Q: Despite regular watering, my lawn took a beating from the summer heat. Can I make it healthy again before the winter cold sets in? A A: Here are...
Q: Despite regular watering, my lawn took a beating from the summer heat. Can I make it healthy again before the winter cold sets in?
A: Here are a few things you can do to revive a lawn that has suffered during the summer, as well as some steps to take next season to prevent the problem from recurring.
First, it’s important to realize that the ideal time for lawn renovation varies. The hundreds of turfgrass varieties available can be divided into two basic categories: cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. In northern states where winters are cold, cool-season grasses are most common. These are the types to renovate in the early fall. A warm-season grass is renovated in late spring, when the growth season is beginning.
If you have a cool-season grass, now is the time to reseed bare patches where grass was killed from drought or other trauma. There should be adequate time for the new grass to grow before winter arrives. You should thatch and aerate. You also need to fertilize, enriching soil quality and encouraging growth. Use an organic fertilizer such as rotted manure or fish emulsion, or select a synthetic fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen. Additionally, whenever you cut the grass, leave the clippings behind — they are nourishing for the soil.
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In the future, you can take preventive measures to limit the effects of drought on your lawn. Surprisingly, watering too often can add to the damage: Frequent, shallow watering will cause grass to form shallow roots, leaving it more vulnerable to drought damage, insects, weeds and disease. Instead, you should give your lawn a full inch of water at a time. (You can determine how long it takes by placing a can on the lawn and marking it off at an inch depth.)
Water this way about once a week, or whenever the lawn is dry enough to fail the “footprint test”: If the grass stays flattened after you walk on it, it needs water. If watering thoroughly is not possible, you’ll probably be better off letting your lawn go dormant rather than watering for brief periods.
If you are thinking of reseeding your entire lawn, and drought has been a problem in the past, it would be wise to look into a new, drought-resistant grass variety.
Turfgrass-breeders are constantly working to develop new types of grass that are more hardy and will stay greener. They either have deeper root systems or will survive by going dormant during the driest months, to be revitalized after the worst of the heat has passed. Check with your local extension agent for advice on what grass variety is best in your climate.
Q: What flowers are available in early October? I’d like to make a fall arrangement in reds and oranges.
A: Although many flowers are now available year-round, in-season blooms are the freshest, most economical choice for cut-flower arrangements. Look for the following popular varieties at your local florist (or nursery, if you are planning a fall-cutting garden). The availability of particular types differs from region to region, but here are some fall favorites.
Dahlias and chrysanthemums are pretty foundations for red and orange compositions. There are several hundred dahlia varieties available. Try a mix of orange cultivars, with some unopened buds for contrast. Or for an elegant swath of red, look for round ‘Paul Smith’, scarlet ‘Arabian Night’ and flame-colored ‘Fire Magic’. You might also add another type of tall, red bloom for height and texture, such as statuesque “Strawberry Fields” globe amaranth (Gomphrena haageana).
Beginning in late summer, chrysanthemums are also plentiful. Large double chrysanthemums, such as those classified as pompon flower heads, are perfect for a showy, intense monochromatic arrangement. Small Santini chrysanthemums, such as ‘Reagan Orange’ or ruby ‘Tigerrag,’ make lovely accompaniments to larger flowers. Other blooms to consider are dark maroon chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus), red and yellow zinnias (such as Zinnia haageana ‘Chippendale’ and Z. peruviana), and orange and red sunflowers (such as Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’ and ‘Evening Sun’).
You can also add texture with clusters of bright-red viburnum or skimmia berries. Tuck sprigs of berries into a bouquet of rich copper-colored Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and russet dahlias, or surround a mass of burgundy astilbe, bronze ‘Pamela’ dahlias and velvety red roses with a border of berries.
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