Fall is a good time to fertilize cool season grasses!

fertilize cool season grasses

Right now many of us are wondering how it could possibly be fall already, but it’s a fact. The autumnal equinox has passed, football season is underway, and pumpkin spice flavored foods and beverages are all the rage. If your lawn contains types of cool-season grasses, like Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fine Fescue or Tall Fescue, the fall season also presents some fantastic opportunities to improve the overall health, vitality and beauty of your lawn. Performing core aeration in the fall loosens the soil, breaks down thatch and allows air, water, and nutrients in. Overseeding immediately after aeration allows more seed to reach the soil as well. But perhaps the most beneficial thing you can do for your cool season lawn is feed it!

Grass is a seasonal plant whose growth rates fluctuate at different times of year. During the fall season, lawns are recovering from the stresses of summer, such as heat and drought. Early fall is a period for vigorous growth in cool season grasses, which take advantage of the milder temperatures and more consistent moisture levels. This new growth and recovery uses up nutrients, which must be replenished. A fall application of a controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer provides the necessary nutrients to keep your turf green and growing longer into the fall season.

Fertilizer For Fall  Applications

Here’s an interesting fact about cool season grasses: as growth above the ground begins to slow, the grass plants are putting more energy into root development, which is essential for winter hardiness and ensures greater turf density the following spring. As you might guess, all of this also requires nutrients. This is why fall fertilization is such an essential part of an effective cool season lawn care program. Depending on where you live, there may be enough time to apply a second, late fall application of fertilizer. We recommend that the applications be 4 to 6 weeks apart. In late fall, when the grass plants are no longer using the nutrients for growth, they begin storing the nutrients in the stems and rhizomes (the root system), which keeps the plants healthier not only over the winter season but also into spring.

What type of fertilizer is best for fall applications? There is no universally correct answer to this question because the nutritional needs of turf grasses vary by region based on predominant grass types, soil composition, and climate as well as when the product is being applied. It should most definitely be a lawn fertilizer, as opposed to a general purpose garden fertilizer. All bagged fertilizer products are required by law to display the guaranteed minimum percentage (by weight) of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Of these, nitrogen is the foundation nutrient essential to any fall feeding program. Nitrogen products can be formulated for quick release, where it becomes immediately available in the soil, or slow release, which becomes available over a longer period of time. Many lawn-specific fertilizers will contain both.

Preparing Cool Season Grasses For Winter

A few cultural practices will also help your cool season lawn prepare for its winter nap. As late fall approaches, begin to gradually bring the cutting height down on your mower. Do this in steps, over the course of several mowing, so that you are never removing too much of the grass blade at once, which would damage the turf instead of helping it. Also never adjust the mower so low that you are scalping the lawn all the way down to the soil surface. If you have a blanket of fallen leaves or other debris on the lawn, rake them up. Leaves can also be ground to a fine mulch with repeated mowing, though it is important to ensure that the resulting pieces have been finely ground. Both of these practices—gradually lowering the grass height and keeping the lawn’s surface breathable by controlling leaf cover and removing debris—will help prevent diseases like snow mold from taking hold.

Have we given you enough to think about? No worries! The easiest way to ensure that your lawn is receiving the correct balance of nutrients, in the proper amounts and at the right time, is to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green and let us take all the guesswork out of it. We will be happy to answer any questions you have, too.

When Is The Best Time To Aerate Your Lawn?

beautiful home core aeration

The best time to aerate your lawn is based on 3 conditions:

  1. Type of grass in your lawn
  2. Weather conditions in your area
  3. Amount of moisture your lawn has received

Aeration can take place at any time of the year, but the best time is usually in the spring/early summer or fall. 

core aeration - what it looks like

The general recommendation is to core aerate when there is the most root growth. For warm-season grasses: Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede, Zoysia, it is in May and June when these grasses are coming out of dormancy. Cool-season grasses: bluegrass, ryegrass and the fescues, receive the most benefits when the lawn is aerated in the fall.

What would happen if you aerated a warm-season grass in the fall?

In most cases, nothing bad. The roots of the turfgrass will probably not grow any faster. But there is still the benefit of helping to reduce compaction. When a lawn is aerated, a certain amount of soil is lifted from the lawn and left back on the lawn.

