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You can keep your lawn green, even in drought

As southeast Iowa exits a rough drought season, local landscaping and lawn care experts have tips on how homeowners can maintain their lawns into the fall.

Jared Miller, owner of Kalonial Lawn Care, said fall is a great time to get lawns healthy. He suggests aerating grass and using fertilizer or a weed control program depending on the needs of the lawn.

“You should get six weeks of nice green grass,” Miller said.

Good preparation in the fall is especially important to help maintain lawns as winter comes, Miller explained.

“You want to do anything to feed and strengthen the root system through the winter,” Miller said. With good preparation in the fall, the process back to a green lawn come spring time will be easier, Miller added.

“As soon as it gets dry or cold, stop mowing,” he said.

John Rubey, co-owner of Rubey Lawn Care, said one of the biggest mistakes he sees people make is cutting their grass too short. Rubey does not suggest homeowners cut lower than three inches.

“You’re causing more damage than good. When we’re in stress times, the less you’re on it, the better off you are,” he said.

With shorter grass, there are more opportunities for weeds like crabgrass, foxtail and clover to overtake a yard.

“If you’ve got more blade up top, it doesn’t allow the sun to get down close to the grass and in hot and dry times, weeds grow. If it’s taller, it doesn’t let those seeds get down to the soil,” he said.

Restricting the frequency of mowing is especially important in stress times such as this year’s drought.

“When it’s growing and grass is healthy, have at it. Bit when it’s a stressful time of year, less is more,” Rubey said.

The lawn care expert said people with yards often choose to water at the wrong time and should consider changing the schedules to early mornings. Rubey said the ideal time to water a lawn is around 5 a.m. “before Mother Nature really cranks up.”

Watering at any other time of day creates opportunities for fungus, which thrive in heat and humidity, Rubey said.

Like Miller, Rubey encouraged people with lawns to provide the grass “some kind of food source,” or fertilizer to put the grass to bed in winter.

“If you don’t normally fertilize but know your lawn suffered this year, you should feed it,” he said.

Heading into winter, Miller suggests clearing out yards of falling leaves which will prevent a pile up and dead grass once spring arrives. For those looking to aerate their lawns, Miller warns against doing it too close to the colder season.

“You want to allow the root zone to expand going into winter so you don’t have winter kill but you don’t want the holes to stay open into the winter. You don’t want extreme cold getting into the roots of plants,” he said.

For general maintenance, both Miller and Rubey suggest homeowners get on a maintenance program which sets a schedule for fertilization and weed control several times across a year. Rubey added if a person decides to get on a program, it will usually take about three years for an already established lawn to become “golf course quality.”

Rubey warned people can destroy a yard faster than it can be repaired, sticking to a program not only improves a lawn but maintains it.

“If you hire somebody and you go the first two seasons but then skip the third, you set yourself back a year and a half,” he said.