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Don’t Rake Your Tree Leaves… Compost Them On Your Lawn!

Tree leaves are all over your lawn. It’s getting cold. You’ve had a frost. Maybe you’ve even had some snow flurries. Here’s a little known lawn secret: Rather than raking your tree leaves, save time by mowing them to dime size just prior to feeding.  You’ll know you’re done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. Once the leaf bits settle in, microbes and worms get to work recycling them. Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and any kind of leaves can be chopped up.

Fall Shoot 2009, Lifestyle Images

With several passes of your mower, you can mulch up to 18 inches of leaf clutternter a caption

Feed Your Lawn To Speed Up The Process.  Soil microbes do a better job recycling carbon from leaves when they have nitrogen. Applying Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food after mulching your leaves will not only feed your lawn but also feed the microbes so they can break down the leaves faster. Your grass will be greener, and soil microbes will work harder, when you feed your lawn after mulching those leaves.

One last bit of advice. If you’ve got weeds and want to spread Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Weed & Feed instead of Turf Builder WinterGuard, your mid-day temps need to still reach 60 degrees the day you apply. Apply to moist foliage on a day when no rain is forecasted for 24 hours. (There is no minimum temperature restriction for Turf Builder WinterGuard without weed control as long as your ground is not frozen.)

How to ID Crabgrass After Frost

If you have already had a killing frost, look at your lawn to see if you have any dead crabgrass. These photos will help you figure out what to look for.

Look closely at dead crabgrass where you will see the shriveled up “fingers” of the seed head.

This is a crabgrass seed head in summer. Notice the three fingers.

If you see patches of dead crabgrass now, you can expect lots more crabgrass next summer from all the crabgrass seeds left behind in your soil. You can stop crabgrass before it starts next spring. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to apply crabgrass preventer, also known as crabgrass preemergent, around the time of your first mowing. Scotts Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer prevents crabgrass and other grassy weeds before they sprout while giving your lawn a good feeding to help your grass fill-in thin areas. If you plan on putting down grass seed next spring, use a special crabgrass preventer like Scotts Starter Lawn Food plus Weed Preventer that will not prevent your good grass seed from sprouting the same time it is preventing the crabgrass.

Top 4 November Lawn Questions

I know most of your lawns are winding down for the year, however here are answers to several of your search questions that are popping up now on my blog pages.

Is it too late to put down grass seed?
It is late to expect germination and enough root growth prior to winter weather in most parts of the country. Some professional turf grass managers put down grass seed during early winter with the understanding that they will get germination in early spring. This is called Dormant Seeding. Here is a link to a blog posting I did on this subject.

I am seeing moths flying from my lawn. Do I need to do anything?
If you are in the Deep South you can still get lawn damage from sod webworms and cutworms, especially on St. Augustinegrass. Moths lay eggs for these insects that can thin your lawn and cause it to turn brown. (Moths do not damage your lawn, just the worms that hatch from their eggs.) You can treat your lawn with Ortho Bug B Gon MAX granules and this will kill all lawn damaging insects plus fleas and ticks. If you use the higher spreader setting on the bag, you will also kill Fire Ants. Water your lawn after spreading. Other areas of the country do not need to treat as lawn moths do not lay eggs in cold weather. They are looking for a place to overwinter.

Can I still kill lawn weeds like Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie)?
Yes, as long as daily high temperatures are getting to 45 degrees or higher you can spray your Ground Ivy (and other weeds). There are various Ortho Weed-B-Gon products depending on where you live. Click here to see your options.

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

Is it too late to feed my lawn?
If you have only fed your lawn once this fall, you still have time to feed one additional time in most areas of the country except the very far North. For example, Ohio State University Extension recommends giving lawns in the Buckeye State a feeding in Mid-November. Turf Builder WinterGuard Lawn Food is a great choice.

fedvsunfed

The grass on the left has strong roots because it has been fed in fall. The grass on the right is starving with thin roots.

 

 

Why Some Lawns Need to be Fed in November

If you have northern grasses (like Bluegrass, Fescue or Ryegrass), your grass roots are still growing in your soil that is warmer than your air temperatures. Even if you’ve already fed this fall, another feeding now can really help build your grass roots. So put on your coat, gloves and feed your lawn one more time with Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard. Most southern lawns do not need another feeding unless you are in the deep south where your lawn does not go dormant (brown) in winter.

You won’t be alone. Expert turf researchers will be doing the same thing with their lawns. For example, Ohio State University turf experts say you should get your last winterizing feeding down by the middle of November. Virginia Tech, Penn State and Michigan State Agronomists also agree that you get a big benefit from a November feeding. So, even if you are in the far north, this coming weekend is not too late to get your lawn fed.

Fall_Lawn

Feeding your northern lawn in late fall will help create stronger roots.

I have more good news for you. Rather than raking your tree leaves, save time by mowing them to dime size just prior to feeding. This will help them “compost on your lawn”.

One last bit of advice. If you’ve got weeds and want to spread Turf Builder Fall WinterGuard Weed & Feed instead of Turf Builder WinterGuard, your mid-day temps need to still reach 60 degrees the day you apply. Be sure to apply to moist foliage on a day when no rain is forecasted. If you put down grass seed earlier this fall, your new grass needs to be old enough to have been mowed 4 times before you put down a weed control.

Kill Mice!

Our house in Ohio was an older home in a wooded area that was prone to an annual mouse invasion during the onset of cold weather. Dudley, our cat, was a good signal that there was a mouse in the house when he would get all stirred up or if he spent long periods of time staring at the bottom of the frig, washer or the door to the garage.

mouse

A mouse can squeeze through a dime size hole to gain entry into your home or garage

Here are some signals that may alert you to mice in your house:

Are your pets upset? They can get stirred up when they hear and smell rodents in the house.

Can you see rodent droppings? Rat droppings are shiny black, blunt at both ends, and ½ – ¾ of an inch long. Mice droppings are smooth, with pointed ends, usually about 1/8 – ¼ of an inch long.

Do you see small tracks and tail trails in dusty areas? Look for them in corners, along baseboards, and near sources of food.

Do you see areas where wood has been gnawed? Tooth marks that are 1/8 of an inch long may indicate rats; small, scratchy ones may indicate mice.

Do you see smears along baseboards and other areas? Those could be rub marks caused by grease and dirt on rat fur.

Is there a heavy musky odor in the house? Rats and mice smell bad.

This short video can help you figure out the best approach to eliminate your mouse or rat problem.

Click here to see all the TOMCAT trap options to rid your home of mice and other rodents.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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).