As these cores are broken apart by mowing or melt into the lawn through rain fall or irrigation, the soil will intermingle with the current thatch layer and start feeding on it to naturally break it down.  The only concern would be if abnormally cold temperatures were to occur and the ground were to freeze. This may cause some roots to die that are close to the edge of the core holes.

spring-green tech core aerating a lawn

Fall may be the best time to aerate a cool-season lawn, but in some cases, aeration in spring and fall may also be recommended. If the thatch layer has been built up above a half of an inch over a period of time, spring and fall aeration may be the best choice. Many people like to seed after aeration, but we don’t recommend seeding a lawn in the spring, since we cannot apply a crabgrass preventer and the lawn will require more watering than it will in the fall.

The most important condition that can affect the quality of aerating a lawn is the amount of moisture that is in the soil. The lawn has to be moist for the tines to penetrate into the ground. Be sure to either wait until after a good rain fall or provide about a half inch of water to the lawn before trying to aerate it.

If you have not scheduled your lawn for a fall core aeration, especially if you are in the cool-season turf areas, contact your local Spring-Green office. It is one of the best things you can do to help ensure you have a healthy lawn.

The Time Has Come to Seed Cool-Season Grasses

Cool season lawn

Late August to early September is the best time to overseed cool season grasses. It may still be a little warm, but temperatures will quickly begin to moderate as the days get shorter.

The easiest way to get new seed into your lawn is to core aerate it first before sowing seed across your lawn. Be sure to either wait until a decent rain has fallen or the lawn is watered well before aerating.

seeding cool season grasses

The goal is to allow the core tines to penetrate the soil to pull up plugs of soil and leave them back on top of the ground. This opens up the lawn for more air, water and nutrients to penetrate into the root zone to help build stronger roots.

It also provides a great place for seed to come in contact with soil in order survive after germination. Throwing grass seed across a lawn without proper preparation will provide poor or no germination.

You can hire someone to do the work for you or you can rent care aeration machines at rental centers, hardware stores and home improvement stores. The core aerator will not fit into the trunk of a car, so you either need access to a pick-up truck or a small tow-behind trailer. Use it just like a lawn mower, but be sure to mark sprinkler heads, buried cables and electric dog fences.

New seedlings germinate and grow best when soil temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees.  Purchase good quality seed and not a bag of cheap seed you find at a discount store. A good mix of seed will cost around $4 to $8 a pound. You may have to go to a landscape supply store or to a feed store to find quality seed. Many times the seed is available in bulk and you can purchase larger quantities.

Most seeding failures comes as the result of putting too much seed in too small of an area and not keeping the area moist for a long enough period of time. Perennial ryegrass will germinate in 5 to 7 days, turf-type tall fescue and fine-leafed fescues will germinate in 7 to 14 days and bluegrass takes 28 days. Once the grass germinates, it will need continual water to develop roots and shoots. Provide ½ inch of water to your lawn each week – more if it remains hot and dry.

Depending on the mix of seed you plan to use, the amounts sown per 1,000 square feet range from 3 to 6 pounds. Bluegrass is the smallest of seed, so it contains more seeds per pound. Ryegrass is the next largest followed by the fine-leafed fescues and turf-type tall fescue. The larger the seed, the more you will need to spread per 1,000 square feet.

After your lawn has been core aerated and overseeded, apply a fertilizer with an analysis of 16-4-8 or similar.  In states that require phosphorus-free fertilizers, most allow fertilizers with phosphorus (the middle number on the analysis statement) to be used on newly seeded turf.

Check with your country extension service to see if your state allows the use of these fertilizers. You will want to apply a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. To determine the amount of fertilizer needed to apply per 1,000 square feet, divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag. For example, if you purchase a 16-4-8 fertilizer, 100 divided by 16 equals 6.25. This means you will apply 6.25 pounds of fertilizer to provide 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Continue mowing as the new seed germinates. You want to make sure the sun reaches the new seed to help it germinate. As far as spraying for weeds, you need to wait until the new grass has been mowed two to three times before spraying for any weeds. If you are very careful, you could spot spray a few broadleaf weeds, such as a dandelion, but do not spray across the entire lawn.

You may find it easier to contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green to do all this work for you, except for the mowing.  Don’t wait as there is a limited amount of time to get this work completed until it gets too cold for good germination.

Dormant Seeding: Is There Still Time To Seed Cool-Season Turfgrasses?

soil plugs from core aeration

Even though much of the northern US has been enjoying a warmer than normal fall, it will soon be turning cooler in the next couple of weeks. If you are still planning to seed, you may want to consider dormant seeding at this time of year.

When Can I Begin Dormant Seeding?

