Is your lawn looking weak and thin? Overseeding can help you get back to the thick, lush, green lawn you’ve always wanted. By spreading grass seed over your existing lawn, you can thicken up the thin areas, and your lawn will start to look terrific again. (This is different from reseeding, which is when you start over and plant a completely new lawn.)
In the North, the best time to overseed your lawn is in the fall, when the soil is still warm but the air is cooler, and there are fewer weeds for new grass to compete against. Since your trees are starting to shed their leaves, there’s plenty of sunlight. However, if you are unable to overseed the lawn in the fall, your next best time is the spring. If you live in the South, the best time for overseeding is late spring through mid-summer, since warm-season grasses need warmer soil temperatures to germinate.
Over time, grass gets old and needs to be replaced. Worn-out lawns invite weeds. Overseeding is a fast, inexpensive way to help bring your lawn back to its lush, green self without tearing everything out and starting over.
Before overseeding your thin lawn, cut your grass shorter than normal and bag the clippings. After mowing, rake the lawn to help loosen the top layer of soil and remove any dead grass and debris. This will give the grass seed easy access to the soil so it can root more easily after germinating.
Which type of grass seed you choose depends on your existing grass type. If your lawn consists of cool-season grasses, choose a product specially designed to thicken thin lawns. If your lawn has a warm-season grass or you are unsure of the best grass for your area, the people at the garden center can help you choose the right seed for your lawn. If you don’t know what type of grass you have, consult our staff for help.
If you’re using grass seed to overseed your lawn it’s a good idea to rake in a thin, 0.25-inch layer of enriched soil over your lawn to help the seed settle in. Don’t put so much down that you kill your existing grass; less than a quarter of an inch is plenty.
You’ve cut the lawn short, raked it, and removed any debris. Now comes the easiest part of the overseeding process: Just fill up your spreader, adjust the setting according to the label directions, and apply. Don’t have a spreader yet? A rotary spreader is an excellent choice for small lawns—it’s simple to use and spreads product quite smoothly. For larger lawns, a drop spreader might be the best spreader for your yard.
To give your new grass seedlings the essential nutrients they need for fast growth, apply a starter (or for late season seeding use a Fall fertilizer) after you’ve spread the grass seed. Afterward, no matter which product you used to overseed, be sure to keep the soil consistently moist by lightly watering once or twice a day until the seedlings have reached the height of the rest of your lawn.
Every gardener knows it. Fall is for planting. From the cooler weather and heaps of rain to fewer pests, diseases and weeds, fall has distinct planting benefits.
Throughout the fall we will identify some of the best plants and activities to do in fall. Stay tuned for our expert tips, guest blog posts and giveaway’s.
But in the meantime, learn why planting in fall can make spring gardening much, much easier.
6 Reasons Why Fall is the Best Time to Garden
1. Work is Easier on Plants… And You
The cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. Neither of you need to suffer through the intense summer heat. Yet, in fall, the soil is still warm enough for roots to thrive. They will grow and get established until the ground freezes.
2. There is More Time in Fall
There are more good days for planting in fall than in spring, when bad weather can make being outside impossible. Plus, you have more free time as a gardener than during the spring rush.
Note: The window for fall planting ends six weeks before your average hard frost, usually September or October.
3. Mother Nature Does the Watering for You
In many regions of the country, fall showers happen often. You might not ever have to water new plantings, which means less maintenance for you. However, due to the cooler temperatures, it’s a cinch to water plants if it doesn’t rain at least 1” per week.
4. Easier Weed Control
In the fall, weed seeds are dormant, i.e., they don’t grow. So any weeds that do grow up in your flowers are easily removed when they first appear as sprouts in spring.
5. Bye-Bye Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are less prevalent in the fall. Most of the bugs are either dead or preparing to hibernate in fall. Plus, the humidity that promotes many diseases fades away.
6. Fall Planting Results in Earlier Blooms
Like fall-seeded lawns, fall-planted wildflower seed has a chance to “settle” into your site during the winter, and is ready to burst into growth in early spring. This is why fall-planted wildflower seed is up and in bloom about two weeks earlier than spring-planted seed.
While all of these make compelling reasons to garden in the fall, the season also means bargain time at garden centers. Check back often for the best deals.
In general, plant foods fall into one of two categories: (1) Synthetic Fertilizers and (2) Natural Organic Fertilizers. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Synthetic Fertilizers are materials that are manufactured chemically as opposed to found ready made in nature. In general, synthetic fertilizers fall into one of two categories: (1) Water soluble and (2) Controlled release fertilizers.
