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  Want great looking grass next season? Now's the time to make it happen!

Want great looking grass next season? Now's the time to make it happen! That's right: Fall is THE time to do all the important work on your lawn, ESPECIALLY planting and filling in bare spots. Spring and Summer-sown grass burns up before it can get established. Getting your grass started in the cool air of Fall practically insures you'll end up with a lush-looking lawn. It's also the right time to give your lawn its biggest feeding of the year, to get it ready for winter. And if there's a lot of foot traffic on your turf, you'll also want to aerate your lawn--this loosening up of your soil will cure a variety of turf troubles and deliver great looking greenery! Listen up out there! Because the Organic Lawn Doctor is here to help you cure what ails your grassy grandeur!

The Best Grasses For Sunny Spots:
Want a great looking lawn without using more chemicals than Monsanto? Start by planting the right grass for our region and your conditions! For sunny sites in the Northeast, that's Kentucky bluegrass--it grows better here than it does in Kentucky! It can handle heavy foot traffic, survive long droughts, and it spreads so aggressively it fills in it's own bare spots! But it doesn't like shade, and it takes 2 to 4 weeks for the seed to germinate--so keep the ground moist and be patient. Down South, Bermuda grass is the choice for sun--it doesn't mind the awesome humidity down there, and also takes heavy traffic and spreads to fill in its own bare spots. (It's remarkably like Kentucky blue...)

Tenacious Zoysia grass (planted via 'plugs', and available mostly by mail order; search the web for suppliers) grows so thick you'll never see a weed; but this turf turns brown when it goes dormant in winter. That can mean a fairly long brown spell in the North; but down South, you should see a much longer green season. For a weed-resistant lawn that's green all year, try what they did on the National Mall: Sow the seeds of a tall fescue (we'll get to that in a minute) amid zoysia plugs--it's a great combination!

Shady Site?
For somewhat shady spots in the Northeast and all but the very deep South, plant a turf-type tall fescue; these grasses can take HEAVY foot traffic and shade--a rare combination. And they're VERY drought tolerant. But, unlike Kentucky bluegrass and other types with aggressive spreading roots, these are clumping grasses that don't spread. So you may have to reseed bare spots every couple of years. Unless, like most homeowners, your lawn has both sunny and shady spots. Then you can use a mix of spreading Kentucky bluegrass and shade-loving fescue seed; the two turfs will combine to give you great-looking grass in sun and shade.

Of course, there are lots of other choices--and other parts of the country. But ace producer Maiken Scott rigs joy buzzers to my chair to use when the Q of the Week takes too long--so to find the right grass for your region and conditions, visit the Briggs and Stratton (lawn mower engine people) website featuring the wisdom of our recent guest, Dr. Trey Rogers, professor of turfgrass science at Michigan State University: "yard doctor dot com" (not Lawn Doctor--that's an evil turn-your-lawn-toxic company).

And Don't Forget that All-Important Fall Feeding!

If you want a great looking lawn without herbicides and pesticides, grow the right variety for your conditions, cut it high, and feed it right--and that means NOT artificially. Lawns subjected to the concentrated salts in expensive chemical fertilizers need more frequent cutting, and are more prone to pests and diseases.

To feed your turf naturally, start with a mulching mower; the nitrogen-rich, pulverized powder they return to the soil provides half the food your lawn needs in a season! All you need to add is a half-inch of nice finished crumbly compost now and again in the Spring; apply it with a spreader or just rake it in.

But corn gluten meal might be an even better choice--this nitrogen rich natural product feeds your grass and prevents weeds from sprouting! Just remember--corn gluten prevents ALL seeds from sprouting, so you can't use it if you're seeding or reseeding your lawn this Fall--use compost now, and corn gluten in the Spring.

Website EXTRA! Everything You Need To Know About "CGM":

You Can Get This Great Gluten Via Mail-Order...
One of the earliest suppliers and promoters of corn gluten is the mail-order company "Gardens Alive", based in Cincinnati. "Wow" (which stands for With Out Weeds) is the name of their original corn gluten product; they also sell a newer version called "Wow Plus", which contains additional natural fertilizers. You can get more information at their web site, www.gardensalive.com or by calling them at 513-354-1482.

...And Locally!
Several companies sell corn gluten at local retail outlets The "Concern" line of natural garden products calls their corn gluten "Weed Prevention Plus". Their five-pound bag contains pure corn gluten; the 25-pounder has added natural fertilizers. To find a retailer near you, call them toll-free:1-800-800-1819. The "Pure Barnyard" Company sells corn gluten in 50 pound bags under the "Cockadoodle Doo" brand. To find a supplier near you, go to www.purebarnyard.com.

Here's Exactly How to Use it:
To prevent crabgrass and other weeds and feed your turf without toxic herbicides and harsh chemical fertilizers, spread corn gluten meal at the rate of ten to twenty pounds per thousand square feet of lawn and water it in well. Natural compounds in the gluten will prevent any seeds from successfully sprouting, while feeding your turf with a close to perfect 10-1-1 natural fertilizer. Now, it won't kill established perennial weeds, like dandelions, but it will prevent new ones--completely if you apply the gluten every Fall and Spring. If you'd like to read the research behind this amazing discovery, visit the website of the Iowa State researcher who discovered it: www.gluten.iastate.edu.

When All Else Fails, Aerate That Turf!
Keep your grass at its natural height of 2 to 3 inches, use a mulching mower to return those plant-food-rich pulverized clippings to your soil, apply corn gluten meal in the Spring and Fall to control weeds and you should have the best-looking lawn in town. If you DON'T, and if your turf sees a lot of foot traffic, your soil has likely become compacted, and needs to be aerated. The best way to do this is to rent a machine called a 'core aerator' that actually pulls little plugs out of your lawn. Don't worry--those little holes fill in quickly, but the process loosens the soil and helps your poor grass' roots to breathe again! Just add those cores to your compost pile. Or start one! Mix the cores with some shredded fall leaves and you'll have a nice batch of super-soil come Spring!

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