Renovate Your Planting Beds This Autumn

Visit your local garden center to get ready for renovating your planting beds

While the temperatures are cooler and you are naturally getting some more water in your garden via rainstorms, why not try to renovate your planting beds? Autumn is a great time to place some new plants and reinvigorate your landscape. This is especially true if some of your existing ones were unfortunately damaged during the heat and dryness of summer.

What Can You Plant in Autumn?

There are many different types of plants that you can add to your planting beds during fall. For example, most species of trees and shrubs can be safely planted in the fall. They can use this time of mild weather to get their root structure started in the ground and get ready for the coming dormancy period of winter.

Do check with your garden center before planting to be sure that it will do well if planted during the fall as some kinds do better when they are As the Morton Arboretum notes, these include “bald cypress, American hornbeam, ginkgo, larch, magnolia, hemlock, sweetgum, tuliptree, and willow…and many types of evergreens”

You can also freshen up your planting beds with some new perennials and annuals. Though annuals will not usually last more than a few months or weeks, it will definitely help add color to your planting beds and extend the gardening season before the botanical world gets quieter in winter.

Finally, this is the time to plant your spring-flowering bulbs like crocuses, daffodils and tulips. They need to go through a period of cold in order to be triggered properly when the temperatures start to warm after winter.

How are you renovating your planting beds this autumn?

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Reseed Your Lawn This Fall

You can reseed your lawn during the fall

While you are out looking over your sprinkler system and getting your garden ready for the coming winter, why not reseed your lawn as needed? If you only need to repair small areas, this is also known as overseeding and will help you make your lawn healthier and uniform by filling in any spots that are bare or otherwise problematic.

Why Reseed your lawn This Fall?

Autumn is a good time to get new grass growing and repairing your lawn. As long as you are not doing it at the end of fall, there should be enough time for a strong root structure to be formed and give the grass a chance to store away nutrients for the coming winter dormancy.

You do want to keep an eye out on your local forecasts for frost and be aware of your average first frost date of the year. For example, it is usually around November 1st to 10th here where we are in Yonkers, NY. These dates are not a guarantee of course; frosts may definitely start before or after these dates. They are, however, based on observations of past trends and serve as a good guide when planning your garden tasks. A frost right when seedlings are emerging can be devastating.

The Basics of How to Reseed Your Lawn

It usually is not too hard to get new grass seeds going in the bare spots in your lawn. Start by mowing your lawn, taking away the clippings and adding just a little soil on top so that the new grass seed has somewhere to get started. You don’t want to smother your existing lawn, though, so only use a fraction of an inch.  Choose a type of seed that matches or compliments your current grass. Sow the seeds and make sure they get watered lightly a couple of times daily to keep the ground moist enough (not wet) for germination.

You can also totally reseed an entire lawn if it is beyond repair, though you will need to remove the old grass, work to enhance and repair the soil, then get it even and ready for reseeding.

Are you going to reseed your lawn this fall?

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Continue to Water Your Lawn in Autumn

You need to still water your lawn even in fall

As the temperatures cool down and rainstorms start appearing, you may think that you can just turn off the sprinklers and not worry about your grass any more. However, you should indeed keep them on and water your lawn as needed in autumn.

Why Water Your Lawn in Fall?

Autumn is a great time for growth in your garden. Many grasses that are used for lawns are cool season (for example, Kentucky bluegrass and fescue,) so they enjoy the milder temperatures present at this time. Plants will produce some new growth and roots as they prepare for winter. It is important that your grass receives adequate nutrients and water during this time.

While the rains that start to fall more frequently during this season will help take care of your plant’s needs, it is important to make sure that they are consistently watered every week. If you depend solely on precipitation, there may be weeks with little or no rain and your lawn will be left thirsty during this important period of growth.

How Much Should I Water?

This will depend, of course, on how rainy this fall proves to be. During summer the general rule is about an inch per week, but the grass will start to need less in the weeks before winter arrives.  Watch the weather forecasts to get an idea of what the coming days may bring. Keep a rain gauge in your landscape so that you can see how much is actually falling on your lawn.

Adjust your sprinklers as needed so that you do not accidentally overwater your grass. You may, in the end, not need to water much or at all, but it is better to be prepared for the possibility and help your lawn stay as healthy as possible.

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Do a Fall Sprinkler System Check

 When doing a fall sprinkler check, make sure the sidewalks aren't getting watered too.

As you contemplate the tasks needed to keep your lawn in the best shape this season, include a fall sprinkler system check to assess the current condition and make sure that it is in proper working order before you turn it off for winter.

Check for Broken Sprinkler Heads

It is natural that some of your sprinkler heads may be broken by the end of the growing season. Sometimes a lawn mower can catch on them. People walking across a lawn can accidentally kick them and sometimes even deliberately break them. Use your fall sprinkler system check to replace any that are damaged and make sure it is in the best shape before you shut it down for the season.