Dormant seeding works best when the soil temperature drops below 50°F or when the ground is frozen, providing that snow is not covering the lawn. If soil temperatures are too high, it can result in the seed germinating too soon. This causes the germinated seed to succumb to frost or freezing temperatures in the coming weeks.

The easiest way to check the temperature of the soil is to use a digital meat thermometer. Stick it in the ground to a depth of about two inches to take the reading. (Be sure to wipe it off before using it in your Thanksgiving turkey.)

What Is the Process for Dormant Seeding?

Another important aspect of dormant seeding (really, overseeding in general) is having good “seed to soil” contact. If you sow seed across an established area without much exposed soil, only a small portion will germinate. The easiest way to achieve good seed to soil contact on an existing lawn is to core aerate it first. Be sure to do so before the ground freezes. The more you aerate, the more places for the seed to germinate, both from within the core holes and from the plugs that remain on the lawn.

What Kind of Seed Is Best for Dormant Seeding?

Purchase good seed that is free from weed seeds. Cheap seed will provide poor results. Here is a table that will help you decide how much seed you will need to buy based on the size of your lawn:

Seed Type Table

Can I Fertilize the Grass Seed Before Dormancy?

As long as the ground is not frozen, fertilizer can be applied, even in states that have a ban on the use of fertilizers that contain phosphorus. A balanced fertilizer with phosphorus can be applied on newly seeded areas. Phosphorus aids in the development of roots. Therefore, it is a beneficial nutrient to apply after seeding.

What Do I Do in the Spring?

Once you have spread your seed there is not much else to do until the following spring. Here are a couple of other considerations to keep in mind for the following spring:

• Delay applying crabgrass preventer until the middle of May or as late as possible. The product that inhibits the growth of crabgrass will also inhibit the new grass seed from germinating.
• Delay applying a broadleaf weed control application until the new seed has started to germinate and has been mowed at least two times.
• Applying an additional balanced fertilizer application will help the new seed germinate faster.
• Mow your lawn during the spring. It is important that as much sun as possible reach the seed you planted the previous fall. The soil has to reach above 50 degrees for the seed to germinate.

Dormant seeding will work, but you have to be patient. You will see the results by the following summer. And if you want the results without the work, we offer all of the services to get your lawn in shape—contact the Spring-Green nearest you for a free estimate.

The Best Time to Aerate Your Lawn, for Cool and Warm Season Grasses

core aerator used by a Spring-Green technician

September is here and the amount of sunlight is becoming less and less each day. Less sunlight means that the leaves on trees will start to show their fall colors, summer weeds will begin to slow down growing and another summer is coming to a close. Early fall lawn projects are on homeowners’ minds, and many are wondering if this is the best time to aerate their lawns.

Aerating Your Lawn in the Fall Works for Cool Season Grasses

For cool-season grasses, this is the time of year when the top growth slows down and the root growth increases. Fall is the time when these grasses naturally “repair” the damage that was caused by the stresses of summer. Heat and a lack of rain have taken their toll on cool-season lawns. Insect and disease outbreaks add to the damage level and have left many lawns in a sorry shape for the fall.

In my 37+ years in lawn care, I have always been amazed at the recuperative ability of turfgrasses to recover from these stresses. Even though they can come back, one of the most important things you can do to help a cool-season lawn recover is to core aerate to increase rooting and the overall health of the lawn. It is also a good idea to overseed the lawn to help it fill in even faster. By opening up the lawn, more air, water and nutrients can easily reach the root zone. The cores or plugs of soil that are left behind will breakdown and incorporate into the thatch layer. It is the microorganisms in the soil that feed and the thatch to lessen its impact on the lawn.

CoreAeration_770x287

When Is the Best Time to Aerate Warm Season Grasses?

For those of you that have warm-season grasses, the best time to aerate your lawn is in early summer. If you aerate the lawns right now, they won’t be harmed, but the benefits are much less.

When Is the Best Time to Add Nitrogen Fertilizer?

If you plan to apply an application of nitrogen to your warm-season lawn one more time this year, be sure to do so by the end of September. Stimulating new growth in October or November can be detrimental to the lawn if an early frost hits the area. Too much nitrogen in the fall can also lead to an increase in disease activity the following spring.

Before we know it, leaves are going to begin to fall. There are a number of fall lawn and landscape projects that are coming up as the year moves on. I will be discussing those in future blog posts. Enjoy the last of the summer warmth while you can.

