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Fall yard care tips include mowing leaves into lawn (09/24/2006)
By Bob Mugaas

Extension Service horticulturist

As leaves begin to fall, you can just mow them into the lawn, says Bob Mugaas, horticulturist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. In other words, mowing can make short work of a light covering of leaves. If you mow on a regular basis, chances are you won't exceed the amount of leaves you can mow into the lawn, Mugaas adds.

"When you're done, your lawn should look as if it's been raked," Mugaas said. "If you can see shredded leaves on top of the grass, rake the excess up. Leaves covering the grass block sunlight to the grass plants."

Some trees dump all their leaves in a short period of time. You may need to put the bagger on the mower and collect the leaves at least once, Mugaas points out.

Chopped leaves and grass clippings make great mulch for shrubs. They can also go into the compost pile. Dry leaves shred best, but you may wish to wear a dust mask and eye protection as chopping them up can be a dusty job.

If you still need to fertilize your lawn, wait until mid-October if you live in the northern part of the state, or Halloween to early November if you live in the southern part, Mugaas advises. Apply nitrogen at a rate of one pound per 1,000 square feet. A likely fertilizer ratio will be 4-0-3 (sold, for example, as 16-0-12, 20-0-15 or 24-0-18).

If bare patches are taunting you, try dormant seeding in late October. Work the seed into the soil, water it well and hope the soil remains cold (and germination does not begin) until next spring.

"It's a bit of a gamble," Mugaas said. "The window of opportunity stays open until early November. Good soil-to-seed contact is imperative. Just scattering seeds on bare ground won't work."

On dormant seeded areas, delay using any herbicide next spring until the lawn has been mowed three or four times. This particularly includes a pre-emergence herbicide for crabgrass. As long as the daytime temperatures remain in the 55-60 degree range this fall, there's still time to apply broadleaf weed control products. When daytime temperatures drop below 55 degrees, it's too late.

Sodding can be done thru mid-late October. Water it in. Exposed sites, especially, should be watered frequently to keep the sod from drying out and to promote rooting. The later you wait, the greater the risk of the sod drying out before it roots in, Mugaas says. Ask your sod vendor about any guarantees.  


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