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Fall Veggies

Rita and I get excited about our fall vegetable garden. The reason is we eat a big salad almost every night and there is nothing like picking fresh lettuce, spinach and kale leaves just minutes before dinner.

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Fall lettuce, kale and spinach growing on our deck

There are many vegetables that you can plant now for harvest this fall. You may have space in your garden where some of your early summer vegetables have finished doing their thing. This will give you room to plant lettuce, spinach, turnips, mustard, kale, collards, and other cool weather veggies that are not really bothered by frost. Some of you in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other southern states with mild winters also have the opportunity to plant other vegetables including squash, cucumber, tomato and many others. And do not forget to plant a few containers with lettuce, spinach or a good mesclun mix to set around your deck or patio.

When planting in directly into the ground, replenish your soil by mixing in an inch or two of Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Garden Soil. When planting in containers, start with a fresh bag of Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Potting Mix. (Garden Soil is for mixing with native soil in the ground while Potting Mix is for containers and hanging baskets.) And don’t forget to give your veggies some plant food to maximize your harvest. If you do not feed them you may end up with puny plants. We like to use Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Vegetable Food.

Here is a link to some great Bonnie Plants fall gardening tips and video that will help make a big difference in your fall vegetable garden.

Lawn Aeration OR Lawn Dethatching

When a lawn has more than a half inch of thatch; water, air and nutrients may not be getting down to the roots. The tell-tale sign to look for is if your lawn does not really turn a healthy green after feeding. You can check your thatch layer thickness by removing a plug of grass, soil and all, and measuring the brown thatch layer between the green growth and soil layer. If thatch is greater than a half inch, consider aeration or dethatching.

Lawn Aeration

This illustration shows that root depth is restricted by both compacted soil (far left) and too much thatch (2nd from left). Feed your lawn after aerating. The result is improved root growth as shown in the far right illustration.

I recommend Lawn Aeration using a machine that removes cores from your lawn in cases where you want to improve your existing lawn by opening up the thatch layer without tearing it up. A dethatching machine may be a better choice if you are trying to remove dead thatch to expose soil so new grass seeds have a better chance of getting started.

Since fall is a great time to aerate cool-season grasses, this is a very timely topic for those with bluegrass, ryegrass, fescue and bentgrass. The best time to aerate warm-season grasses is early summer, however if you have a severe thatch problem in your Bermuda, Zoysia or St. Augustinegrass you can aerate anytime your lawn is actively growing.

A second reason to aerate a lawn is if the soil is compacted. You can tell if your soil is compacted if it is difficult to stick a screwdriver into your soil even when it is wet. When a lawn gets a lot of use (like you get with athletic fields or golf courses) the soil can get packed down and compacted, restricting the flow of water and nutrients. There are some tell-tale signs that your lawn may be compacted. Poor drainage is one. If water pools up on your lawn or runs off instead of soaking in, it could be because the soil is compacted.

Lawns that look worn-out are often because of compacted soil.
Aerate your lawn by making individual holes around three quarters of an inch in diameter, three inches deep, and no more than 3 inches apart. This is best done with an aerating machine that removes plugs of soil, NOT the kind that just punches spike holes in the lawn. Soil should be moist enough for the machine to remove plugs that are around 3 inches long. Follow up the aeration with a feeding of Scotts Turf Builder.

You can rent an aeration machine at many Home Centers and Hardware stores.

Lawn Aeration Plugs

Oh, here’s some good news: after aerating, you can leave the plugs on your lawn.

Lawn Drought Damage

Your lawn has shut down during the drought, turned brown and looks dead. You are wondering, “Will it come back?”

Most lawns do recover when moisture returns. How can you tell if your lawn is one of those that will bounce back? Within a week (and often as soon as a few days) of a significant rainfall of an inch or so, brush away the tops of the brown blades and look at the base of your brown grass. If you see light green growth at the base of those dead looking plants and new grass blades beginning to pop through the soil your lawn is on the road to recovery.

Drought Recovery

New grass growth from dormant grass after a drought. This is a good time to feed your grass, especially if you are beginning to see rain return or are able to water

However, not all lawns will recover. If your grass roots were weak because they were starving going into the drought, or if the roots were not fully established because the grass was recently planted, or if insects like sod webworms, chichbugs or cutworms attacked your grass as it was going dormant; you may need to plant new grass this fall.
If your lawn is not dead, you can help your grass revive itself by feeding it with Turf Builder as the rains return. To further strengthen your grass, plan a second feeding this fall about 6 weeks after your next feeding.

If your lawn is on the way to recovery, and rainfall is sparse, the best rule of thumb is to water ½ inches, 2 days per week, so that the top 6-8 inches of soil remains moist.

August Lawn Tips and Product Advice

Some lawns need feeding. Most Southern lawns (like Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia) love to be fed at two-month intervals from spring to fall for a total of about 4 feedings a year. Centipede only likes two or three feedings a year from late spring to late summer. Scotts GreenMAX Lawn Food, Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Turf Builder Summer Lawn Food are good choices for this time of year. Northern lawns (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) appreciate two or three feedings from mid-August to Late November. As the day and night time temps drop into the 80’s or below this month, you can give your lawn the first of these important fall feedings.

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This Northern lawn is looking very good in August because it has received regular feedings.

Problem lawns can be “killed and replaced”. This “kill and replace” strategy is for lawns troubled by the kind of grassy weeds you can’t kill without killing your good grass and for lawns you are fighting a constant battle with lawn diseases. We are approaching the best time of year to renovate cool-season grass lawns (like Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue). Note: warm-season grass lawns (like Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine and Centipede) are best started in late spring. Click here to link to one of my blog postings to see how this is done.

