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Important to Feed Shady Lawns in Fall

For those of you with northern lawns (cool-season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass), remember to feed your lawn the is fall with Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard. When you fertilize while your grass receives sunlight you maximize photosynthesis, which builds carbohydrate reserves in the grass roots to help when sunlight is limited during shady times of the year. So feed shady lawns just prior to or after tree leaves drop AND again in spring before tree leaves develop.


This Fescue lawn in Atlanta receives about 4 hours of filtered sunlight a day.

And the good news: You do not need to rake your leaves if you are able to mow them to dime size or smaller. Research has shown that this mowing practice along with a good feeding of Turf Builder WinterGuard helps to compost the tree leaves in place to benefit your grass and soil.

Here is a link to one of my blog postings that gives 6 tips for growing grass in the shade.

Is it Too Late to Kill Lawn Weeds?

As long as your daily temps are reaching a high of 50 degrees or more the day you spray, you can kill pesky perennial weeds like Dandelion, Clover and Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie), as well as annual weeds like Chickweed and Henbit. Kill them this fall and they will not be in your lawn next spring. There are various Ortho Weed-B-Gon products depending on where you live. Click here to see your options. There are also various Roundup products that can be used to kill weeds without harming your good grass. Click here to see your options. If you have lots of weeds throughout your lawn and you have not fed your lawn in the past 6 weeks, you can use Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Weed & Feed rather than spot spraying. If you use Weed & Feed, be sure to apply to moist foliage on a day when rain is not expected.

Note: If you planted grass seed this fall, it is best to wait until the new seedlings have been mowed 4 times before you apply weed killers.

Fall is a great time of year to kill Ground Ivy (also known as Creeping Charlie).


My Favorite Treatment for Ants in my House

I have a favorite way to control ants that found our pantry. The Ortho Home Defense Liquid Ant Bait traps did an amazing job.

First, those of you who read my blog postings regularly know that a couple times of year I put a Ortho Home Defense treatment around the outside of my home foundation to keep the Georgia insects in our wooded area out of our home. I get good results from this approach. What is amazing about ants is they can find the tiniest unprotected opening to get inside. For example, I have found that it is important to spray around the outdoor water spigot that comes out of the house wall.

I learned about these Ortho Indoor Ant Traps when ants found my pantry via the roof of our house. They found the roof of our house via a nearby tree. Rather than spraying my entire pantry, I like the idea of using ant bait traps that allow the ants to take the treatment back to the nest to help eliminate the queen and the colony. So, I tried the Ortho Home Defense Liquid Ant Bait. Wow, within hours of putting out several traps, they were covered with ants. The next day there were absolutely no ants to be found in the pantry.


Early Fall – Time to Kill Fire Ants

The shifting fall weather means fire ant mounds are showing up around these parts. They wreak havoc on your lawn, and make it next to impossible to feel safe and enjoy your outdoor space with friends and family.

Fire Ant Mound

Fire Ant mound in our red Georgia Clay

Now there are two ways to kill the fire ants you see and control the ones you don’t see.

The first one is a mound bait to kill fire ant queens and mounds. Just sprinkle the bait in a 4-foot diameter around the mound. Fire ants think it’s food and bring it back to the mound for feeding. It’s a deep-reaching solution that requires no watering. Ortho Fire Ant Killer Mound Bait kills both visible and hidden mounds and prevents mound relocation.

The second method is a 2-Step whole lawn treatment to not only rid your lawn area but to discourage neighborhood ants from invading your lawn.

Step 1 – Kill the Mound: Treat mounds you see with Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer . This product is designed to kill the queen and destroy the mound. Do not disturb the mound prior to treating. Sprinkle a tablespoon of product over and around each mound and do not water. Over the next several days the ants and queen in the mound will be killed.

Step 2 – Protect the Ground: Treating only the mounds you see is not enough to completely get rid of fire ants. That is because not all fire ant mounds are easily seen. Colonies may remain active underground, hidden from sight. Additionally, new queens can fly in to establish colonies or foraging fire ants may enter the yard to look for food. Use a lawn spreader to put down Ortho MAX Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules to protect your lawn by killing foraging fire ants and controlling new fire ant mounds from forming for up to six months. Water your lawn after spreading the granules.

Answers to Five Lime Questions

Why spread lime on a lawn?

Answer: Lime helps to raise the soil pH level in acidic soils. Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7 is neutral, acidic soil registers below 7, and alkaline soil above 7. Your lawn can tolerate a fairly wide pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, with 6.5 being the ideal pH for growing grass. When your pH is in the ideal range other nutrients in your soil and in the lawn food you spread are more available to your grass plants. When the pH is outside of this ideal range, some of the nutrients get locked up by the soil and your grass can suffer.


Fall is a good time to apply lime to your lawn if your soil is acidic.

What areas of the country usually need lime to raise soil pH?

