In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
The hot weather in August brings out the Naked Ladies amaryllis. While enjoying these summer bloomers, don't forget to repair the lawn this fall.
Lawn repair sounds much harder than it actually is. If you have patches of lush green lawn, interspersed with crabgrass and weeds, it's time to do some basic lawn repair and maintenance. Once fixed, if you do it right, a lawn will almost take care of itself.
Lawn Care 101
There are four chores to keep your lawn looking great. Dethatch the grass to remove built up layers of fallen grass blades. Aerate the lawn so that oxygen, water, and nutrients can get down to the roots. Fertilize your lawn to provide nutrients. Reseed the grass to create a dense mat that will crowd out the weeds. You can do these chores in spring, but fall is the very best time for annual lawn care maintenance. The grass is ready to go dormant in fall so roots will store the nutrients from the fertilizer and be ready to grow next spring.
The first step is to remove the thatch. Thatch is a built up layer of cut grass blades that fall to the ground every time you mow. If allowed to accumulate, this layer will prevent moisture and oxygen from reaching down to the root zone. A clue that your lawn has a thatch problem is if irrigation water runs off quickly after a short watering. Remove thatch by using a thatching rake or renting a vertical cutter. There are also dethatching attachments you can put on your lawn mower. These attachments cost about $100. If you mow with a bag, you can suck the debris up as you mow and dethatch. Use the thatch in your compost pile.
Aerating the Lawn
The second step is aerating the lawn. Aeration is the process of poking holes in the turf so water, oxygen, and fertilizer can reach the grass root zone. There are several aeration tools to use including a pitchfork, aeration shoes, golf shoes, or power aeration tools available at rental shops. Aeration shoes strap on your regular shoes and the spikes punch holes in the lawn as you walk back and forth. You can even wear them as you are mowing your lawn, doing two chores at once!
Once the thatching and aeration is finished, it's time to fertilize. I like using organic fertilizers. An organic lawn fertilizer will not burn the turf. Although it's low in nitrogen, it will last over the entire season. Chemical fertilizers are very high in nitrogen, sometimes as high as 36%, and work quickly. However you take the chance of burning the grass blades if you don't water immediately after applying chemical fertilizers to your lawn. Always apply fertilizers at the manufacturers recommended dosage for best results.
Reseeding the Lawn
After you have applied the organic fertilizer, reseed bare patches in the lawn so the turf is healthy and thick. Call your local Agricultural Extension office to see which type of lawn grows best in your neck of the woods. Cool season grasses such as fescue grow well in our mild summer climate. When you begin shopping for lawn seed, check the label for contents. Some lawn seed may actually contain weed seed, which will be listed. If the weed content is very close to 0, it's good quality seed.
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