Adjust Sprinkler Head Directions

Sometimes sprinkler heads can be turned around by lawn mowers and kids, among other things. You may find that you are watering the sidewalk instead of your grass. This, of course, just serves to waste water, create slip hazards and take away the moisture that your grass needs.

Take a day and note exactly where the sprinklers are hitting while they are on. Depending on your sprinklers, a little may still fall outside of our lawn, but it should not be widespread. You can use these observations to make any adjustments needed to get your system back on track.

Evaluate Your Watering Times

Your grass will not need the same amount of watering throughout every season. Summer is naturally when you will need the most water since the weather is hotter and drier than other times in the year. In spring and fall, rain is more likely to fall and lessen the need for any additional water from sprinklers. Adjust your settings accordingly to water less frequently, ultimately turning them off at the end of the season.

What do you do as part of your fall sprinkler system check?

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Fertilize Your Lawn and Remove Broadleaf Weeds Around Labor Day

Plantain in the middle of grass

Broadleaf weeds like this plantain can pop up in your lawn

Labor Day is fast approaching and many people take the day off to barbecue or otherwise enjoy time in your garden. Now is a good time to fertilize lawn your lawn and work on getting rid of your broadleaf weeds also.

Why Should You Fertilize Your Lawn Now?

As we have mentioned on this blog before, fall is a good time to give your grass some extra attention, including a dose of nutrients. Temperatures are starting to head downward and grasses (especially your cool season varieties like Kentucky bluegrass) can breathe a sigh of relief that the stresses of summer dryness and heat are on their way out.

You do want to do any fertilizing earlier in the autumn season until waiting until the very end. If new growth occurs right before winter, freezing temperatures or icy conditions can severely damage your grass. You want to give it a chance to get new growth started, but also give it enough time to prepare for winter and properly go dormant.

What Are Broadleaf Weeds and How Do You Kill Them?

There are three basic types of weeds that you may find in your lawn: grasses, sedges and broadleaf varieties. Broadleaf weeds usually have wider and/or thicker leaves than the blades on grasses or sedges. Common examples include dandelions, plantain, common mallow and bindweed.

The trick to getting rid of broadleaf weeds without disturbing your grass is to use a herbicide that is specially targeted towards them. These plants are physiologically different from grasses and the herbicide manufacturers are able to create a product that will work on only the broadleaf weeds. Make sure that you read the label to see what kinds of plants are targeted and follow the instructions carefully.

What do you use on your broadleaf weeds?

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Japanese Beetles in the Garden

Japanese beetles can skeletonize leaves

If you have holes appearing on the leaves in your garden and you notice coppery and green insects on your plants, they are likely a type called the Japanese beetle. These hungry bugs love to munch their way through foliage, wreaking havoc in their wake.

What Problems Do Japanese Beetles Cause?

As you can see in the photograph above, Japanese beetles will chew holes in the leaves of your plants. The damage can be so extensive that the entire leaf is skeletonized. If much of the foliage is destroyed in this manner, it can be difficult for the plant to photosynthesize and get the energy that it needs for proper growth.

How Can You Get Rid of Japanese Beetles?

Treating for grubs can help stop an influx of these pests if done at the correct time. This kills the larvae before it has a chance to grow up, greatly lessening the chances of problems in the future.

One of the most successful ways to lessen the numbers of these insects in your garden (since it is very difficult to get rid of them completely) is to simply find them on your plants and drop them into a solution of soapy water, making them drown. This method is very inexpensive and easy to use. You can also spray them with insecticidal soap.

You may have seen Japanese beetle traps for sale and thought that they could be helpful in this situation. Unfortunately, they may end up worsening the problem. While they do attract and catch beetles, they do it by using pheromones. Frisky bugs will head towards your garden and you will likely end up with more than if you had avoided the traps.

How do you handle Japanese beetles in your landscape?

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Fall Is an Excellent Time to Work on Lawn Quality

Work on lawn quality in the fall

Many of us think of spring as the prime time for rejuvenating our yards and landscapes, but did you know that fall is also a great time to work on fixing your lawn quality and make your landscape shine next year? Take a walk around your landscape and see what improvements you may want to work on in the coming weeks.

Why Is Fall a Good Season for Lawn Repair and Renovation?

Spring is, of course, a time when plants begin to awaken and rapidly grow. However, this new growth can be stressed when the hot and dry summer season arrives. As the weather starts to cool down in fall, new growth can occur and then the grass will prepare to go dormant for the winter. This will help protect the improved lawn and make it stronger for the following growing season.

Less Weed Problems

Another benefit to working on improving your lawn in fall is that many of the weeds have stopped actively producing seeds or otherwise producing new plants as they prepare to die or go dormant for the winter. If you strike right now, you have a better chance of lessening or removing the problem entirely.

Timing is Important

You do need to make sure that you are working on these projects more from early to mid fall instead of later. If it is too close to winter and the time that frosts set in, the new growth may be damaged and the repair or renovation will fail.

What will you do to improve your lawn quality this fall?

