Rescue and Renovate Your Cool-Season Lawn
Cool-season lawns need “cool” temperatures at night for them to recover from the high daytime temps. When we don’t get cool nights and rain, the lawns suffer (get diseases & weeds) and they won’t recover until the cool nights return.
By Glennon Kraemer
(This article first appeared in The Gateway Gardener September 2014 issue)
Cool-season lawns need “cool” temperatures at night for them to recover from the high daytime temps. When we don’t get cool nights and rain, the lawns suffer (get diseases & weeds) and they won’t recover until the cool nights return. Most of the time cool-season lawns go “dormant” in the summer and rebound as soon as cool September nights return. It is shaping up to be a very mild summer compared to the last 2012. Also, a lot can happen in 5 weeks so remember when this was written and forgive me if I’m wrong with my weather prediction.
What we can control is how we prepare our lawns for next summer. One of the most important cultural practices we can have done to our lawns is aeration and over seeding. “Core” aeration will relieve compaction, allowing water, air, nutrients and organic matter to get into our soils. A healthy soil is the foundation for healthy grass.
The following steps should be taken to insure a healthy lawn this fall and into next summer:
*Spray weeds if needed. Read the label and wait the recommended time before aerating and seeding.
*Remove all clutter in the yard and use top soil to level any uneven spots.
*Mow down to 2”. You won’t be able to mow again for 2-3 weeks, but remember to raise the mower back up to 3 ½”!
*Mark irrigation heads and or dog fence wires.
*Consider applying ½” of compost over the lawn to add organic matter to the soil profile. (See “Top Dressing Your Lawn.”) This can be expensive and time consuming, but if you want a better yard…. Core aerate in 2 directions.
*Spread your “starter” fertilizer (I like 11-23-0 or Milorganite®) and seed. Knowing your square footage is important to be sure you get the right amount seed and fertilizer. An educated garden center will insure you get the right kind and amounts of seed.
*Power rake or hand rake the yard smooth. This insures good seed to soil contact with will prevent the seed from drying out and eliminate the need to use straw. (I hate straw as I think it adds more weed seeds than anything).
*Water everyday (and sometimes twice a day) for 2-3 weeks. You want to keep the top ½” moist, but not saturated! Penn Mulch® is a good top dressing material as this will not add weed seeds, but will help prevent erosion and keep the soil moist.
*Mowing at 3 ½” all fall will be important. As will removing leaves. Depending on the tree species, you may have to blow or vacuum leaves every other day to prevent the smothering of those new seedlings you worked so hard to establish.
*Water infrequently after mowing 2-3 times. Usually Mother Nature does this for us this time of year, but don’t let it dry out!
*Spot spray weeds after 2-3 mowings. Turflon ester® is an excellent herbicide to use in the fall. It works on violets and in cool temps.
*Try to get all seed jobs done before October 15th.
*Consider a fall application of preemergent to stop chickweed and henbit (cool season weeds) next spring. Radical concept but it works!
Consulting with a knowledgeable garden center is important to get good, quality seed and fertilizer. It’s what we do in the fall to our cool season lawns (coupled with our cultural practices) that dictates success next summer! Remember folks, it’s just grass!
Glennon Kraemer owns and operates GR Robinson Seed and Service in St. Louis. You can follow his great, St. Louis-centric lawn advice on his blog “Truth n Turf” at http://glennonkraemer.blogspot.com/.