Organic Fall Lawn Care: Part 1
Want a beautiful lawn? We're going to tell you how to do it, and if you use the organic methods we recommend, you'll also end up with healthy soil. Plus you'll help maintain the balance of nature downstream by not contributing to the problem of pesticide and fertilizer runoff.
So, let's take a look at six essential steps to creating a terrific looking lawn the organic way. In this first part, we'll discuss soil testing, grass seed selection, and soil preparation. In the upcoming part two, we will discuss fertilizer selection, fertilizer application, and the seeding process.
Test Your Soil
Fall is one of the best times for soil testing. If you test before doing anything else, you'll know exactly what your soil needs to be at its best. If there is a deficiency, you'll know how severe it is so you can apply just the right amount of fertilizer. It's amazing how many people apply fertilizer when their soil doesn't even need it. Or they overfertilize, thinking more is better, when that excess will cause thatching. By testing you avoid this kind of waste, and you will make up the modest expense of testing many times over.
We offer a variety of testers and testing kits, starting with the Rapitest Soil Tester Kit 1609CS. Or we have the Rapitest Soil Tester Kit Model 1601 which is good for 10 tests, and if you want unlimited testing capability, get one of the electronic soil testers such as the Rapitest Electronic Soil Tester Model 1860.
For more about soil testing, including how to interpret the tests, read the GHS Guide to Soil and Soil Testing.
Choose the Right Grass Seed
If you're planning to seed or reseed your lawn, the next step is to decide what grass variety or mix of varieties would best meet your needs. Fall is not the time to plant or reseed warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, or St. Augustine varieties. However, if you're looking at any of the cooler season grassesfescues, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrassyour timing couldn't be better.
We like the Execu-Turf line of grass seed because Cisco uses the best varieties and they have formulated a grass blend for nearly every type of lawn: sunny, shady, sports use, no useyou name it.
To determine which blend is best for your situation, Cisco provides this Execu-Turf Mixes Information Chart. If you want to know the specific grass varieties contained in each mix, click here. Once you've chosen the best mix for your needs, go to our turf grass section to order.
We also sell ground cover grass seed including annual ryegrass. Though typically used for field and pasture, annual ryegrass will keep your lawn green all winter if sown now. Some gardeners simply throw it onto their existing grass; it takes hold quickly and will leave your soil enriched when it comes time to reseed in the spring. For more about planting annual ryegrass, check out our GHS Guide to Growing Fall Cover Crops.
Prepare Your Soil
Before you plant any seeds, you will want to aerate and, if necessary, de-thatch your lawn. The health of your soil is directly related to its beneficial bacteria, because that good bacteria breaks nutrients down into a form that your grass can absorb. If your soil can't breathe or is suffocated by thatch, that bacterial action slows way down and the grass you plant won't do as well. Aeration and de-thatching also improve drainage, leading to healthier root systems.
Many lawn owners consider it worthwhile to de-thatch and/or aerate once a year around this time, either by doing it themselves with rented equipment, or by hiring a lawn service. Hollow core aerators that pull slugs of soil out of the ground are the best kind to use. Don't aerate soil if it is wet, but it is good for it to be slightly moist.
One way to get a double benefit from aeration is to shred the leaves that have fallen on your lawn and then distribute them in a thin layer. If you have no leaves, use compost, manure, pine needles, or any other organic matter. Drop small piles intermittently around your lawn and then rake it out to approximately three-eighths of an inch. When you aerate, the slugs of the aerator will push the highly beneficial organic matter deep into your soil, even as the aerator punches cylindrical holes that will allow oxygen and water to enter.
In the second part of this series, we'll be talking about the different amendments your soil may need. So stay tuned, and Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!