The crab grass is dying, the cicadas are making a racket and the goldenrod is blooming. These are signs I used to dread when it meant going back to school. Now it means it is time to seed and get your lawn back into shape.
I just returned from a Soil Health conference at Cornell. The attendees were mostly farmers and conservationists who were concerned about the runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous into our water and the depletion of organic matter in the soil. Solutions included cover crops, different methods of tilling and the addition of compost. If you had a cover crop of clover in your lawn this year, you were just following best practices for farming.
The same principles apply to a farmer with a corn crop (which is a grass) and a homeowner with a lawn. A healthy soil with plenty of pore space and biological activity will produce better plants and fewer weeds. The soil holds water, the roots grow deep and the plants withstand drought and heat.
It takes time to improve soil health, but the best way is adding organic matter in the form of compost. An urban landscaping pioneer at the conference demonstrated dramatic results turning around highly compacted construction sites by adding large amounts of compost. Once we core aerate, we might add a compost top dressing to the lawn. It costs a bit more, but the results are dramatic.
The seed we plant will do best if kept moist. A light, 10-minute watering a couple times a day is best. However, rains are most dependable in the fall and, in a normal season, with the cool nights and heavy dew, the seed should germinate just fine on its own. We also apply soy fertilizer to help promote the fall growth spurt and get new plants off to a fast start.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please call me at 781-937-9992 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.