Do you have trouble establishing a good stand of grass in your home lawn? Do you notice bare spots? Do you have more weeds than grass? If you answered yes to any of these questions, September is a good month to carry out several lawn maintenance practices to help improve the appearance of your lawn.
- Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test!
The secret to having a green lawn is a soil test. Testing the soil gives homeowners the exact recommendations of lime and fertilizer rates needed to reach optimum plant growth. To improve the appearance of the lawn, first start with a soil test.
To test the soil for a home lawn, sample the top 2 to 4 inches of soil using a garden shovel or trowel. Collect soil from different locations in the lawn at random and make sure to avoid getting any grass clippings or leaves when sampling. Some people sample their front and back yards separately. Place soil in a clean five-gallon bucket. Repeat this same process 10 to 12 times and mix all the samples together. If there is any excess moisture in the soil, allow the sample to dry on newspaper for 24 hours.
After collecting soil, bring samples to the local extension office. In Warren County, soil tests cost $7.00 per sample. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. When results come back, extension agents review and sign the soil test recommendations. Soil test results generally take about 7 to 10 days to be processed.
- Sow Grass Seed
Mid-August through late September is the best time to establish new grass in the home lawn. The best type of grass to select for a home lawn situation is a turf type tall fescue variety. Purchase a recommended variety of turf type tall fescue with a dark green color and improved disease tolerance. Kentucky 31 fescue has a lighter green color and is less dense compared to newer tall fescue varieties. To see a list of recommended turf type tall fescue varieties, please visit this link: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/ukturf/tf.html.
Before sowing grass seed, make sure that the soil is prepared and ready in order to get good seed to soil contact. Seed tall fescue at 6 lbs. per 1,000 square feet using a rotary spreader. For best coverage, divide the seed in half and sow this half in one direction. Then, apply the other half of seed crosswise over the first run. Cover the seed by raking lightly or rolling with a water-ballast roller. Place a light covering of clean straw over top of the newly seeded area. Water the area frequently after sowing seed until seedlings germinate. For more information about lawn establishment in Kentucky, check out the AGR-50 publication through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service found at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR50/AGR50.pdf.
- Fall Lawn Fertilization
Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the home lawn. By performing this practice in the fall, the root system is stronger and can make it through the winter months. September, October, and November are the best months to apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations.
The number of times nitrogen fertilizer is applied will depend on the lawn quality desired. Most general home lawns with no irrigation system are maintained at the low to medium maintenance levels. These levels require either one or two application of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.
For more information about home lawn fertilization, see the AGR-212 publication for Fertilizing your Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf.
- Lawn Renovation Practices
In certain situations, homeowners may want to consider other lawn renovation practices. These situations are when there is less than 50% desirable turf, the soil is compacted, the need to decrease weeds, and to improve damaged areas of turf from heavy traffic or disease. To learn more about specific lawn renovation practices, visit AGR-51 publication for Renovating Your Lawn at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr51/agr51.pdf
September is the month for second chances in the home lawn! Take advantage of our soil testing services and get the soil tested. Look at purchasing an improved variety of tall fescue and sow seed in September. If needed, carry out other lawn renovation practices in the fall to improve the appearance. These turf tips will help put you on the right road to seeing results in the home lawn for next year!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
Do you have trouble starting small seeded crops like lettuce, turnips, or cabbage in the garden? Does the seed end up blowing away in the wind or washing away after watering? Do you dread going back to thin out plants later?
If you answered “yes” to several of those questions, don’t worry, there is an easier solution called seed tape! Seed tape makes it easy for gardeners to grow crops from tiny seeds. With seed tape, gardeners apply seed to tape and then plant the entire seed tape outdoors in the garden. Gardeners don’t have to worry about seeds floating away and there is no need to thin out plants. An added bonus is the seed tape disintegrates overtime and returns nutrients to the soil.
Seed tape is available commercially through garden supply companies, however avid gardeners can make their own seed tape at home inexpensively! Making seed tape at home requires a few basic items and materials collected from around the home. Read here to find out how to make do-it-yourself (DIY) seed tape at home using this easy step- by- step photo guide.
