As summer is winding down, this is the perfect time to get your gardening supplies in order for those in western coastal states and areas outside of the high country with early freeze zones. These 11 tips will get you started.
1. Have the Right Fertilizer Blend. September is a great time for early fall fertilizer applications. A great blend right now is a 10-20-20. This will help your root systems and strengthen your turf grass crowns.
2. Watch Out for Bad Eggs! Watch for adult European Crane Fly laying their eggs, and check for active larvae in about five weeks. If you find more than seven per square foot you will need to have your lawn treated. In many situations you can simply outgrow the crane fly but if you have a professionally installed or maintained lawn, you must protect this investment that has cost thousands to install.
3. Dethatch. Lawns have done extremely well this year, maybe too well. With thick growth and the ubiquitous use of mulching mowers, the early fall season would be a great time to dethatch or slice your lawns. Thatch is the dense layer of plant material that builds up over time around the base of grass. Thatch develops naturally as grass grows and sloughs off roots, shoots and leaves. However, excessive thatch prevents moisture, oxygen and nutrients from penetrating the soil. Dethatching is the process of removing three quarters of your thatch layer with a power rake or rotary mower.
4. Slice. As an alternative to dethatching, consider slicing the soil. When using a slicer, the machine will only remove one-fourth of the thatch leaving deep grooves in the thatch profile allowing air and water to penetrate more effectively. This is done with a machine called a slicer. This machine slices ⅛ inch slices onto your thatch layer and in the area being sliced removes the thatch. If you use a california trimmer then set the mower as low as it will go and cut off about ⅛ of the thatch layer and then slice.
5. Aerate. Aerating is removing plugs of turf, thatch, and root about a half inch wide or a little less and about two inches deep. The plugs are removed and composted and then the holes are filled with a mix of sand and seed. This is an expensive project and should be done as a last resort after attempting other lawn care techniques.
6. Mark Your Sprinklers. Lawn care machines can cause considerable–and expensive damage–to sprinkler heads and valve boxes. Regardless of the method you choose for lawn care, remember to mark your sprinkler heads and valve boxes with flags or biodegradable paint.
7. Splash Some Color! Now is the time to plant your fall color splashes! Remember to include ornamental kales which should be planted around September 20th for those who reside on the west and east coasts. For the midwest, plant about two weeks later.
8. Plan and Plant Fall Bulbs. Fall bulbs can be planted as you plant your fall color splashes. A To avoid a visually awkward growth pattern, plan your design on paper for placement using a scale of one-fourth of an inch equaling two feet. This will help you get the correct spacing and planting for the flowers, kale, and bulbs.
9. Transplant Trees and Shrubs. If you are considering transplanting your large trees, September is the time to do it. The ground should be moist but not drenching wet in September and after the first of October watering will no longer be needed. Remember to stake your trees and, if needed, add temporary retention berms when watering to remove the remaining air pockets from the planting hole. In the midwest, wait till late september. When planting trees in a lawn area, remove the turf in a circle as large as the tree’s drip line so the tree does not compete with the lawn. Also, never use weed and feed at or inside a tree’s drip line because both can kill or damage the tree. While this is also a good time to move rhododendrons, consider locating some new ones provided by the farms in Olympia, Sumner and the Puyallup Valley for those of you in the State of Washington. These farms will ship plants with root balls up to 18 inches in size via next-day air delivery to the East Coast or Gulf Coast. However, rhododendrons do not hold up well in the midwest.
10. Schedule Your Irrigation System Inspection. Since most counties require your test results by November 1st, call your local irrigation specialist now to schedule your fall inspection as soon as possible. In some areas, failure to complete your inspection can lead to huge fines. In California, Arizona and Colorado, the fines are up to $500.00. Pay that $75 inspection fee to ensure that your system backflow system has not failed and compromised everyone’s drinking water.
11. Make The Process Meditative. We currently are seeing family and friends suffer in the Gulf area due to Hurricane Ida. The 9-11 Remembrance is approaching. COVID-19 is still a deadly force that has not been contained. Use the time that you spend in your garden or tending to your lawn, trees, and shrubs as a meditative and mindful moment of appreciation for the lives that have been lost and for the lives that those who are serving on the front lines as healthcare providers, military service members, first responders, law enforcement, and essential workers.