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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Lawn Care

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

We are at the time of the year when fall lawn care is just around the corner. Our summer mowing should continue on a routine basis, mowing as the lawn needs it. Early August is a bit too early to reseed any bare spots and too hot for sodding unless you are very good at watering. By Mid-August through Mid-September is the preferred time for fall seeding. This gives the new seed enough time to grow and establish before cold weather. We have some damage from last summer hanging on and this provides another opportunity to encourage filling in the lawn.

A very good cultural practice is to consider core aeration as part of your fall lawn care program. Core aeration is done by a machine that can be rented. To keep the cost down, talk a neighbor into this and share the costs. This should be done prior to any over seeding or reseeding. The core should be left on the line to dry and be raked in or mowed. This serves as a bit of topdressing in addition to what may need to be done for shallow depressions that need to be filled in. Core aeration also serves to reduce soil compaction, provide more oxygen to the soil profile and root systems of our grass plants. Once the seed is down, keeping the soil moist is a must to get the seed hydrated and sprouted. As the grass plant gets older it will begin to thicken up.

Fall is the better time to apply lawn fertilizers if you are only going to make one application a year. With the cooler temperatures and higher levels of soil moisture we typically have in the fall, the grass plant really benefits by producing new rhizomes to thicken up the lawn. Better roots also help the plant survive the winter and perform better in the coming spring. This should not be a high nitrogen analysis product since we want the roots and not the tops.

It is also common to be concerned with grubs in the lawn at this point in the year. The adult beetles that lay the eggs that give us the grub larvae are primarily the Japanese beetle and Masked Chafer.  This year the number of adults is way down from last year. This is most likely because last year the drought did not allow high numbers of larvae to grow and survive. Clearly for those areas that had adequate moisture like an irrigated lawn, grubs have the potential to be a problem, but with the lower number of adults this year even those well watered lawns have the potential for fewer grubs. Your lawn can support 10-12 grubs per square foot and not show any damage. Treatments are only warranted if you find more than the threshold numbers of 10-12 grubs per square foot.  We do see feeding damage on linden trees, roses and grapes where the beetle adults have been feeding.  Extension has two good websites for more information on lawn care. Visit http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawntalk/ and http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawnfaqs/



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