Labor Day weekend marks a traditional end to summer, and many of us use it as a reminder to begin fall maintenance on our yards. Here are some tips for reseeding your lawn, or for sowing effective cover crops in the garden. This has been a really hard summer for lawns and gardens throughout much of the country. There are some things, though, that we can do now to improve the chances of having a better lawn and more productive garden next year.
One of the most drought-tolerant lawn grasses is Jaguar, a variety of turf-type tall fescue. It may be sown as late as early October and still be hardened off before winter. In addition to its low requirement for water (due to its excellent root system), it is perfect for kids, pets, and high traffic areas. Jaguar’s natural endophytes make it insect- and disease-resistant. Jaguar has a narrow, dark green blade and remains attractive and green long after ryegrass and bluegrass lawns have succumbed to summer’s heat and drought. Jaguar stays green all winter, too. Plan on using eight pounds per thousand square feet, less for overseeding existing lawns. The price is very nice: $2.29 a pound in bulk or $78.99 for a 50 lb. bag.
Cover crops are an important way to improve your garden soil over the winter. We offer some options, depending on your goals:
Winter wheat loosens clay, stabilizes the soil, and provides organic matter when turned under in the spring (about two weeks before planting). Three pounds covers 1000 square feet. It’s 50 cents a pound. Use winter wheat if you’ll be direct-seeding in the spring.
Winter rye is similar to wheat, but it is allelopathic, meaning it inhibits other seeds from sprouting. Why would you want to keep seeds from sprouting in a garden? If you’ll be putting out cabbage, tomato, or other pre-started bedding plants, the rye will help prevent weeds.
Hairy vetch has similar properties as winter wheat, but because it is a legume, bacteria on its roots capture and fix nitrogen out of the air and turn it into a form that plants can use to sustain leaf growth. If you’ll be growing kale, lettuce, endive, arugula, spinach, collards, and chard, hairy vetch will boost your yield. Sow 1 pound per 1000 square feet. It’s $2.79 a pound, but goes further and does more.
It’s not too late to plant fall food crops, such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, radishes, peas and fava beans. A hoop house or cloche can extend the growing season even past frost. Several fall crops can be left in the ground, mulched, and harvested as needed.
Let’s do what we can to give our lawns and gardens a better chance next year. Start by visiting the Bloomingfoods Garden Center on East 3rd Street, and talk with our knowledgeable staff.