A GROWING CONCERN: Grueling Repetitive Arduous Seasonal Service

I’VE SURE BEEN enjoying the Indian Summer that we’ve been having on the Olympic Peninsula, with the beautiful colors changing in the scenery as I drive between jobs, including both east and west Jefferson County and throughout Clallam.

Weather predictions for 2019 include warmer than normal winter temperatures, which can trigger early blooms, risking freezing weather frosts on blossoms as a result, but that’s another story.

Some of the tasks for this time of the year turn to our lawns, something that I call Grueling Repetitive Arduous Seasonal Service — GRASS.

A quick history lesson is apropos in understanding what forces make you fixated on your lawn.

The pursuit of the modern idea of a lawn is a never ending battle. It came from a craze for many Americans during the Roaring ’20s, when the perfect lawn became a mark of affluence after World War II.

The perfect lawn is cut short; in fact they look freshly cut. It is weed-free, and it is green, ideally the greenest grass in the neighborhood.

The perfect lawn shows that this affluent household has the time and the money to spend on achieving the status of the best-in-the-neighborhood, a bragging right that is whispered over the fence or while chatting in the aisle at the supermarket.

Professional gardens and lawns are tended to by many people year-round, keeping their trimmed edges and glossy green coloration a badge of honor to those who pass by, keeping the economy going along the way.

But what are Harry and Harriet Homeowner going to do?

Today is the last day of late early fall. Tomorrow begins the middle trimester of autumn.

The weather has been changing and your grass knows it.

Watch your numbers

The lawn is compromised of mostly perennial grass which undergoes phenomenal growth from now through December. One thing you can do is feed it a winter blend of fertilizers, looking for nitrogen counts (the first number) under 30, with the low 20s being ideal.

The second number (K or potassium) and third numbers (P or phosphorus) should be in the single digit or teens.

If you purchase commercial blends, find one with micro nutrients (minor elements). that helps as much as giving fertilizer.

October is the month to go organic, and the lawn is a perfect place for it.

Feed stores and agricultural co-ops carry large bags of organic fertilizer products for your lawn. The items include blood meal (N), bone meal (K), cottonseed ash (P), kelp meal (K), colloidal phosphate (K) and wood ash (P).

Add lime and gypsum to your lawn. Lime should be applied at 50 to 75 pounds per 1,500 square feet (more for clay and bark soils, less for sandy soils). Apply gypsum as recommended.

Simple steps to beautiful

Now that the lawn has been fed, let’s go through the steps for a better lawn.

Step 1. De-thatch. You must remove old grass from established yards. If you don’t you are just wasting your time with the other steps. Old grass decays, fixes nitrogen and harbors diseases. In our damp weather, that it the recipe for disaster.

Step 2. Mow low. Let your grass again grow tall now for a few more weeks (top setting on your mower), allowing it to suck up the moisture and nutrients. Then in November, drop your mower to the lowest setting without scalping your lawn or straining your mower. This short mowing gets rid of tall grasses that harbor bugs, disease and moisture. Pick up the clippings from this low cut for mulch or compost. We don’t want it rotting through winter while sitting on your lawn.

Step 3. Overseed. A mixture of grass applied now and again in early spring covers the bare spots of growth from intruding weed seeds. Use mixtures of annual ryes now that die away next year, making room for perennial grasses’ rhizomes which grow rapidly all fall and winter. Use 10 to 12 pounds of seed per 10,000 square feet and then use the same amount again in spring.

Step 4. De-bug. I hate to say it, but if you have insect problems such as the crane fly, now is the time to treat your lawn. Diazinon works wonders and is available everywhere. Insects are in a vulnerable stage in their life cycle and lawn treatments now will result in a high likelihood of no insect problems next year. Trust me, if you saw the long legged Tipuloidea on your grass, and you didn’t treat for it, those buggers are still in the ground today.

Step 5. Keep mowing. Take that blade off and sharpen it. A dull blade tears the grass, opening it to diseases and insects. A blade of grass that is cut, not torn, stays green to the edge rather than browning at the tips. In fact, let’s sharpen them first today and re-lube them with an oil change.

Step 6. Edge and trim. For the lawn around the house’s foundation, walkways, garden edges and driveways. this is the time of year that the grass in your lawn sets up to become next spring’s worst weeds.

If you follow the above steps, your lawn will grow slightly. An occasional cut a notch above that low-cut setting in November will keep things in balance.

Of course, there is also aeration, topdressing, weeding and watering, but doing this Grueling Repetitive Arduous Seasonal Service will go a long ways toward giving you a great American lawn next spring.

And with these warm fall days, cutting the lawn and working with the garage door open is a fantastic time spent away from the phone and in communication with the birds’ gentle songs.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “FlowerPeninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or emailnews@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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