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It’s time to get going on your fall lawn renewal

The whir of core-aerators is a frequent sound while fall lawn renewal is going on. The aerators loosen soil and prepare it for overseeding.
The whir of core-aerators is a frequent sound while fall lawn renewal is going on. The aerators loosen soil and prepare it for overseeding. Observer file photo

I am striving to remember a time when, thanks to a mild summer, autumn lawn renewal was pretty easy. I think it was two years ago. It certainly was not last year. Nor is it this year, thanks for a very long stretch of very hot days and erratic rainfall.

So here we are, ready to face another round of aeration, seeding and fertilizing to put the fescue lawns back in shape for another year. Some of you hire lawn services to do this work. Many of you do it yourself.

Fortunately, this is a gardening task with some flexibility on timing. Mid-September to mid-October is prime time. That gives you four or five weekends to spread out the tasks and get the job done before leaves fall.

Before you do anything though, it helps to assess the condition of your grass. Some of you will see overall thinning but still enough grass to mow and preserve the look of a lawn. In that case, it’s down to a matter of fertilizer formulated for lawns.

Others among you may see large stretches of brown grass with not a green blade in sight or a very thin turf with less than 50 percent grass. Core-aeration, using a machine that you can rent, is the popular choice for preparing the ground for overseeding. That is because the little plugs of loose soil give seeds a place to lodge and roots to take hold. You should wait until rainfall softens the soil and mow the grass closely before doing it. However, this is difficult work, the machine is heavy and hiring someone to do it may be your wisest move.

Putting grass seed on hard, unprepared soil is likely to give poor results because the seedlings don’t take hold.

However, if the bare spots are smallish and you have the energy, digging the ground with a shovel to loosen the top few inches will do.

Take care to select a lawn fertilizer because these contain a high proportion of nitrogen, the element that encourages leaf growth. Formulas of starter fertilizer are made for projects where you either start from scratch or do a major overseeding..

Measure the area of your lawn and follow guidelines on the package to buy the right amount. A mechanical spreader you push across the lawn helps to apply the fertilizer evenly and at the right amount. It is also useful for sowing seeds in large areas. Read the label for guidance on amounts.

Try to save some of the seeds to use in spots that get overlooked or washed out so that you can reapply it as needed.

It helps if the new grass is up and growing before the leaves fall so it doesn’t get damaged when you rake. In any case, rake lightly but get the leaves up so that the grass isn’t smothered and will continue growing into December, weather permitting.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com

Ask Nancy

Q. My begonias still look very good, but I want pansies in that space for fall. What should I do.

A. Talk about a delightful dilemma. Fall is the right time for planting pansies in the Piedmont, but it doesn’t have to be done this weekend. However, pansies do best if given time to develop roots in the mild weather of October into November. I think by mid-October, you will be ready for a change from a summer to an autumn look that fresh plantings of pansies will bring.