Tricounty News

Lawn fertilizer and herbicide best practices

This spring has certainly brought its abundance of rain, and we are back at conditions where lawn care should be put aside until the ground has firmed up and dried out again. Traditional spring lawn care has typically included fertilizing and putting down herbicides for the weeds.  Knowing the correct time and rate of application is critical, and some of it may surprise you.

Fertilizing lawns in the spring has been an ongoing practice for years; however the best time to fertilize your lawn is late summer and fall. The benefits to fall fertilizing verses spring application include: 1) Quicker, earlier green-up in the spring without additional shoot growth 2) Reduced occurrences of summer disease 3) Increase in carbohydrate reserves 4) Additional period of green in the fall. All of which are reason enough to apply fertilizers in the fall rather than spring, but it may take a bit more convincing to get you to change your habits. Another primary reason to do fall fertilizing rather than a spring application is because although fertilizing in the spring gives the grass plants a surge of nitrogen to burst a beautiful green, it reduces the plant’s energy reserves. Unfortunately this will result in a weaker plant during the stresses of the summer heat and dry periods because rather than putting down deeper roots in the spring the plant focused on having greener tops and may ultimately reduce its chances of survival.


Winter berries

Mother Nature has provided us with a blanket of beautiful white snow, but something breaking up that monotone color pallet is lingering winter berries from some of the trees, shrubs, and vines in our landscape.

Native trees, shrubs, and vines that commonly maintain some of their berries into the winter months include: American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens L.), Wild Grape (Vitis riparia), Hawthorns (Crataegus sp.), Black Chokeberry (Aronia sp.), Elderberry (Sambucus sp.), Mountain Ash (Sorbus Americana), and High-bush Cranberry (Viburnum sp). In addition, many introduced nursery industry plants also tend to hold berries into the winter months, such as the flowering crabs, and barberries.


Fall leaf clean-up


Our landscapes have taken a new look, one of beautiful color to one of bare trees and lawns covered in leaves.  This is the time to do our fall chores and clean-up those leaves from our lawns. Leaf cover can cause turf grass damage by smothering the grass, and creating an environment more susceptible to “snow mold”. The fungi that cause snow mold thrive in moist, cool environments, and therefore fall is the time to remove the leaves from our lawns to help prevent snow mold in the spring.

The leaves can be utilized in several ways, one is composting. Leaves can be added to a compost pile with other lawn clippings, non-woody plant trimmings, yard waste, etc. Shredding leaves is not required, but will speed up the process of decomposition. Compost piles composed of only leaves will require an extra source of nitrogen, such as commercial fertilizer, or materials high in nitrogen to assist with the decomposition.


Cool homemade soup safely

The crisp weather of fall, along with end of season garden produce, can result in a delicious large kettle of homemade soup. Reheated, soup makes a convenient lunch or evening meal. It is easy and economical to make healthy soups by controlling the fat and sodium content.

Preparing a large batch of soup can present a food-safety challenge – cooling. One of the leading causes of foodborne illness is the failure to properly cool foods.


Closing up the cabin for the winter

For seasonal homeowners, closing a septic system for the winter helps prevent the system from freezing, prolongs the life of the system, and keeps it operating at a high level. Doug Malchow, University of Minnesota Extension Water Resource Management Educator, has some tips to consider when preparing your cabin’s septic system for the winter months.

Preparing the Drainfield

• Stop cutting the grass over the drainfield in mid-September; the extra grass length will capture snow, which provides insulation. Consider placing snow fence near the drainfield to help capture drifting snow on the drainfield to add to the natural insulating blanket of snow.

• Make sure all inspection pipes have covers to keep cold air from flowing into the drainfield pipes.