Today was a good day for applying a fall fertilizer to lawns. Why? Because it is still not too cold out, the grass is no longer growing but still green, and it was drizzling. At least it was as I finished the five lawns I had to fertilize. It’s raining harder now, which is also ideal because the rain helps water the fertilizer in. However, try to avoid fertilizing before a downpour, so your hard work is not washed away.
Today’s conditions were ideal for fall lawn fertilizing. Most experts will tell you that fall is the most important time to fertilize your lawns. Fertilizer applied at this time of the year is to strengthen (deepen) the roots, repair the lawn from summer drought/stresses and prepare the lawn for winter, so it is important to get the right product. These are two I frequently use for fertilizing lawns in the fall…
Both are pet and kid friendly, safe to walk on immediately after application. They can be purchased at your local garden centers or DIY (Home Depot, Lowes etc) stores.
Apply the fertilizer as instructed on the bags. I use a push spreader and apply the fertilizer in two directions to avoid patchiness (as pictured below). For irregularly shaped lawns, block off the lawn (visually) in squares or rectangles to ensure even distribution of the fertilizer.
Remember, a great looking lawn enhances the appearance of your garden. We all know I appreciate beautiful gardens. If you miss/forget any fertilizer applications, don’t miss the fall one!
Many people are discovering that grubs, the larvae of some beetles, can destroy your lawn if not detected early and treated.
Although the most common destructive grub in Canada was originally from the native June bug, recent introductions of the Japanese beetle and the European chafer within the Niagara region have resulted in their migration further east and north in Ontario, causing havoc to lawns in eastern Ontario.
Adult June bugs are a shiny red-brown color, reaching up to 1 inch in length. The Japanese beetle is much smaller, less than 1/2 inch long, with a metallic bronze and green color. An adult European chafer is similar in size to the Japanese beetle, but tan or light brown in color.
All of these grubs have c-shaped bodies and six legs, however, the June bug larvae are white, while the larvae of the Japanese beetle and European chafer are a beige color. Upon hatching the grubs are tiny but reach a mature size of up to 1.5 inches.
june bug larvae
japanese beetle larvae
european chafer larvae
Another major difference between the types of grubs is that the June bugs take 3 years to mature while the Japanese beetle and European chafer only take one year. As a result, infestations of white grubs (June bugs larvae) happen every third year, while infestations of the other two types can happen annually.
Although grubs prefer the fibrous roots of your lawn the best, they do feed on other plants, especially carrots and potatoes. Ryegrasses and fescues tend to be more resistant to grubs in your lawn, while geraniums and larkspur are immune to grubs in your gardens.
So, how do you know if your lawn is being attacked from below by grubs? These are a few signs:
patches of lawn turn brown and can easily be lifted in chunks
skunks and birds, mainly starlings and blackbirds, will tear up chunks of lawn to get to the grubs
patches of affected lawn often feel spongy and soft to walk on
The best ways to prevent grubs are:
keep your lawn healthy as adult beetles prefer weak, stressed lawns for laying their eggs
aerate and remove excessive thatch annually to break up compacted soil and ensure good drainage
do not cut your lawn too short as adult beetles prefer short, dry lawns to lay their eggs
leave lawn clippings on the lawn and use fertilizers with high potassium and nitrogen
water your lawn deeply but infrequently to encourage deep roots and promote drought tolerant lawns
hand pick adult beetles putting them in soapy water to kill them
attract natural predators like blackbirds and starlings with birdhouses
use a mixture of ryegrass and fescues lawn seeds
To treat grub infestations:
apply nematodes (microscopic, parasitic organisms) to attack the grubs. Be sure to read package instructions on when and how to apply them
water your lawn heavily to bring them to the surface so birds can eat them
apply composted manure and grass seed to replace the destroyed lawn patches
Hopefully, you will not experience the damage these grubs can do! If you do, I hope these tips help get rid of them quickly.