Step 1: Gather up all supplies needed to make the seed tape. Grab a roll of toilet paper, make glue or use all-purpose glue, toothpick, garden seed packets, clear ruler, and a black permanent marker.
Step 2: Next, unroll the toilet paper from the roll and lay out on a flat even surface. Cut the toilet paper in half using a pair of scissors. The toilet paper serves as the “tape” portion of the seed tape project.
Step 3: Lay the seed tape on a flat surface and mark the correct plant spacing according to the crop being grown. Refer to the back of the seed packet to see how far apart to space between the seeds. Measure the plant distance using a ruler and mark the spot on the seed tape with the black permanent marker. If making multiple seed tapes for different crops, it is a good idea to label the seed tape with the crop name and the variety in the top right hand corner using an ink pen.
Step 4: Make the glue to adhere the seed to the tape. Mix 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of water together in a small mixing bowl until a thick paste forms. If needed, add additional water to make a glue type consistency. All-purpose glue also works good for seed tape.
Step 5: Before starting this step, empty the contents of the seed packet on a white plate or white piece of paper. This step makes it easy for gardeners to see the seed and pick it up to go on the seed tape.
Dip the end of a toothpick into the glue and place a small dot on the seed tape. Then, take the toothpick and pick up a seed to place on top of the freshly applied glue. Continue this process until all the seed tape is filled. Allow the glue to dry and roll the tape on the toilet paper roll. Store it in the refrigerator until environmental conditions are ready for planting.
Step 6: When conditions are favorable, make a seed bed for planting. Place the seed tape in the planting row making sure to plant at the correct depth. Refer to the back of the seed packet for the correct planting depth. Lightly cover the seed tape with soil and water it in. Wait and watch for the seeds to germinate and come up in a perfectly straight row!
To watch this process from start to finish, click on the picture above or Click Here to view this how to video for making DIY seed tape from our Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel.
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
As the temperature starts to cool and the risk of frost becomes of concern, understand that summer vegetables are ending for the season. Don’t stop with summer vegetables! Gardening in the fall provides a new variety of vegetables such as fresh broccoli, greens, carrots, and radishes for the home gardener to enjoy!
How do you know when summer garden vegetables have finished producing for the year? Crops will begin to droop and will no longer produce fruit. Once this occurs, pull out the last of the summer crops. If diseased plants have been an issue, make sure to remove all plant material from the garden and dispose of them properly in the trash. Next, till up the ground about six to eight inches deep to prepare the ground for planting.
Before planting a fall vegetable garden, make sure to have the soil tested. Contact your local agriculture or horticulture extension agent to learn the correct procedure on how to collect a soil sample from the home vegetable garden. Collect the soil sample and take it to the extension office and expect to receive recommendations in one to two weeks. The soil testing report gives an overall picture of what the soil needs for optimum plant growth. August is a good time to have the soil tested, so gardeners have plenty of time to apply fertilizer before planting.
What to plant? When thinking about fall gardens, think green! Greens are great vegetables to grow when it starts to get cool. They even taste sweeter when picked after a frost. Some greens to plant are mustard greens, turnip greens, lettuce and spinach. Another great group of vegetables to grow are root vegetables. Carrots, radishes, and turnips grow well in the cooler months and give a great variety to the greens. So don’t stop now, get those seeds or small transplants planted and watch them grow!
For more information about fall gardening crops, check out the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publication for Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky ID-128, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf.
Written by: Katherine Ullery, Warren County Extension Master Gardener Intern
For those of us who love the taste and texture of summer squash have no fear! Fall harvest squash varieties are now available and the nutrients and health benefits that these vegetables provide far outweigh their summer cousins!
Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Education, shares information with Laura Rogers on Mid-Day Live about what varieties of winter squash are available seasonally at Kentucky Farmers’ Markets. Shop local with the Bowling Green’s Original Farmers Market, Community Farmers Market Bowling Green, and SoKY Marketplace to find several varieties of winter squash. For more information about winter squash, contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681.