your cool-season lawn needs a little TLC or a total
redo, fall is the time to do it.
autumn, there’s still enough warmth in the soil and
warmth from the sun to help fescue or rye seed germinate
and establish young roots before the first frost
arrives. It’s also a good time to lay cool- or
is unquestionably the best time for establishing,
renovating or maintaining a cool-season lawn," says
master gardener Larry Riddick, a York County Virginia
master gardener. He’s also one of the county’s new
Smart Turf experts who visits yards, helps with soil
samples and provides feedback.
southeastern Virginia, almost all cool-season lawns
consist of fescue turfgrass, and the goal is to have the
best conditions for seed germination and root growth.
That occurs when the soil temperature reaches the 50 to
65 degree range. That’s about now! Actually fescue
roots can continue to grow as long as the soil
temperature is above freezing."
master gardener since 2001, Riddick says he’s learned
the importance of a soil test to avoid adding
$10 cost for this test is money well spent," he
says of the kits available through Virginia Cooperative
Extension offices. Soil samples are sent to Virginia
Tech in Blacksburg, Va., where an analysis is done and
reports are returned to the homeowner and a nearby
extension agent who can help with consultations.
Nationwide, state cooperative extension programs offer
similar lawn-care services and help; one near you can be
found through the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension
soil test report tells the homeowner two critical
things: what is necessary to obtain the correct pH and
what their fertilizer requirement is.
have seen many soil test reports over the years, and I
can’t recall seeing one where the soil content of
phosphorous was inadequate."
green grass is not always the only answer to an
Richmond, Va., Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden replaced
9,200 square feet of existing traditional turf with
attractive, low-maintenance ornamental grasses to
showcase sustainable best-practices in one of the most
prominent sites on the garden’s property — in front
of the elegant glass conservatory — www.lewisginter.org
. This concept can be done on a smaller scale in a home
want to show how ornamental grass can be used in the
landscape, including a formal one," says
horticulture director Grace Chapman.
of 2,000 grasses include prairie dropseed (Sporobolus
heterolepis), purple muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris),
and switchgrass Northwind (Panicum virgatum Northwind).
garden trialed seven different grasses for two years and
chose these three," says garden spokeswoman Beth
grasses are good lawn alternatives, adds Monroe,
good for the environment. Since many ornamental grasses
can grow in poor soil, they don’t need fertilizer.
Their deep roots reduce stormwater runoff and help
prevent erosion. They also support wildlife, for
instance providing seeds and nesting habitats for some
birds. Doug Tallamy, author of "Bringing Nature
Home," makes a strong case for carefully considered
require less care. While traditional turf must be mowed
frequently, ornamental grasses only need to be cut back
annually. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden does this in
early spring, allowing the grasses to provide seeds and
structure in the landscape throughout winter. Also, once
established, ornamental grasses need little to no
beautiful. Color, texture, movement, sound, four seasons
of interest – ornamental grasses have it all.