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THE GARDEN GURU - Full lawn care

Monday, September 10, 2001

Fall is a busy time for many people. With so much to do, lawn care is sometimes neglected. However, fall lawn care is extremely important.

Proper lawn care in the fall helps maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn and can revive a declining lawn. Important fall chores include mowing, fertilization, weed control and aeration.

Mowing

Continue to mow the lawn until the grass stops growing. Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses usually stop growing in early November in Iowa. Mow bluegrass lawns at a height of two and a half to three inches in the fall. When mowing, never remove more than one third of the total leaf surface at any one time. For example, if your mowing height is three inches, mow the grass when it reaches a height of four and a half inches.

Fertilization

Fall is the most important time to fertilize the lawn. Best results are typically achieved by fertilizing once in the spring and twice in the fall. Fall applications can be made in September and early November. September fertilization promotes a moderate rate of shoot growth and helps to thicken the turf. An application in early November (at the time of the last mowing) promotes root growth and early green up next spring. Apply one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in both September and early November.

Broadleaf Weed Control

Perennial broadleaf weeds, such as dandelion and plantain, can be controlled with the application of broadleaf herbicides from mid-September to early November. Most broadleaf herbicide products contain a mixture of two or all of the following chemicals: 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba.

Fall applications of broadleaf herbicides are more effective and safer than those made in spring or summer. In preparation for winter, perennial weeds translocate carbohydrates (foods) down to their roots in the fall. Broadleaf herbicides applied from mid-September to early November also will be translocated to the weed's resulting in excellent control.

With gardening activities winding down in the fall, the risk of herbicide injury to vegetable and flower gardens, fruits and ornamentals is reduced. Broadleaf herbicides can be applied as liquids or granules. Before applying any pesticide, carefully read and follow label directions.

Aeration

Lawns established on clay soils and those subject to heavy foot traffic would benefit from core aeration. Aeration relieves soil compaction, improves air and water movement into the soil, and helps reduce thatch accumulation. Aerate lawns in September with a machine that has hollow metal tubes or tines. These tubes or tines remove plugs of soil from the ground. Avoid spike-type devices that simply punch holes in the turf. For maximum benefit, the core aerator should penetrate the soil to a depth of two to three inches. When finished, there should be approximately 20 to 40 holes per square foot. For the do-it-yourselfer, aeration machines are often available at rental agencies. Aeration services also are available from most professional lawn care companies. After aeration, break up the soil cores by mowing or raking.

Fall is a busy time with school activities, football games and household chores. However, be sure to set aside some time for your lawn. An attractive, healthy lawn next year begins with proper care this fall.



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