This rainy weather is good for ducks, as my mother used to say, or for overseeding your lawn. Weed and feed is also best applied in cool, wet weather, but not at the same time as the seed.
There are a few new products on the market to fix bare patches too. They are 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 mixtures of composed/amended soil, seed and fertilizer. If your lawn is patchy with bare, grassy, and weedy spots, try one of the mixed products. I have had success with both of these. They do not contain a weed-killing ingredient, so you will have to treat the weeds six weeks later.
There are several “weed and feed” products out there. On established (not patchy) lawns I prefer to weed first, then feed. Otherwise, I tend to feed the weeds.
Another job for cool, wet, spring weather is fertilizing your trees. I have three evergreen trees I planted as tiny seedlings when each of my three sons was born. They were originally planted in my backyard. As they reached about four feet in height, I asked the owner of the building behind us if I could plant them in his yard. He agreed, so now I get the privacy, but still have space for a garden in my yard…
To fertilize my trees I use spikes that get pounded into the ground around the tree’s dripline. One spike contains enough fertilizer for each 2 inch of tree diameter. There are many varieties on the market. Be sure to choose the proper spike for the tree(s) you want to feed.
The weather here is going be cool and rainy for a few more days. With it too muddy for work in myclients’ gardens, I will get these chores done at home. If it is cool and rainy where you are, use this weather to get your overseeding and fertilizing done.
If your lawn is burnt like mine is, late summer or early fall is the best time to repair it.MARK CULLEN,a Canadian garden expert, has the following advice on the best way to make those repairs:
Spread Mark’s Choice Lawn Soil (found at Home Hardware stores) over the area you wish to re-seed, 2 cm. thick
Broadcast Golfgreen lawn seed [Canadian for our lawns: 0% weed seeds] by hand
Rake smooth to incorporate into the soil.
Step on it or roll it with a roller 1/3 full of water.
Water it every day that you do not receive any rain until established. Do NOT let the seedlings dry out! It is best to water first thing in the morning or in the evening.
I am willing to give his advice a try since my lawn looks terrible in its burnt condition. I have tried overseeding (adding soil and seed to an existing lawn) before, but always end up with more weeds (left picture) than grass (right picture).
I am not sure whether the weed seeds are in the soil or grass seed I choose, but I know they are in the MULCH I have used recently. Hopefully, I will be more impressed with Mark’s choice of products.
Why do the weeds in my gardens, sidewalks and lawn continue to thrive in this hot weather, when the grass and flowers struggle? On close inspection, the only part of my lawn that looks green are weeds.
On principle, I refuse to get out there every morning or evening to waste water on my lawn in these drought conditions, so every year my south facing, front lawn looks pretty sad in July and August. Unfortunately this year the parched, yellow, straw look started in mid-May!
Remember that grass is supposed to go dormant in these hot, dry conditions and will revive naturally with a few rainy days. We did have a bit of rain last week so the grass did recover somewhat, but this week’s forecast is for more sun and heat, so the recovery won’t last.
After a heavy rainfall is the best time to pull WEEDS in your lawn or gardens out by hand so you get the whole root, otherwise the weeds keep coming back to haunt you. After the weeds are all pulled from your gardens, apply a thick layer of mulch to deter them from coming back too soon. Weed seeds blowing around or carried around by birds will germinate in mulch too, but the mature weeds will be much easier to pull out when their roots are growing in mulch instead of soil.
The rain in the weather forecast for the next 10 days here in Ottawa brings the saying “April showers bring May flowers” to mind. The rain showers will water the spring bulbs and perennials, encouraging their bloom. A few days of rain makes the lawns so much greener too. All the rain showers and cool weather forecasted this spring is also good for planting grass seed or fertilizing your lawn and trees.
