The late fall fertilizer application should be a priority, and yet most homeowners skip this application. Why is it so important? The fall treatment concentrates on root growth and development — key to your lawn not only surviving the winter, but also getting off to a great start in the spring.
Even when the ground is covered in snow, turf roots are active through December. A late fall fertilizer application provides “food” that keeps the grass roots growing thick, storing nutrients for the winter slumber. If your lawn does not have a strong root system, parts of your lawn may not survive the long, cold Cleveland winter. And if this winter is anything like last winter, you need give your yard a fighting chance!
If you are maintaining your own lawn, be sure to read and follow the directions on the bag. Some of them recommend fertilizing twice in the fall — once around Labor Day and another around Halloween. But remember, too much could do your lawn more harm than good, so don’t ignore the manufacturer directions. If you’re contracted with a lawn care provider, make certain to follow through with your late fall applications.
In general, fall is an optimal time to pamper your lawn. If you’re looking for more general lawn care information, here are a few websites to peruse: www.ohioline.osu.edu and www.bygl.osu.edu.
In an ideal world, every garden plot naturally would have deep, rich soil. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. When establishing a new garden, or revitalizing an old one, you are pretty likely to run into sub-par soil (see our previous blog on soil testing to learn how to check up on the health of your soil).
If you’re not happy with your soil, what are the options? Short of scraping the top foot off your garden and replacing your entire plot’s soil, the best option is to add amendments to your existing soil. If you’ve had your soil tested, you will have a pretty good idea where to start.
As a general rule, in clay-rich soil, amendments break up the dense clay, add porosity and water permeability (which also improves drainage), and allows greater rooting depth. On the other side of the coin, if your soil is sandy, soil amendments increase its ability to hold nutrients and retain water.
Soil amendments fall into two broad categories, organic and inorganic. Organic amendments include peat moss, Sweet Peet, wood chips (often available free from your municipality, along with humus), compost, lawn clippings, straw, wood ash, and anything else that comes from something that was once alive. Inorganic amendments include gravel, sand, recycled rubber chunks, vermiculite, and perlite.
Not all amendments are recommended for all applications. For example, if your soil pH is already high, wood ash will only contribute to a high pH. Similarly, adding sand to soil with high clay content will essentially produce cement.
When using organic materials, it’s generally best to ensure they are composted first, with the exception of peat products. Uncomposted wood, for example, takes far longer to break down than other organic matter, ties up nitrogen as it decomposes, and can interfere with water movement. Similarly, uncomposted manure can carry dangerous pathogens.
Inorganic amendments should be applied sparingly, as once you mix them into your soil, they are there permanently. Organic materials will eventually decompose, but putting in too much gravel or sand into your soil is not something that will go away with time.
If you need help deciding what amendment will work best for your soil, talk to the experts at Three-Z. We’ll also help you determine how much ammendment your soil needs. In general, healthy soil should be about 5% organic material, and contain the correct inorganic materials to ensure easy movement of water and roots.
Unfortunately, adding amendments takes a bit of work. They must be thoroughly mixed into the soil to work properly. In existing beds with plants, this means breaking the soil up 3-4 inches deep around the plants with a garden fork or rake. Add your amendment, then rake it completely into the soil, raking first in one direction then in the other. An empty bed is a little easier, as it can be rototilled both to break up the soil and to blend in the amendments after you have spread them. In boh cases, you must thoroughly water the bed once you’re done.
Investing a bit of work into adding amendments can have a big payoff in a more lush garden, and improved soil for years to come. As always, if you have any questions, or need any help, come talk to the experts at Three-Z Supply.
Just because the days are getting cooler doesn’t mean that it’s time to go back inside. The Fall is an excellent time to take care of some lawn and garden projects. Not only is it more pleasant to work outside on a sunny autumn day than a sweltering summer one, many plants thrive in the cooler, wetter weather.
It’s been a harsh summer for lawns, with hot and very dry days. Luckily, if you are unhappy with your lawn, now is the best time to fix dead patches or even replace the whole thing. During the Fall, the ground is still warm enough for quick germination, and the young grass plants have the entire upcoming cool season to get established and thrive. Without the hot, long days of summer, your new grass won’t require watering as often, and may even require less top dressing for the seed. There are generally more rainy days in the Fall than summer, which means there will be plenty of water for your new grass without you lifting a finger.
Fall is also an excellent time to plant shrubs and perennials because these thrive in the cooler weather. Although the air is much cooler, it takes the soil significantly longer to chill. Even after the first snow, the ground doesn’t usually freeze for another month or two.
Another great reason to plant in the Fall is that it can save you some money. For those of you who like to bargain shop, many trees, shrubs and perennials are able to be purchased at a discounted rate during this time of year.
Planting in the fall gives the roots of trees, shrubs, and perennials plenty of time to become established before the next growing season. When you consider that a perennial planted in the spring has to adjust to its new soil and location while also blooming, producing new foliage, and a new root system, it almost seems obvious that the Fall is the best time to plant.
One special consideration of planting in the Fall is to ensure that you keep the soil around new plants moist at all times. This is because once the surface of the ground freezes, you won’t be able to get any more water to them.
Don’t let the cooler weather scare you away from your lawn and garden. Go out into the beautiful days knowing that your plants enjoy this weather as much as you do.
Crisper weather is ahead. Although fall brings bittersweet memories of summer days gone by, we welcome the bountiful harvest as we gather in the fruits of our labor. Yes, we did get off to a late start this year but, many of us gardeners have already been enjoying homegrown produce. Mid-August is an exhilarating time, for tomato and corn are at their peak right now. If you do not grow your own veggies its a great time to visit your favorite roadside stand or farmers market. Many retailers will offer bulk pricing for those of you who enjoy canning or freezing your produce.
Peaches, raspberries and some apples, are going strong right now in most areas of our state. You can visit http://www.pickyourown.org/OH.htm to find an orchard near you for a weekend day trip. There is something special about preparing home-cooked meals with fresh fruits and vegetables picked up at a farm market within hours of harvest. Also, on your to do list, try visiting an Ohio city that celebrates the zucchini, corn or melon with a festival all its own! This is the perfect time of year to explore Ohio with your very own planned adventure.