Do you know the condition of your grass? Looking out over the yard at all your hard work, it is easy to miss what’s right under your nose (or should we say feet). The long hot summer was likely brutal on your lawn. A good feeding of fertilizer will give you a head start on greener, healthier grass come spring.
Examine Grass & Soil
Before you apply fertilizer to your lawn, it is always good to take a closer look at your grass and soil. (By closer we really mean dig out a small section of your grass and look at the root system.) How deep are the roots? Is there a layer of dead organic matter (thatch) thicker than a half inch below the surface? Is the soil hard and compacted? All of these conditions can be solved by following a simple fall lawn checklist to improve your grass.
- Keep Mowing – Your grass is still growing and storing nutrients, so don’t put the lawn mower away yet. Adjust the height on the mower to cut the grass shorter. This allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass. Be careful not to trim off more than a third of the blade, which could expose the roots to disease and pests.
- Keep Watering – Grass is gathering nutrients and moisture to channel into root growth. Cutting back on watering now will cause the roots to remain shallow. A good deep watering of an inch every few days will work.
- Aerate – Aerating machines extract plugs of soil from you lawn, allowing water and organic material to get to where it is needed. It will improve compacted soil and bring beneficial microbes to the surface. They love to munch on thatch! Our article on aerating has more helpful tips to get you started.
- Dethatching – If aerating doesn’t completely eliminate the thatch, then rent a dethatching machine, which will pull it up from the soil. Rake up the thatch debris and deposit it into your compost pile. For more information, check out our article on dethatching.
- Fertilize – After aerating, spread a layer of compost and fertilizer over your lawn. In the past, many advised applying a fertilizer high in phosphorous. Today that practice is discouraged and fertilizer companies are working to eliminate chemical phosphates due to the harmful effects on our environment. Opt for organic phosphorous sources like fish or cattle bone meal, animal manure or bat guano to help give your grass strong roots.
Test the Soil
Many lawn problems begin with the condition of the soil. Have your soil (the soil sample you dug up from your grass) professionally tested for PH levels. A healthy lawn will have a PH level between 6.0-7.0. Weeds thrive in acidic soil. A thin layer of lime applied to your lawn should take care of them.
Good Top Soil – Good Gardening
Go back to where you dug up your soil sample. Can you see how deep the good top soil is?
A 4-inch layer of top soil will give you a good lawn, while an 8-inch layer of top soil will provide you with a great lawn. Good gardening begins with good top soil. Compost and other organic matter worked into your grass with a rake will improve the dirt beneath.
Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizers
Know the difference between organic and synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are less concentrated, but remain in the soil longer. They release nutrients over time. Synthetic fertilizers are more concentrated and get into the plant faster. They are water-soluble and have a tendency to leach out of the soil quickly. While synthetics get the job done fast, they can burn the plant and get into the groundwater.
Fertilizer Boost for Health
Help your grass store up the moisture and nutrients it needs to make it through winter. Giving it a boost with fertilizer now will help establish a strong root system and crowd out those pesky weeds. Investing a little time now will pay off big come spring next year.
Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and landscape projects. From aerators and dethatchers to rakes, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.