Answer: Many lawns in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Northwest are growing in native soil that is naturally acidic. The reason I say that all lawns in these areas are not necessarily growing on acidic soil is because soil chemistry can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Also, over the years lime may have been spread on a particular lawn on a regular basis raising the soil pH out of the acidic range. For example, when I first tested my Georgia clay soil I found that it was acidic and needed lime. After several years of putting down lime, a soil test showed my soil no longer needed lime. I plan on testing my soil every 2 or 3 years. Although not as common, you can find acidic soil in other parts of the U.S.

How do you figure out the pH of your soil?

Answer: A soil test kit that you buy in your local garden center can be used to measure your soil pH. Most states offer more complete soil testing through their Extension Service. Check for soil testing labs in your state by doing an internet search with your state’s name and the words “soil testing labs”. Other info on these tests provides values for available phosphorus, potassium, micronutrients and organic matter. As a former County Extension Agent, who looked at hundreds of soil test results for home lawns in Virginia, I know that the primary actionable number to look for is soil pH. You can ignore the other measurements if you are feeding your lawn regularly unless one of them shows up as being abnormally low. For example, if you find that phosphorus is low in your soil, you can substitute a Starter Lawn Food for one or more of your feedings during the year to help raise this important nutrient in your soil.

Will I hurt anything if I put down lime on my lawn without going to the trouble of getting a soil test?

Answer: Probably not in areas that are known to have acidic native soils. It is always a good idea to do a soil test first before spreading lime on your lawn. If you live in any area that I mentioned above that has native soils that tend to be acidic, you could spread up to 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 sq. ft. That’s 250 lbs. of lime on a 5,000 sq. ft. lawn. To spread this much lime, you may find you will need to go over your lawn several times with the spreader set at one of the higher settings. You will also find that granulated lime is easier to spread than pulverized or powdered lime.

When is the best time to put lime on a lawn?

Answer: Lime can be applied anytime the soil is not frozen. Fall is a great time to spread lime since the upcoming alternating freezing and thawing of your soil can help to transport lime from the soil surface down to lower parts of the soil. And by the way, don’t forget to give your lawn at least a couple of feedings this fall. Your last feeding of the year can be Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard.

Best Way to Improve Your Lawn

Want to look like you know what you are doing when it comes to lawn care AND not dip too far into your wallet to pull it off? You ask any turf expert how they would spend their first lawn care dollar and they will tell you the same thing I am about to tell you. (And, I know you will be thanking me later for this very important bit of lawn advice.) You get the most bang for your buck and your efforts by giving your lawn two feedings in fall. (If you have a southern grass like Zoysia, Bermuda, Bahia, or St. Augustine your lawn likely only needs a single September feeding. If you have already fed your Centipede two or three times this year, you can skip any further feeding until next spring.)

Lawns that are not allowed to starve in fall give you thicker grass now and next spring.

Here’s what you need to do for Bluegrass, Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass lawns: You spread your first fall feeding in September. That’ll give your lawn a chance to recover from any summer lawn damage. Now you might not see much improvement at first, but don’t get discouraged. A lot of the improvement from an early fall feeding is happening underground, as new grass roots develop and spread. In fact, the underground root development will go on until the ground freezes, long after the first frost.

Within a few weeks, the lawn will start looking healthier. But the real improvement comes with the second feeding about 6 weeks after the first in late fall. This one helps to lock in what you’ve just gained, and carry it into the spring. What’ll happen is that your lawn’s increased root mass will absorb and store the nutrients from the fertilizer. Once spring arrives, your lawn will quickly tap into these nutrients, for a beautiful burst of green. In fact, a lawn fed twice in the fall will be the first to green up in the spring!

And I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t emphasize it enough. When it comes to lawn food, spend the few extra bucks for a really good one. There are big differences in how lawn foods work, and with a product like Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard or Scotts Natural Lawn Food, you’ll see a big improvement in how your lawn looks! You can count on it!

Oh by the way, one of these feeding can contain a weed control like you find in Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Weed and Feed. This is a great time of year to kill clover, ground ivy (Creeping Charlie), dandelions and other weeds. Just make sure you apply to moist foliage on a day when rain is not expected. Application to a dew covered lawn in early morning really works well. And, don’t forget, any newly seeded areas should not be treated with weed control until after your new grass has been mowed 4 times.

A Lawn So Thick I Can Bounce an Egg!

During my Scotts Training Institute instructor days back in the 70’s (this is where Scotts Retailers learn how to help their customers improve their lawn and garden), we did a little demo on the Scotts lawn in front of our Marysville, Ohio training center. I gave my students a couple dozen eggs to toss in the air to see how many bounced on the healthy, thick Scotts lawn. Since I did not have video from back then, we shot some video about 25 years later using this same demonstration to show the lawn thickness you get from feeding your lawn 4 times a year.

Since a thicker lawn is a great way to crowd out weeds and since fall is the time of year you should be planning at least two lawn feedings (now and again in 6 weeks), I thought you would enjoy watching this video to see the eggs bounce on a thick, green Scotts lawn.