Water Soluble Plant Fertilizers. Water soluble plant foods completely dissolve in water and release their nutrients immediately thereafter. They are ideal when you need a quick solution to a problem and for nursery growers who have a drip irrigation system. The trade-off for rapid response is that the feeding is generally short lived, lasting approximately a few weeks. Frequent applications are required as well as mixing with water. Leaching can also be a problem, especially in sandy soils or under high moisture conditions. And burn (dehydration) potential is higher due to solubility and high salt index. Examples of water solubles include: urea, ammonium sulfate and ammonium phosphate.
Controlled Release Fertilizers contain a plant nutrient in a form that delays its availability for plant uptake significantly longer than a water soluble fertilizer. The delay occurs by one of two mechanisms: (1) Coating a water soluble source such as urea with molten sulfur, wax, or plastic. The thicker the coating, the slower the release. Examples include sulfur coated or polymer coated urea. (2) Chemically combining materials to form insoluble polymers, which release nutrients more slowly as the length and number of polymers increases. Ureaform is an example of this. While both types give plants a long lasting feeding, neither contains all of the advantages that you will find with natural organics.
Although no universal definition exists for the term “natural organic”, our guiding definition is any material derived from plant, animal or mineral origin that contains one or more essential nutrients for plant growth. While it is true that all fertilizers ultimately feed nutrients to plants in the chemical form, it is the process by which they are delivered that makes natural organic plant foods superior to others.
“Feed the soil that feeds the plants”. Plant growth is dependent on the health and vitality of the soil surrounding it. The process by which natural organic fertilizer deliver their nutrients enhances the fertility and structure of the soil. Natural organic fertilizers are digested by soil microorganisms, which then release the nutrients in a form available to plants. This process produces humus, a spongy material that improves soil structure. When you improve soil structure, the soil is better able to hold the proper balance of water, air and nutrients until they are required by plants. Plants respond by developing larger root systems. Larger roots support more vigorous top growth and make plants less susceptible to drought. And by stimulating a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, plants become more resistant to insects and diseases.
Slow, steady feeding, as the plants require it. The nutrients in natural organic fertilizers are not in a readily available form for plants to use until they are digested by beneficial microorganisms in the soil. This process is slow and largely dependent upon three factors: the microbial population in the soil, moisture, and soil temperature. A healthy population of microbes in the soil is necessary for the digestion process. Moisture is required to sustain microbial life as well as to keep nutrients flowing into the plants root zone. And soil temperature is critical because as it rises, plants require nutrients more rapidly. Fortunately, microbial activity mimics these requirements and also increases as soil temperature rises, so that plants can be fed the needed nutrients, as they require them.
The safest choice for your plants and the environment. Unlike synthetic plant foods, natural organic fertilizers have an extremely low salt index , which means there is little to no risk of burning (dehydrating) plants in periods of extreme drought or when over-applying. Natural organic plant foods are generally very resistant to leaching out of the soil, so their nutrients stay in the root zone until the plants need them. And since most natural organic ingredients are byproducts from commercial farms and meat processing plants, the utilization of them for feeding plants is really a system of recycling much like composting.
Soil and plants receive much more than just the primary nutrients. With natural organic fertilizers, they receive organic matter containing millions of beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi and protozoa) that help improve soil structure for better moisture retention, nutrient retention, aeration and drainage. They receive secondary and trace nutrients as well as vitamins, minerals, and plant growth hormones that promote plant growth and improve resistance to insects, diseases and climate extremes.
Examples of natural organic ingredients include: bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal and greensand. It is for all of the above reasons that we have always used natural organics as the primary source of nutrition in our Tone line of products. It has established the Espoma Tones as the finest, safest, and most reliable plant foods available.
What is a native plant?
Seems like a simple question, right? It turns out that some things are not so easy to define. Horticulturists, botanists, growers and gardeners don’t always define the word “native” in the same way. Here’s how they differ.
The Strict Definition of Native
Some people believe that only plants found growing naturally in the wild, with no intervention from humans, are truly native to the place they are growing. If you collected seed from these wild plants and grew them in your garden, those seedlings would also be considered native.
However, if you selected one of those seedlings, gave it a name, and propagated it for sale, strict nativists would no longer consider your new named seedling to be native.
Many people who enjoy native plants also consider seedlings and cultivars of these plants to be native. You may have heard the term native cultivar (“nativar” for short) used to describe such plants. A native cultivar is a plant that results when native parent plants are used to create a new cultivar.
In the case of one parent, a plant breeder might select and propagate one plant that has an especially unique trait, like brighter colored flowers, out of a hundred seedlings sown from a native species. This one selected plant would be considered a native cultivar because it is a derivative of the native species.
In the case of multiple parents, a plant breeder might make a “complex cross”, transferring the pollen from more than one native plant onto another in hopes of making seedlings that inherit desirable traits from multiple parent plants. The resulting seedlings would all be considered native cultivars.