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Dealing With Bentgrass in Your Lawn

Bentgrass is one weed that can invade your lawnBentgrass is not necessarily always a weed. In fact, it is often used to create lawns and golf course greens in some areas. The problem comes when it pops up in lawns and competes with the type of grass that you did intend to plant.

How Does Bentgrass Invade Your Lawn?

Seeds can arrive in your landscape by being blown in. They may also be brought in if you use a lawn mowing service. The plant starts to grow and can spread itself through stems called stolons. These allow the grass to put down roots in other areas and become firmly entrenched. 

How Do You Get Rid of Bentgrass?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to remove just the bentgrass from your lawn, especially once it has had the chance to spread. If you are lucky and catch it when it first arrives, you may be able to manually remove the plants. It may take some time and diligence to make sure that it is truly gone.

You will need to use a nonspecific herbicide like glyphosate (one common version is Roundup®) on the areas around and including the bentgrass. This will kill any plants in the area so be careful when spraying. Follow the instructions on the bottle and protect your other plants outside the target area. 

It is safe to reseed your lawn a few days after the grass has died. You want to make sure that the herbicide has had a chance to become inactive before planting any new grass seeds. Make sure that it stays watered properly so that germination can occur.

How have you gotten rid of bentgrass?

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It’s Time to Start Thinking About Lawn Renovation

You may need to do a lawn renovation at the end of the growing season

Your grass can really get a workout over the years as it is subjected to foot traffic, weather, pests and diseases, among other factors. Patches may start to appear and the lawn doesn’t look as healthy as it once did. As we approach fall, it is a great time to consider doing a lawn renovation as needed.

What Is a Lawn Renovation?

There are basically two different kinds of lawn renovations that your landscape may need. If the damage is not too extensive, you may be able to simply overseed and fill in the bare spots. You could also use this opportunity to add in different kinds of grasses to improve the quality of your lawn.

However, there are times where you may need to remove some or all of the existing lawn and start over. This is more work, of course, but can ultimately mean that your landscape will be whole again. This process is known as a lawn renovation.

Basic Overview of Doing Lawn Renovations

As with many garden planting projects, a good first step is to have a soil test done. You want to make sure that the proper pH and nutrient levels are present or your new grass will struggle also. You can get tests at a garden center or home improvement store. More extensive testing can be obtained by sending samples to a soil laboratory.

Once you know the state of your soil, you can start working on the removal of your existing lawn. You want to get a general herbicide like glyphosate that targets all plants. Be very careful if you are only doing part of your lawn since this could kill the grass that you want to keep. It will take a few days for the herbicide to work through the plant and kill it.

Next would be removing thatch, especially if thick, and tilling up the yard. Thick thatch layers do not allow nutrients and water to reach grass roots and would make it more difficult for the new grass to thrive. You may also want to add soil to help even out the ground, especially if some areas are sunken or raised.

Once your area is cleaned and prepared, you are ready to add your new grass. You can use seed, sod or plugs depending on your budget and type of grass that you would like to grow. Early fall is an optimal time to install new grass since the cooler temperatures mean less stress and there are usually less problems with weeds.

If you are thinking about doing a lawn renovation, we are here to help. We can help you decide the best course of action to bring your lawn back into tip-top shape.

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How Is the Lawn Soil pH in Your Landscape?

Soil samples are taken to figure out the pH and nutrient levels in your landscape

As autumn approaches, it is a good time to start thinking about your lawn soil pH so that you can add amendments if needed. Fall is a period of growth for grass as it prepares to go dormant for the winter and ensuring that the pH levels are optimal will help it stay healthy.

Test Your Soil First

You definitely do not want to just assume that your soil needs some sort of amendment. Plants grow best in a certain pH range and if you change the soil to be higher or lower than needed, your grass will struggle or possibly die.

A quick way to test is to buy one of the soil pH kits at a home improvement store or garden center. However, these are very simplistic and may not give you precise results. There are also soil pH probes available for sale in retail locations. These suffer the same flaws as home pH kits.

Your best option is to send off a sample to a soil laboratory. In addition to pH levels, they can also determine the type of soil present and the levels of important nutrients and micronutrients that are currently present in the soil. This information will help you get the right amendments and fertilizers for your grass. Here in New York you can send it off to the soil laboratory at Cornell University.

Steps for Preparing a Soil Sample

A proper soil sample requires that you dig in a few different spots throughout your lawn. You need to go down 3″ in your grass to make sure that you are reaching the levels where the roots will be growing. Take out a shovel of soil at the bottom of the hole and replace the grass.

Put all of your samples together in one container and mix it around. This will allow the laboratory to have an accurate representation of the levels present throughout your lawn. If you are sending it off to Cornell, they would like three cups of soil from this mixture to perform their tests. More information for ordering a sample can be found here.

Do You Need to Add Lime?

If tests show that your pH levels are on the low side (under 7.0 is considered acidic), you may need to add some lime to your soil to help raise the pH. The amount that you need will depend on what kind of soil is present and your current pH number. Refer to this chart from Cornell to see how many pounds per 1000 square feet that you should add.

If you would like help with these tasks, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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