Continue to protect your lawn from insects. Tiny insects can attack your lawn during summer causing it to thin and turn brown. One indication that they may show up is when you see moths fly from your lawn when you mow or walk on your grass during early evening hours. These moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for insects like sod webworms and cutworms that can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown. Other insects, like chinch bugs can show up about the same time. You can protect your lawn while feeding it with a special summer lawn food called Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard. This product also takes care of other insects like fleas, ticks and ants. If your lawn does not need feeding, you can spread Ortho Bug B Gon MAX on your lawn to take care of any insect problems. By the way, it is ok if you still see some moths after treating, since they do no damage. You have protected your lawn from the damage caused by their hatching eggs for about 6 weeks or so.

Adult Lawn Moth

Lawn moths fly from the lawn during the evening or when mowing. They lay eggs for sodweborms or cutworms that can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown during summer.

Kill lawn weeds if they are growing. Weeds are harder to kill if they are not actively growing. Most weed controls are designed to work if your temperatures are between 60 and 90 degrees, so check the label for suggestions to get best results. Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer takes care of most weeds. Do not use on Floratam (a variety of St. Augustinegrass), Centipede or Bahiagrass lawns. Ortho Nutsedge Killer and Ortho Weed B Gon Chickweed & Clover Killer are also options depending on where you live and your lawn type. Note: If you are planning to put down grass seed in the weeks ahead be sure to check weed control directions for waiting periods. For example, some weed controls suggest you should wait a month after using before seeding.

Crabgrass germinated in this area where the grass was thinned from a lawn fungus problem. It is easier to kill before it gets big.

Summer Mowing Height?

Your grass appreciates a higher mowing height during the hot summer months. Consider bumping your mower setting up a notch to leave your grass at the taller end of this range for your type of grass. (These suggested heights are after you mow):

  • 2-1/2 to 4 inches for Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue
  • 2 to 4 inches for St. Augustinegrass and Bahiagrass
  • 1 to 3 inches for Centipedegrass
  • 1/2 to 2 inches for Bermudagrass
  • 3 /4 to 2 inches for Zoysia

Then around September you could drop down to the lower end of the range for your grass type.

By the way, if you are not sure of your grass type, click here for a handy Grass Identifier tool that narrows your choices down by your zip code. You can then create a lawn care plan using this tool for your very own lawn.

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Do not mow your lawn too short during summer

Outdoor Cleaner That Is Safe to Use around Plants

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The right side of these patio pavers were cleaned with Scotts Outdoor Cleaner… and the good news is it is safe for surrounding plants!

In the old days I creamed a ground cover with the harsh runoff from a patio cleaner spray. That is why I now use a product that is chlorine bleach-free so it is safe to use around lawns and plants. Scotts Outdoor Cleaner Plus OxiClean can be used on multiple surfaces such as: concrete/brick, wood, composite wood, vinyl, patio furniture (including outdoor fabrics), roofing shingles, fiberglass, painted metals, etc. It comes in a ready to use spray bottle, ready to use hose-end bottle and in a concentrate to use in your own sprayer or power washer. You will see it work on stains from moss, mold, mildew and algae. You just let the solution set for a few minutes. For best results, scrub as needed then lightly rinse with water or wipe off with a clean cloth or towel.

 

What’s That Brown Spot in Your Lawn?

How do you know if the brown spots in your lawn are caused by the heat (that you can’t do anything about) or something else (that you can do something about)? I know it can be a challenge to provide possible answers to this mystery. However, I think you may be able to use these descriptions and photos to figure out what could be causing brown spots in your lawn.

Lack of water: Do some areas of your lawn always seem to turn brown first? Probe the brown spot with a screwdriver and compare this with a probe in the healthy lawn areas. I have found that the typical brown, tan-colored “dry spot” can show up because of a pocket of poor soil, a buried rock that is just below the soil surface, or an area where lawn sprinklers don’t provide complete coverage making it tougher for the screwdriver to penetrate. So you think your lawn is getting adequate water, however this dry spot is the first area to go brown. Solution: Give extra water to this area until you are able to improve the soil in this spot, dig up buried rock or adjust sprinklers. Consider putting down Scotts EveryDrop Water Maximizer to help move more water in soils that repel water.  Be sure to water after spreading.

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Dry, dormant grass next to grass with enough moisture

Insect Problem: Are the brown grass blades mixed in with the green grass blades in no particular pattern almost like the lawn is dry, yet you have been getting rainfall? This could be an insect problem or your lawn could be starving if it has been more than a few months since the last feeding. One clue to look for with insects is the presence of lawn moths when you mow. The moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for sod webworm, cutworm and other lawn damaging insects. Chinchbug damage also looks like the grass in this photo. Solution: Feed and protect your lawn with an application of Turf Builder with SummerGuard or if your lawn does not need feeding use Ortho Bug B Gon. Be sure to water after spreading.

Insect Damage

Chinchbugs are attacking the lawn on the left while the lawn on the right is protected. If left untreated the lawn on the left will need to be replanted.

Disease Problem: Are the brown spots following a particular pattern such as a circle? Within the circle the problem may start with some of the grass blades turning brown with spots on them. There are a range of lawn fungus problems like dollar spot, brown patch, red thread and summer patch that show up as circular patches in your lawn. These problems can crop up when you are getting higher temps during day and night and more rain and humidity. Solution: Treat your lawn with Scotts DiseaseEX Lawn Fungicide.

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Brown Patch on Tall Fescue – Circular patches of dead grass are a symptom of several lawn fungus problems such as Brown Patch and Summer Patch show up during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.

Grass damage from product application: Some lawn products can damage sensitive grasses during dry weather with temps that are consistently in the 90’s. Be sure to read directions and precautions when you treat your lawn.

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Brown Bermuda Grass about a week after too much weed control sprayed during hot weather.