September is the best time to work on the lawn.  In fact, Fall is a better time than in Spring. As the days get shorter and the temperatures cool down, conditions are perfect for aerating and over-seeding lawns with tall fescue. Doing this work now will make your lawn stronger and, therefore, better able to compete with other unwanted plants. Aerating the lawn provides oxygen to the roots which is essential for healthy growth. The little holes allow good places for the settling of new seed and improve germination. Then rake a thin layer of compost over the lawn with a metal rake. The compost will act as a fertilizer and will also enhance the seed germination. Try to stay off the grass while it is germinating for 3 to 4 weeks (depending on weather).

Tall fescues are recommended for this area because they tolerate both hot and cold spells and will stay green most of the year. Tall fescue has deep roots that help it to survive foot traffic and drought.  Excellent blends of seed that are specific for our area are available at local garden centers.  Two of the newer recommended varieties are Rebel IV and Tarheel II.

To reduce weeds, keep the grass healthy and as dense as possible. Do this by using a mower height of 3 to 4 inches.  Allow the trimmings to fall in the lawn and decompose, thereby adding nitrogen to the soil which is needed by the grass. Never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade at each cutting (cutting the grass too low is a bad idea). Once established, tall fescue lawns do not need to be watered  because they go dormant in the heat of summer and green up when it gets cooler and rainfall increases. A new lawn, or one being renovated, needs watering to get established. To encourage deep root development, water for a longer period of time but less frequently.

An Alternative:  Do you have too much lawn to mow? Or are weeds taking the lead in what grows in your lawn?  Well, the first step may be to reduce the size of your lawn. Why? Lawns waste an enormous amount of water as a result of their irrigation requirements. Turf grass is the largest crop in Maryland and is usually fertilized with synthetic fertilizers and various pesticides that end up causing pollution as a result of rain and snow runoff. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can seep into our groundwater, nearby water bodies and eventually reach the Chesapeake Bay.

Consider this alternative. Grow what grows well in your lawn and create a green carpet that can be mowed. On the web site for organic land care they use the term “freedom lawns” which are lawns that are free to grow whatever survives the lawn mower.