Digginí In: Some tips on cool-weather lawn care

October 5, 2015

Fallís cooler temperatures and moderate rains create a time frame for getting cool-season fescue lawns back in shape. Here are some tips from Virginia Master Gardeners on the best ways to get your lawn green and growing again.

Lawn-care tips

Seed selection. When selecting fescue grass seed for lawn renovation or over-seeding a mature lawn, read the label that gives the content of the bag. Look for a product that contains several different types of fescue to avoid a monoculture. This will help insure that a problem that may exist with a single cultivar wonít adversely impact the whole bag. Also, make sure seed makes good contact with soil or it wonít germinate.

Use right aerator. A core aerator removes small cores of soil (when finished, leave those cores on the ground because rain will "melt" them back into the soil). Nail-like spikes do not properly open up the soilís surface.

Mowing frequency. Mow your lawn frequently enough so that you never remove more than one-third of the blade at one time. Like most plants, grass makes its own food by a process called photosynthesis. This occurs in the blades of grass, so removing more than one-third of this "food factory" at one time stresses grass. Also, allow newly sprouted grass shoots to develop a solid root base before mowing ó two to three weeks.

Mulching. If you have or are in the market for a mulching lawnmower, leave clippings on the lawn to help boost nitrogen levels in the soil; the clippings decompose quickly enough to avoid any thatch buildup.

Consider a smaller lawn. Large rectangles of pure turfgrass can be boring. Consider boosting your landscapeís eye appeal with ornamental gardens of shrubs, trees, perennials, hardscape and such. Itís also a good time to introduce some native, wildlife-friendly plants into your landscape.

Read directions and labels. This is sound advice when using any product, but it is especially important when using chemical products for weed control. These products will have precautionary instructions that purchasers are expected to follow for the well-being of both the landscape and the user.

Also, make sure you properly identify a weed so you use the correct weed control product.

Be patient. A nice fescue lawn can take up to a couple of years to establish itself.

Common lawn-care mistakes for your cool-weather lawn.

Not having a current soil test. Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends testing your soil at least once every three years. Trying to establish or maintain a lawn without knowing your soilís fertility and pH requirements can potentially be a waste of money and even harmful to your lawn.

Applying fertilizer to fescue turf in the spring. Growing conditions for fescue are ideal in the fall. If the recommended three fall fertilizations are followed, there is no need for spring applications.

Over watering. Ideally, lawns should get a one-inch deep watering weekly. However, if you are over-seeding, frequent light watering until the new seed has rooted will prevent the new seed from washing away or drowning.

Incorrect mowing height. Fescue should be maintained at a height of at least two inches. It is especially important to follow this in the warmer months. The tall grass shades the surface of the ground, keeping the roots cooler and retaining moisture. The tallness also inhibits weed growth, because most weeds are sun lovers.

Applying chemical weed control over the tops of leaves. This is usually a waste of time and money. One solution to this is to mulch mow the leaves beforehand, thereby getting the benefit of both the leaves and the chemical. Also, avoid applying any chemicals to a newly established or overseeded lawn until after at least two mowings.

Attempting to grow grass where grass doesnít want to grow. Fescue is considered to be shade tolerant, but no type of turf grass thrives in full shade. Trying to make grass grow in full shade is an exercise in futility, particularly when it must compete with trees for water. Consider extending mulched areas under trees and incorporating shade tolerant plants. Or it could be a good opportunity to cultivate a lovely green carpet of moss.



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