Core aeration is just one of the services Spring-Green offers to help homeowners prepare their lawns for winter. Contact your local Spring-Green for a free estimate of your lawn’s unique needs.

When You Should Core Aerate and Reseed Your Lawn

soil plugs from core aeration

What Is Core Aeration?

You may have heard about core aeration from a local lawn care company or have read about the procedure in gardening publications. Simply put, core aeration is a process where a machine travels across a lawn or turfgrass area and removes and then deposits plugs of soil and thatch back onto the lawn. This process opens up the lawn to provide more air, water, and nutrients to the root system of the turf. This process will help to produce a healthier lawn. It is recommended that you leave the plugs of soil on the lawn so the soil that has been brought up will melt back into the lawn to help reduce thatch – the microorganisms in the soil will feed on the thatch and break it down. Now that we know what it is, when is the best time to core aerate your lawn?

When to Core Aerate Cool Season Grasses

The process works best when the root system of the plant is actively growing. For cool season grasses, the most root growth occurs in the fall, followed by the spring. Most core aeration for cool-season grasses takes place in the fall.

Spring-Green employee core aerating a lawn

When to Core Aerate Warm Season Grasses

For warm-season grasses, the best time to core aerate is in the early summer because the roots for these plants are most active during this time of year. Aerating warm season grasses in the fall will not provide the benefits of improving root growth since the turf is beginning to enter a dormant period and growth will stop.

After Aerating, Reseed the Lawn

Reseeding a lawn after it has been core aerated is advantageous for cool season grasses, but seeding does not perform as well for warm season grasses. The main reason for this is that the seed is difficult and can take a long time to germinate. For a seed to germinate, it needs to be kept moist during the germination process. If the roots dry out before the seed has been able to send the root into the soil, it will die. Most warm-season grasses’ reproductive systems (called stolons) grow very quickly and will fill in thin and bare areas quickly, so seeding is not as much of a concern.

Re-sodding Is Another Option

If there are larger areas that have died out due to winter kill or past insect or disease damage, placing new pieces of sod of the same turfgrass that is growing in the lawn will help to fill in these areas. The easiest way to do this is to unroll the piece of sod, and then use a spade to make vertical cuts around the perimeter of the sod. After doing so, remove the sod and, using the spade, make horizontal cuts at about an inch below grade. Remove the dead grass and some of the soil and place the new sod in the prepared area. Keep it watered and it will soon fill in the surrounding areas.

Contact your local Spring-Green professional to schedule a core aeration today and start to enjoy the benefits of a healthy lawn.

Fertilizing Your Lawn in the Fall: Cool vs. Warm Season Grasses

Fertilizing_750x300

Is Fall a Good Time to Fertilize?

It all depends on what type of grass you have growing in your lawn.

If your lawn has warm-season grasses in it like Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda or Zoysia, you are at the latest possible time to fertilize your lawn. Many universities recommend that these grasses not be fertilized after the end of September since you don’t want to stimulate new, tender growth that could be damaged by frost. These warm-season grasses need to “harden off” or slowdown in growth as they begin to enter into their dormant period. If you still want to fertilize your lawn now, you could cause damage to your lawn that may not become apparent until next spring.

If your lawn has one of the cool-season grasses, like bluegrass, ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue, this is the best time of year to fertilize it. Fall is the time of most active root growth for these cool-season grasses. They need the food that the fertilizer provides to grow new roots. These grasses are better adapted to the cooler temperatures of fall and actually grow better at this time of year. In addition to lawn fertilization, fall is also a good time to core aerate your lawn as this process will help the roots grow better as well.

How Much Fertilizer Do I Need?

Depending on where you live, there may still be enough time to apply two applications of fertilizer this fall. You should space the applications apart by about 4 to 6 weeks. As far as the amount of fertilizer you should apply, generally speaking you should apply between three-quarters to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. Determining how much fertilizer product you need to deliver requires the use of some mathematical equations.

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percent by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that is in the bag. So, if the bag has an analysis of 28-0-3, the bag contains 28% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus and 4% potassium. If your goal is to provide three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., then divide .75 by .28, which equals 2.68 pounds of product applied per 1,000 sq. ft. If your lawn is 10,000 sq. ft. you will need about 27 pounds of product to supply three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.
Fall is rapidly approaching, which means that leaves will be falling soon and before we know it, we will be switching from lawn mowers to snow blowers. For this, I can wait.

If you hate math, leave fertilizer application to the pros. Get in touch with your local Spring-Green today!