Garden Views: Not a normal fall for garden care

by Jean Kuehn

Fall is usually the time to fertilize and aerate our lawns, but as you may have already heard, not this year. With so many lawns browning and already in crisis, adding fertilizer will just increase the lawn’s stress and will not help it. Our lawns are stressed and need TLC not fertilizer.

TLC in this case means tons of liquid (water) care.

“In order for your lawn to recover, you will need to begin irrigating regularly,” according to Sam Bauer, University of Minnesota Extension turf grass educator.

This means more than just one or two cycles, but enough water to wet the root zone sufficiently to sustain turf grass health. Bauer also suggests, raising the mower blade, no herbicides and if you feel you must fertilize use a slow-release formula. It is still possible to spot seed lawns, and even if germination does not occur now, you’ll be ahead of the game come spring.

My bigger concern is for the trees. Lawns can be replaced in one year fairly readily, but that big 60 year old maple is invaluable for comfort in July and August and the whole look of the property. So even if you are not a lawn person, drag that hose out and water the trees, and water them really, really well. The tree’s roots extend to the outer edges of the tree’s branches so don’t just drop the hose next to the trunk, water to the outer branches. To a casually passerby, it may look like you are watering the lawn, but you’ll know, it’s really the tree. The air temperatures are cold, but watering can continue to be beneficial until the ground freezes. Now is the time.

Normally in the fall, gardeners do a complete cleaning in the garden and trim everything down, making it all nice and tidy, but this year is not normal.

I am leaving a lot of the plant growth to wilt on the plants hoping to protect them from a dry winter and minimize moisture loss. I am, of course, pulling any stray weeds and their miserable seed heads.

It may be useful to save a few bags of leaves to cover your perennials, after the ground finally freezes. If we get good snow cover, great, but if we don’t, covering plants may help protect them from the thawing and freezing cycles that destroy plants. Covering plants may also help maintain what little moisture may be in the soil.

We know what is coming so put on the gloves and do the chores that are necessary and then sit back and plan for your beautiful garden in the spring.

Additional information on a variety of topics is available at the University of Minnesota website,

Jean Kuehn is an Anoka County Master Gardener.

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