Are native plants easy to grow?
There are many myths surrounding native plants. One is that all native plants are easier to grow and longer lived than cultivars. In many cases, this is not true. First, you need to look at where the plant you want to grow is native to. If you live in Wisconsin and that plant is native to the Southeast U.S., it may be quite difficult for you to grow because of the difference in climates. If you want to grow natives, it’s a good idea to check the USDA website to see which types of plants are native to your state.
When plant breeders select cultivars of native plants, one of the characteristics that is commonly sought after is disease resistance. Many native species of Monarda (bee balm), for example, are commonly plagued by powdery mildew in the wild, but named cultivars have been selected for their disease resistance.
Breeders also select for traits like stronger stems that don’t require staking, a longer bloom time, self-cleaning flowers that don’t require deadheading, longevity in the landscape, and greater vigor. All of these things save gardeners time and resources, making many native cultivars easier to grow and maintain.
What’s your gardening goal?
Everyone has a different goal when they plant a garden. Some are looking to recreate a tiny piece of the prairie that once stood where their suburban home now sits. Some want to grow as much of their own organic produce as possible. Some view planting as decorating their garden, patio and porch with welcoming color.
No matter the goal, many gardeners enjoy lower maintenance plants, those that draw in butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators, and those that require less frequent watering. Many native plants offer these desirable attributes. As plant breeders develop new varieties each year, there has become an expansive group of native cultivars to choose from at the garden center.
Summer is still going strong, but fall is on the way! Are you planning to continue your harvest into autumn this year? If so, now is the time to start planning (and planting). There are so many interesting crops that thrive in fall weather. See the best vegetables for fall gardening!
Every July, I try to convince my farmers’ market customers that they should be planting their fall gardens, but I don’t have many takers. Most give me the fish eye like I am trying to put something over on them. These are the folks that do a marathon planting session on Memorial Day weekend and then scratch “planting the garden” off their to do list—done for the year! They don’t realize that many crops can be put in the ground before that traditional planting day and others need to be planted later when they can mature in colder weather. A large part of our market day is spent educating people about the possibilities.
Here in New Hampshire, I’m rather limited by our short growing season. However, if you live somewhere warmer, you can likely get away with planting a lot more for a fall harvest!
Generally, vegetables that mature quickly and that are frost tolerant make for the best fall crops.
It’s important to plant at the right time for your location. Here’s how to get a general idea of when to plant:
Generally speaking, here’s the rule of thumb:
If you plan to offer your plants protection (such as cold frames or row covers), you can plant 2 to 3 weeks later and still expect to get a good harvest!
As your lawn endures the trials of Job this summer-drought, pestilence and disease-you must hold to the hope that there is a lush, green turf on the other side of this summer. Has your spring turf been reduced to an arid, brown toasty color? If not, you might want to submit your water bills for federal disaster relief. Dry, scorching heat-an absence of consistent rainfall-this is the perfect scenario for crabgrass to flourish and bluegrass to perish. What’s needed, of course, is a good, deep penetrating rain. At the time this newsletter was going to press we are down about 8+ inches in the rainfall table.
The large Japanese beetle population will mean a heavier than normal population of grubs. Knowledge is of course your best defense. Here are a couple of suggestion for coaxing your sod through the trials of summer…
Feeding: Your lawn’s nitrogen needs are at their highest in late summer. Avoid fertilizing when temps are about 85 degrees. Supplement this late summer feed (high in nitrogen) with a fall fertilizer that will concentrate on developing the root system. This will build a turf more resistant to drought and pest damage. This might be your most beneficial feeding. You can supply a fall food right into November in most areas.
Pest Control: In late summer and early fall the grub cycle begins as the larvae pupate into the common white lawn grub. At this stage of their development, these grubs are the most vulnerable. Treat infested areas with either a liquid dose or a granular treatment.
Watering: A good rule of thumb is to water in the early morning hours. Try to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water through rainfall or irrigation. A deep watering once a week is more beneficial than a series of shallow watering.
Seeding: To repair damage caused by drought, pests and disease, plan on a fall seeding program. Match the grass seed varieties to the conditions. For example, if you have a rocky, sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, use a drought resistant lawn mixture featuring turf-type tall fescues (TTTF). Unlike ryegrass that spread by shallow rhizomes. TTTF have long individual tap roots. They are tough, durable and make a long wearing attractive turf. Heavy clay soils might do better with a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture. Fall is an optimum time for seeding. The warm weather speeds germination while the autumn night temps start to drop. Remember to keep the seed moist until established. That might require 2-3 mistings during our “Indian Summers”. The attention you pay to your lawn now will pay big dividends in the fall, the following spring and for years to come.