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Closeup of the center and partial petals of a deep yellow sunflower.

Make Halloween a treat for your lawn

With the arrival of October, cooler weather and leaves changing color, the outdoors beckons the future arrival of winter.  With a month or two left before the lawn mower is put away, there are fun activities that can be done to prepare you lawn for that quiet slumber known as dormancy.  Warm soil with normal moisture levels can support great autumn growth in turf not just above ground, but below.
Providing enough fertilizer to increase root carbohydrates are a vital part of finishing off your lawn on the right foot.  The key is not to provide too much N (Nitrogen) which would cause excessively lush or succulent growth, thereby promoting winter kill and damage.  Hardening off your lawn starts in October and ends in November not only with decreasing mowing height, but with the right applications should they be warranted.  This would a good year to consider extra measures given the harsh summer we recently experienced
October is a great month to apply potassium based fertilizers or a standard fertilizer low in N that does not promote excessive top growth as November draws near.  Autumn provides an ideal opportunity to regain significant root growth, preparing the lawn for the spring of 2013.  Remember, good health in a lawn is not simply judged by the dark green color.  What goes on underground, unseen is even more important.
Energy reserves stored in the root system can help your lawn recover from whatever winter dishes out from ice, cold, and snow mold.  Speaking of snow mold, although treatment is not an endorsed practice in a residential home lawn, some special circumstances can warrant a late season fungicide to just before snow fall if you have problems with this damaging disease.
Hardening off your lawn with potassium based fertilizers and slowly lowering the mowing height from 3” to 1.5” over a 4-6 week period can enhance the hardiness of your own lawn this fall.  October remains a great month to core aerate if you have not had that procedure done in 2012.  Although overseeding in general should be done by late October in most of New England, aeration can be done right into November so long as the soil is moist and not frozen.
With the arrival of more mild winters of late, overseeding and mowing often can stretch a little longer than say 20 years ago.  I would not endorse bluegrass seed in late October simply because it can take up to three weeks just to germinate, that time frame does not allow for a whole lot of growth prior to snow or hard freezes.
Don’t forget, in Vermont it is against the law to apply any fertilizer containing Nitrogen beyond October 15th, unless you have a new lawn, as mandated by the legislature!  No one wants to break the law, do they?  Don’t waste time; make sure your lawn gets a winterizer before you carve the Halloween pumpkin, then you will have a treat for a lawn next year, not a trick.

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