A few weeks ago I suggested being patient with brown lawns since the eventual arrival of rain would restore lawns to their normal green state. That seems to be the case after the showers of the past two weeks. Yet, there are patches on some lawns where grass has not responded. Is the grass dead?
Probe into the crowns of a sample of grass plants; if there is no visible green tissue, it's dead. As another test, take a lawn rake and rake it through the brown grass. If all the grass comes out, the roots are dead and so is the grass. Now what?
If the patches are small, rake out all the dead grass, turn over the soil with a garden fork, work in some screened compost, scatter grass seed and rake it in lightly. Water the seeded area and cover lightly with straw. If the area of dead grass is quite large, sell your house and move into an apartment ... just kidding. Follow the same steps as for small patches, but use a power tiller to turn over the soil.
With length of daylight getting shorter and nights getting cooler, the time period between now and mid-September is the best time of year to be renovating an existing lawn or constructing a new one. Just be aware that if drought conditions persist, careful attention to watering is a must.
On another note, anyone anxious to apply fertilizer to hasten the green up of lawns should wait until the first week of September when, hopefully, grass has fully recovered from this summer's drought. At that time, a fertilizer application would help further their recovery by stimulating root growth.
More to do ...
Here are some stimulating gardening tasks:
• Dig, divide and replant daylilies. While you're at it, trim away some of the sections of each plant that has thin, weak-looking foliage. Before replanting, cut back all the leaves to about 10 to 12 inches — no need to use a ruler; just eyeball it.
• Start garden clean up by cutting back damaged or ragged stems and foliage on herbaceous perennials in flower borders. Where diseases have ravaged plants, removing diseased plant parts from gardens will reduce chances of wide-spread disease infections next year.
• Continue to pinch off flowers on basil, oregano, sweet marjoram and other culinary herbs. Removing the flowers will stimulate more leaf production.
• Prune raspberries after summer harvest is completed. Cut out the old fruiting canes back to ground level. Removing the old canes will help reduce the spread of cane blights while opening up the planting and allowing for more light to reach this year's new growth. This, in turn, will promote more fruit bud development.
• Begin planning fall bulb plantings. Include dwarf and so-called minor bulbs on your shopping list. These are great for planting in rock gardens, as edging plants in borders or along walkways, or in niches such as between the buttressing roots of trees or next to a fence post.
• Pinch a tomato. Before you get the wrong idea, I'm referring to the pinching or removal of flower buds on tomato plants. The cooler nights of late summer and early fall will slow fruit development and few if any of the flower buds coming into bloom now are likely to yield mature fruit before frost.
• Dig shallow trenches in vacant areas of the vegetable garden and place spent crops into the trenches and cover with soil. This process, sometimes called trench composting, recycles plants nutrients back into the soil. Otherwise, start a compost pile and toss spent vegetation onto the pile.