Special to The Lake Report
Mirror, mirror on the wall … who has the fairest lawn of all? Not you? Well then, let’s change that.
This past summer our lawns fared well, overall, with the rainfalls that we received in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was only toward the end of summer that we were starting to see the grass turning brown and going dormant.
Over time, though, your lawn tends to become thinner and thinner, depending on the amount of sunlight and moisture it receives and its general health. No doubt you have learned that wherever nature has a bare spot, it fills it in with a weed or two or three.
The most important step that you can take to improve your lawn for the coming year is to topdress and reseed it this fall. The cooler temperatures and more frequent rains are the perfect conditions for grass seed to germinate.
These two actions will help to thicken your lawn, which has a couple benefits. The first is that the thicker your lawn is, the less space for the weeds to grow.
The second benefit is that when your lawn is dense, the grass helps to shade the soil so that the sun does not dry it out as quickly. That means you need less water to keep your lawn green, especially during the hot, dry months of summer.
If you have a lot of weeds already growing in your lawn, you will want to try to get those under control first, either by pulling them by hand, making sure to get as much root as possible, or by using a selective herbicide such as Weed B Gon.
The term “selective” herbicide means that the spray will only kill broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, plantain and chickweed, and not grass-type plants. So, make sure that you are using a herbicide for lawns.
The next step of the process is to mow your lawn a little shorter than what you were cutting it during the summer months. This will make it easier to spread a thin layer of soil or compost on top of your existing lawn.
Once the lawn has been cut, use a fan rake to loosen up the soil. Also, by raking the lawn first, you will be removing any extra thatch and debris from the area.
Now you are ready to start topdressing – the application of a thin layer (about one-quarter inch thick) of topsoil or compost over an existing lawn.
Topdressing regularly can smooth out bumps in the lawn and help to fill in low areas. It can improve soil conditions and add nutrients back into the soil.
It also provides a looser mix for the grass seed to get a good start with its roots. You do not want to bury the existing grass, just add soil around the base. Once the soil or compost is put down, lightly rake over the area with a fan rake.
The next step is to put down the grass seed. There are different mixes of grass seed available. Make sure that you are choosing a mix that works with your sunlight conditions.
Most mixes are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye and fescue grass. For a sunny area you will want to have a higher percentage of Kentucky bluegrass. For a shadier area, it is best to have a higher percentage of fescue grass. You can broadcast the grass seed by using a seed spreader or by hand.
After the seed goes down, keep the soil evenly moist. You do not want to water too heavily as it could wash the seed away.
After two weeks you should be seeing the grass seed germinating and your lawn will be on its way to better health. Just remember … if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, chances are that they have been topdressing.
Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.