There are many products available for spring treatment, some with just seed, some with just fertilizer, and some that combine seed and fertilizer…
combination of grass seed, fertilizer and peat
pre-emergent treatment for crabgrass
fertilizer spikes for trees
Some combinations for your lawn even add peat which is beneficial in keeping the soil rich by absorbing moisture (first picture) These combination products can be a good thing for novice landscapers and home owners, as the research is done for you. The proper type of fertilizer and the amount to use is calculated for you.
Corn gluten (second picture) is a popular, organic, pre-emergent treatment for crab grass. Pre-emergent means it should be applied before the crab grass seeds germinate (start to grow) very early in the spring, as soon as the snow is gone from the lawn. I use corn gluten on my lawn in the fall, after the first frost, but before the first snow fall. I have found this practice convenient (one less thing to do in the spring) and most effective against crabgrass.
Fertilizer spikes (third picture) are efficient ways to feed your trees. Make sure you choose the proper product package for your trees though. There are packages for evergreens (pine, spruce, cedar etc), ornamental trees (crab apple, lilacs etc) fruit trees (apple, plum etc) and other popular trees (maple, elm etc) Simply pound the spikes in the ground around the perimeter of your tree’s dripline as specified in the package directions. Obviously, the larger the perimeter of your tree’s dripline (the outer edge of branches), the more spikes you need. It is best and easiest to pound these spikes into the ground when the ground is wet and more rain showers are in the forecast.
Make the most of the forecasted rain; your lawn and trees will thank you!
Just like the inside of your home, your gardens and lawn will benefit from a good spring cleaning too…
As soon as the snow disappears from your lawn and garden you can start the spring cleaning. When the lawn is dry (not spongy to walk on) give it a good rake to remove all the dead grass and leaves. Core aeration is recommended after raking to allow oxygen and nutrients to penetrate into the root system of your lawn, especially if your soil is heavily compacted.(as most lawns are in this area) If your lawn has a lot of crabgrass and broad leaf weeds (dandelions) you can treat it to a weed and feed product. The ones containing corn gluten are particularly effective if used before the weed seeds have a chance to germinate. I sprinkle corn gluten right on the snow when there is only a small amount of snow left on my lawn, because as soon as the snow is gone, the weeds start to germinate and within a few days the crab grass growth is visible. You can also overseed your lawn (but only if you have NOT applied something for weeds, otherwise wait 6 weeks to seed) by raking in topsoil and sprinkling grass seed on the soil. This is best done before a rainy spell as the seeds should be kept wet until they germinate.
Your gardens can also use a good raking early, but be sure to use a plastic rake and a gentler touch, so tender dormant perennials are not damaged. Remove all the dead leaves, last year’s annual (annuals are plants that you must replant each year) plantings and the twiggy pieces of last years growth on the perennials (perennials are plants that come back on their own each year). Generally speaking, if the twiggy pieces break off easily with a gentle rake, it is safe to remove them. Woodier perennials (lavender, sage, hibiscus etc) need a bit more time and should not be cut back until new growth is visible. Shrubs that bloom in summer or fall (weigela, pink spirea, burning bush etc) can be pruned in early spring, while those that bloom early in spring (forsythia, lilacs, magnolia etc) should not be pruned until after they bloom. Dividing perennials is best done this time of year too; dig up the overgrown clumps, divide them with a sharp spade, and plant in their new locations. This can be done as soon as the ground thaws. Annuals should not be planted until the danger of overnight frost is gone, usually late May in this area.
Once all of my perennials have re-emerged, the weeds and old annuals are removed, and the necessary pruning is done, I like to amend the soil around them with a triple mix of soil, compost and peat moss. This product can be purchased already combined. A layer of cedar mulch (I prefer the dark brown or black) is the final touch, but to prevent your plants from rotting, be sure not to apply the mulch too close to the base/stalks/stems of the plants.
The last step is to retrieve the outdoor furniture from its winter storage, and, the most important part, take a few minutes out of your busy life to sit down, relax and admire your efforts…