull out a clean plug.

While I am all for finding shortcuts when it comes to chores, there are a few things that must be done with a little muscle in the garden. If you were considering the easy way out by using lawn aerator shoes, it may not be as simple as you think. You have to walk your entire lawn at least fifty times over to get any significant impact. Also, if you have irrigation, be careful not to sprout a leak by stepping on the heads. There is some controversy about the effectiveness of these shoes. Depending on the soils, this process can actually compact the sides of the hole. A solid tine (Spike) compresses into the soil similar to a nail in wood. The ideal method is using a hollow tine that pulls out a clean plug of soil. A good quality aerating machine has this type of tine and is typically available at tool rental stores. You may need a little muscle to maneuver the machine but it is made for aerating large lawn areas. In small, tight spaces, you may end up fighting the machine so if you have a tiny lawn or tight corners, the aerating shoes may be the perfect solution. Something is better than nothing.

But you aren’t done yet. Follow up with thatching to remove the build up of dead grass and an excess layer of thatch. There is still time to slice seed or top seed bare areas that need a little help. Don’t forget lime and starter fertilizer. And above all, keep an eye on moisture. Young grass needs ample amounts of precipitation and/or irrigation. It is the consistency of moisture that matters. On an Indian summer day, young grass may need to be watered multiple times throughout the day.

As we approach leaf season, make sure you start mowing your grass shorter. Adjust the blade in your lawn mower accordingly. Rule of thumb – tall grass catches leaves. Leaves rotting on the grass eventually kill the lawn. If you mow it close i.e., 2 to 2 ½ inches, the leaves blow away vs. getting stuck in the blades of grass.

This may be repetitive but lawns are the biggest drain on water resources. Improperly maintained lawns i.e., compacted lawns waste even more water. A few cultural practices listed above improves the quality of your grass while reducing water requirements. So if you are thinking green, don’t save your lawn improvements for the spring. Focus on it now. Leonardo da Vinci sums it up best with water consumption. “Water is the driver of nature.” So best to conserve it and the easiest place to start is in your own backyard.

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)