By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Bunkey was complaining to his neighbor George, that his lawn was more brown than green and most of the green was weeds. The dry summer and the grub invasion really did a number on his grass. He joked that he was about to be turned in by the “lawn police” for having the worst lawn on the block.  “You know that now is the time to do some major lawn repair didn’t you?” Asked George. This is the advice he gave his friend Bunkey.

Since you have a lot of grass to reseed it may pay for you to rent an aerater and a dethacher/power rake. Another name for this machine is a vertical mower. The first step is to core aerate, then dethatch then fertilize if needed. A soil sample will tell you if you need to fertilize and what kind and how much. The core aerater will make holes in the sod. The dethatcher will remove excess thatch, exposing bare soil.  

  The next step is to run the power mower first one way then across the first pass. This gives the grass barer soil to sprout in. Next, run the dethacher with the tines up to firm the soil and give the seed good contact with the soil. Keep the area damp until the grass is well established. Mulch the leaves as they fall.  If you must pick leaves up, have the mower set at the highest setting or you will just suck up your new grass. If this seems overwhelming, call the professionals. It may not only save your back but some cash too as you won’t have to rent machines.

If you love to mow grass and take pride in having the most perfect lawn in the block, now is the time to fertilize the grass. The fertilizer should have at least 1/3 to ½ of it to be slow release. You must water it in, or you will be just wasting both your time and money. Newly seeded or fertilized lawns need at least ¾ inch of rain a week, more if it’s windy. Keep the mower at at least 3 inches. The higher the cut the greater the root system and the deeper the roots will be.  The last couple of mowings before winter should be shorter to prevent snow mold. Shorter grass will also slow the voles who like tall grass to protect them as they make all those tracks leading to your tender trees and shrubs. 

Newly planted trees, that is less than 5 years old or thin barked trees need winter protection from vole and rabbit damage. Start by mulching around them keeping the mulch about 2 inches away from the stem.  Mulch touching the stem will encourage roots to grow there. Bad for the tree. Mulching   keeps roots cool and keeps any available moisture from evaporating as quickly. This also keeps the voles from sneaking right up to the tree to feast on its tender bark. A quick, cheap winter bark protecter is a liter bottle with the top cut off and sliced down the side. Snap it around the trunk at the level of the soil. This works until the snow gets higher than the top of the bottle. It may be a good idea to make the protection 2 bottles tall.

Those pretty potted mums all the local stores are selling now, will brighten the fall. Just don’t expect them to be back next spring. If you want a perennial mum, get it from your local nursery.