Now is the time to set up your lawn for success for next year’s growing season.
There are certain fall chores you can be doing at this time that will you help get your lawn off to a great start come spring.
One chore we usually associate with a spring chore is aerating our lawn.
Many of us have properties with very heavy clay soil.
If you are one of those “lucky” individuals with clay soil, you will know how hard it is to even get a shovel into the ground.
That is because the clay particles are so small that they pack together tightly, forming large clumps.
This means that there is less porous space in the soil and therefore less oxygen. Oxygen in the soil is vital for healthy root growth to occur.
Aeration is a process in which small cores of soil are removed out of the lawn area allowing more oxygen to reach the roots.
Aeration is most beneficial if you have compacted, heavy clay soil.
Usually, this activity is done in the spring, but can be done in the fall especially if it has been a very dry summer.
By taking out cores of soil in the fall, it allows the fall rains and melting snow during the winter to penetrate the soil better.
Most lawn care companies can aerate your lawn for you, or it is something that you can tackle yourself with the use of specialized tool or by renting an aerator.
Another activity that can be done in the fall is dethatching your lawn.
What is thatch? Thatch is the layer of slowly decomposing grass stems, dead roots and debris that accumulates above the soil and below the grass blades.
When does thatch become a problem? If it is thicker than one-quarter inch.
A thick layer of thatch will hang on to the moisture, stopping it from getting to the roots. It will also stop the nutrients from getting down to the roots.
Thatch is usually more of a problem in acidic soils, or where high-nitrogen fertilizers have been used too frequently.
Also, because of the amount of rain we received this summer, our lawn really didn’t go through the usual dormant period in July and August.
So, with the extra amount of cutting we did, there is more decomposing grass blades that have been returned on to the lawn.
Dethatching should be done just before vigorous growth either in the fall or spring.
Unless your thatch layer is more than one-quarter inch in thickness, you do not have to be dethatching on a regular basis.
Having no or very little thatch will result in the sun drying out the soil quicker, stressing your lawn.
To check to see if you have a thatch problem, cut out a one-inch-by-one-inch section of lawn, lift it by sliding a spade just under the roots and examine that corky, brown layer in between the roots and grass blades.
To dethatch your lawn yourself, you can purchase a dethatching rake, which has stiff, diamond-shaped teeth, or use or garden rake (not fan rake).
As you pull it through the lawn, it will pull out the brown, decomposing material.
It also serves as a very good workout. You can also hire a lawn care company to do this for you.
Now is also a great time to be reseeding your lawn.
Making your lawn as dense as possible is the best way to curb weed growth.
Wherever there is a bare spot, nature will fill it in with a weed.
Grass seed germinates best when the air temperature is around 15 C.
Make sure you choose a type of grass seed that is right for your light conditions.
You will usually see grass seed sold as a mix of different types of grass.
For a sunny area, you want a higher percentage of Kentucky blue grass.
For a shadier location, you want to buy a mix with a higher percentage of fescue grass.
The first step in reseeding is to mow the lawn.
Next, topdress the lawn by spreading a thin layer of topsoil or triple mix over the area.
This will provide a loose medium for the seed to start rooting in to.
Sow the seed. Keep soil moist until the seed has begun to germinate, which usually takes 10 to 14 days.
Making a little effort on your lawn now will make a big difference come spring.
Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca