If your fall field goals include a new or improved lawn, then go on the offense and make this the week to score better yardage.
Aerate, fertilize, add a fresh layer of topsoil and reseed in the fall for a revitalized lawn in the spring. Just don’t expect to seed a new lawn in the fall and have a thick green carpet before winter.
Laying down sod is the easy answer for the instant gratification of a perfect lawn — but even if you chose to go with sod you still must do the dirt work. The better your prep work the better your lawn.
Q. When is the most important time to fertilize a lawn in Western Washington? We moved here from Spokane. — T.Y., email
A. The fall season. The months of September and October are the best for feeding Northwest lawns because the cooler weather and returning rains mean the fertilizer will get to the grass roots. If you only feed your lawn once a year, make it a fall feeding.
Q. Does it really matter if the lawn food says “fall and winter” lawn food? Can’t I just use the leftover lawn food I have from spring feeding? — Anonymous, email
A. Yes, you can use up your spring feed, but there is a real advantage to applying a fall and winter lawn food in the months of September and October. The nitrogen in the autumn lawn food is slow-release and designed to be washed to the grass roots, then to hibernate for the winter, releasing the nutrients with the first flush of green grass growth in the early spring.
Q. My husband attended one of your classes and says you claim that feeding the lawn in the fall will cut back on lawn weeds in the summer. Is this true? — M.W., Tacoma
A. Yes, hubby is a good listener. The first warm days of spring is when weed seeds sprout. A lawn fed in the fall will grow sooner and faster in early spring than an undernourished lawn. This means the grass can smother the new weeds that sprout every spring in the Pacific Northwest. Lawn weeds are opportunist and move in where the grass is thin or weak. Once the lawn weeds become mature and established, new grass growth cannot smother the invasive weeds. Fertilizing in the fall helps the lawn grow ahead of the weeds.
Q. Should I look for a fall fertilizer with weed killer in it? — P.P., Enumclaw
A. No. A fall feeding should not contain a weed and feed product. Weed killers do not work well in cool weather and the overuse of weed and feed products affects the quality of our water. A well-fed and properly watered lawn is the best defense of lawn weeds. Plus a few weeds in the lawn is no cause for alarm.
Q. Is fall a good time to add lime to my soil? — D.D.F., Maple Valley
A. Yes, you can spread lime or calcium carbonate on your lawn just about any time of year (just not when the soil is hot and dry in late August) and the added nutrients will help to raise the pH and lower the natural acidity of our Western Washington soil. Acid soil is one reason that lawns in our area are often full of moss.
Lime is not a fertilizer — it acts as a soil conditioner to help loosen compacted soil over time and to lower the natural acidity so nutrients that are already in the soil become more readily available to the grass roots. There are many different products that contain calcium, limestone and other minerals that will improve the soil. Fall is a good time to apply them because the winter rainfall will help to distribute the product.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.