How to improve the quality, the appearance of your garden

Some of us live for the ultimate lawn – that perfect emerald weed-free carpet of happiness. You sharpen your mower blades twice a week. You precisely cut the path and the driving edges with a nail clipper. And you proudly take the participants to the neighborhood barbecues for a walk barefoot in your agronomic kingdom.

Others maintain what I call MGS. In polite company, it is the acronym for Mowed Green Stuff. This part of the homeowner population sees the lawn as little more than the thing that provides the space needed to temporarily pile up weeds, sticks, and other debris when working on the “real” part of the garden. These people see the lawn as the thing you step on to get to the right things.

To each their own, but no matter which camp you feel most at home in, there are a number of obvious things that can minimize labor time and improve the quality of your lawn, especially as the season approaches. fall season.

Rethink your mowing height to control weeds

I’ve emphasized this one more than any topic over the years, but for good reason. Mowing your lawn to a height of 4 inches is the most effective thing you can do to control weeds, encourage deep rooting, and keep your lawn in good condition. A 2 inch mowing height results in a scalped lawn that reduces the lawn’s drought tolerance, encourages lawn weeds, and just looks bad.

And as we move into the cooler season – the perfect grass growing season – the correct mowing height is essential. As nighttime temperatures drop into the low 60s and even 50s, we are also starting to see some of the cooler season weeds sprouting. Keeping the lawn a bit longer makes the turf more competitive than the weeds. And it’s a lot cheaper and healthier than spraying kilos and kilos of herbicides, much of which ends up being washed down the storm sewer anyway.

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Recycling grass clippings on the lawn improves its overall health, as grass clippings are composted into the soil, releasing nutrients.

Mulching vs bagging grass clippings

Mulching your grass clippings in place is often the best way to reduce the volume of yard waste, restore nutrients to your lawn soil and, frankly, save you labor. But for it to work well, your mower has to be up to the task.

The current movement towards rechargeable mowers has been a big change in the industry. Better not to have all those improperly tuned gas mowers that spew smog into the atmosphere. But the downside is that some of today’s proprietary grade rechargeable mowers don’t have the horsepower to sufficiently mulch your grass clippings.

In midsummer, you might get away with it as the grass tends to be a bit thinner and doesn’t produce the same loose mass to mulch. But in both spring and fall, when the grass grows like gangbusters, the story is a little different.

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Last year I ditched my Sears Craftsman 22-inch (1989!) Gasoline mower for a 17-inch plug-in model. And while I love pretty much everything about the new mower, the only thing it lacks is power.

During the dry summer weeks, I can get by with the mulch as long as I don’t wait more than seven days between mowing. But in the spring and fall, when the lawn is at its peak, mulching is just too demanding. It leaves trails and tufts of grass that should then be raked. These large clumps of grass don’t break down quickly enough and end up building up as a layer of grass choking thatch that you then have to manually remove from the lawn.

Feed your plants and lawn fertilizer to help them bounce back beautifully after a harsh winter.

Why should you fertilize in the fall

While most of the lawn care industry is firmly entrenched in the spring fertilization model, I prefer fall. Fall fertilization sends your grass into the winter in peak condition rather than hungry and gloomy. It can also reduce the sometimes insane amount of growth generated by spring fertilization. If you grow up Bermuda Where Zoysia – two of the hottest grasses in the hot season, a little nitrogen in the summer can go a long way. But for the most common grasses in the temperate part of the country, fall fertilization works best.

So how much is enough?

Well . . . it depends. As always, it’s a good idea to start with a soil nutrient analysis test to determine what’s already in your soil. And it works well for phosphorus and potassium, two of the most important soil nutrients for turf growth. But typical soil tests don’t do a great job on nitrogen. And since nitrogen doesn’t stay in the soil that long either, most experts recommend one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per application. I like to do this around October 1, then a week or two before Thanksgiving – and then nothing in the spring.

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Quality lawn fertilizers contain a high percentage of slow release nitrogen such as urea.

So what does this mean?

Now it can be a bit confusing figuring out how much fertilizer you need to apply to apply a pound of nitrogen. Most of us have seen the three-digit list on every bag of fertilizer: 10-10-10 or 25-5-10. And while it may seem like a big mystery, it’s not a trade secret meant to keep you in the dark. It is simply the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate (P2O5) and potash (K20) in the bag.

The University of Kentucky Co-operative Extension Service has an excellent lawn publication on fertilization available online that I recommend reading. In his example, he reviews a fertilizer with an analysis of 10-6-4 – 10% nitrogen, 6% phosphate and 4% potash. So if you were using a 10-6-4 fertilizer and wanted to apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn, you would apply 10 pounds of fertilizer – 10 pounds of fertilizer multiplied by 10% nitrogen. equivalent to one pound of nitrogen.

Quite simple.

Paul Cappiello is the Executive Director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, 6220 Old Lagrange Road,

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