Winter prep

September 25, 2012

Now that the worst heat of the summer is passed, it is time to look into the autumn. For many people, the heat of this summer was devastating to the lawn. Stressed turf turned brown and waited out the brutal hot streak, giving insects, fungal diseases, and weeds a lot less competition than they normally do. The cooler weather and nice rains of the last couple of weeks should have caused your lawn to turn green and start growing again. If you have spots that did not recover and you know you want to seed, the next few weeks are the perfect time to get started.

Most of the lawns in our county have bluegrass, ryegrass, or fescue grasses in them. Bluegrass will grow to fill in if you have thin areas or spots smaller than four inches across. Creeping red fescue will also do some self-repair. Perennial rye and other kinds of fescue will not spread. The only way to thicken or repair these types of grass is to add additional grass seed. If your lawn is primarily tall fescue, for example, you may notice that it gets thin or clumpy after a few years. To improve the overall texture of a lawn like that, consider over-seeding. Over-seeding is the process of putting a smaller amount of grass seed on an existing lawn. Before over-seeding, it is a good idea to remove any dead thatch, mow quite low, and rake up your grass clippings and leaves.

If you are going to sow grass seed, remember that it is very important to keep the seeded area consistently moist. Fall rains will help to make this process easier, but it is very important that the seedbed never be allowed to dry out. If temperatures get really hot, you may need to water multiple times throughout the day. You can expect grass seed to begin growing within a few weeks. Rye germinates within a few days, and bluegrass can take up to three weeks. Continue watering regularly, when there is no rain, until your new grass is three inches tall. Then, begin to taper off the water that you provide.

Even if you are not seeding your lawn, you can help keep it healthy and strong by fertilizing or top-dressing your lawn in the autumn. Research shows that if you only provide nutrition to a lawn one time a year, the ideal time is in the early autumn. Grass stores energy in its roots and crowns that allow it to return from dormancy. Most grasses in our area used some of their stored carbohydrates to survive the heat. Improving the soil fertility now can help the grasses to replenish their stores. The result will be a green lawn in the autumn and an earlier, stronger return in the spring.

For more information about caring for your lawn, please call the Master Gardener Help Line or consult Bulletin 546: Lawn Establishment, HYG-4006: Fertilization of Lawns, or HYG-4031-04: Natural Organic Lawn Care for Ohio.


Join the Delaware County Master Gardeners on September 24 for an herbal program at Deer Haven Preserve, 4183 Liberty Road, Delaware from 10:30 -3:30. Topics are Lavender, Pesto Possibilities and Savoring the Summer. Cost of $25.00 includes a light breakfast, an herbal lunch and beverages. Registration deadline of September 10, seating is limited.

Wendy Wolpert is an OSU Extension Master Gardener Intern.