Fertilizing for The Coming SeasonFertilization should be carried out right after Labor Day and again around the end of October to November. A slow-release fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in phosphates is the desired formula for this time of year. Shaded areas should get half of that compared to non-shaded areas. If you need help choosing the correct formula, your local garden associate at your favorite home improvement store should be able to point you in the right direction.
Mowing the Lawn One More TimeYou should continue mowing your lawn throughout September. While some argue that you should cut your lawn shorter at the end of the season, this is usually only true for areas that receive snowfall. In areas with little if any snowfall, grass that is slightly taller will absorb more nutrients and moisture in preparation for winter. Adding up to an inch to your lawn’s height is plenty and should not be exceeded.
As long as your lawn is not completely blanketed in leaves the last time you mow, go over the leaves with your lawn mower vs. raking, It may take a couple of passes, but the finely chopped leaves will help retain moisture and return nutrients to the soil.
Loosen Heavy Clay SoilAdding gypsum will go a long way in loosening heavy clay soil found so abundantly here in Georgia. It creates a bonding that helps tiny clay particles group together forming larger particles which results in a more porous soil. This increases air flow and water movement. Applying 60 lbs per 1,000 square feet should be plenty to get the job done. If the upcoming autumn season is anything like summer with all the rain, be careful not to over aerate the soil as it will cause it to become more compact.
The One Tip Often Skipped or ForgottenLime application is often the forgotten step in creating a healthy lawn. Sure, we all know our lawns need fertilizer, weed-n-feed and water, but what about the state of the soil. Soil is the very foundation for which everything is "built" upon. It is both the catalyst for growth and stabilizer for creating suitable soil.
What is Lime?Lime is basically calcium and magnesium. Yes, it is the very same chemicals removed from hard water. The components of lime facilitate the uptake of nutrients and the growth of healthy microbes, and are almost like little pathways or the arteries to each grass seedling providing the very nutrients needed for proper and healthy growth. It also has a double purpose of removing dangerous toxins like aluminum and manganese, Commonly, it is found in a powder or as pellets in most stores like Home Depot. Both lime powder and pellets work equally fine and only vary depending on your method of application.
What Lime Isn't?Lime is not a fertilizer, pesticide or insecticide. It isn't mulch, compost or anything similar in nature and is in no relation to the fruit.
When Do I Apply Lime?Regardless of the situation, check the pH of your soil. Georgia clay soil is already slightly acidic. With the proper maintenance can become the ideal soil for a beautiful lawn. Oddly enough, the reason is our own doings. In most cases, the very things we add in the spring and summer for that beautiful green lawn are actually changing the composition of your soil structure.
The only time to apply lime is in the fall and early winter when temperatures are colder. Some people will tell you it is okay in the spring, but several independent university studies have shown this damages the soil. Therefore, the conciseness is that application in warm and hot periods will cause damage to your lawn. The key thing is to apply when it is cool, but not so cold that the ground is frozen and make sure there is no impending rain within the next 24 hour forecast. This is very important in preventing any runoff.
Never apply lime more than once a year. This will cause irrefutable damage. Even if the pH level is not completely on target after application, your lawn should be okay for the next season and you should be able to close the gap in the next seasons.
If your lawn is already healthy, you only need to apply lime every three years. However, check the pH level first to make sure it is needed. Unused lime can be stored indefinitely and used in the following years. There is no need to discard unused lime.
Why should I start now?There are a lot of things we as humans do to our lawns during the spring and summer months, i.e., application of fertilizer, which actually alter the pH level – eventually getting to the point that nothing grows.
How Do I Apply Lime?This varies based in the consistency of the lime. If using pellets, a spreader should work well and the lime should leach into the soil naturally for the best results. When using fine power, aerate the lawn first and then spread the power evenly for the best application.
The main goal is to get the lime into the top soil and slight dusting over the top. This encourages microbe growth, but the deeper into the top soil, the better the application. Avoid contaminating any flower beds. Different gardens have different pH levels depending on their requirements for optimal growth.
Once applied, check the pH level, if it is still somewhat low and acidic. This is not the end of the world. Do not apply more lime. You will need to add more lime during fall of the next season.