Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Lawn Care

I spent most of the day raking leaves. What a chore-- and a waste. Leaf compost is such a great addition to the garden soil. Really, adding any type of organic matter can improve just about any soil. Soil too sandy? Add organic matter. Soil to heavy? Add organic matter. Soils to alkaline? Again, add organic matter. Alot of people like to use mushroom compost, which contrary to its name, is not made from mushrooms but rather the compost (the straw from horse manure, poultry litter, ground corn cobs, rice hulls, etc) in which it is grown. It can be high is salts and is not the best compost to use in our heavy clay soils. Since we have so many leaves this time of year, why not compost them instead of burning them or adding them to land fills?

My neighbor down the street piles all of his leaves directly on his veg. garden and then tills them in right before he plants in the spring. If you don't have too many leaves to deal with you can just run them over with the mower and shred them. Don't leave too thick a layer (you may want to mow several times or rake them out) since they will smother the grass which leads to many more problems next spring. Also make sure you rake the leaves out of the flower beds because a thick layer of leaves will also smother your perennials. You could rake back in shredded leaves because they break down much more easily than non-shredded leaves.

I have a rotating composter so I am going to shred the leaves with the mower and then add them to the composter. I am hoping to get a good ratio of brown (leaves) and green (grass clippings that are high in nitrogen and gets the whole process started). I am also going to make a more concerted effort to add appropriate items from the kitchen to the composter. I did this last year and got a nice batch of compost but then sort of lost interest. My brother just digs a shallow hole off to the side of his yard and fills it in with the leaves and a few shovels full of dirt to start the composting process.

As we go into the winter season, you might want to consider giving the lawn one last feeding with a low nitrogen fertilizer (10-1-10 is a good analysis) but one that is high in insoluble nitrogen so that whatever the grass doesn't absorb this fall will still be in soil for the grass next spring.

Also begin to lower the deck on your mower. Usually we recommend a mowing height of 2-3 inches but as you get close to your last mowings gradually lower it to 1-1.5 inches. This will help prevent winter diseases like snow mold.

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