Hello, Tulsa! Here’s some fall lawn care advice and what's going on with your landscape in this beautiful fall weather!
Water – Be sure to keep your lawn, trees and shrubs, and flowers watered. Some areas were lucky enough to get some rain last weekend, but some areas had none, and high winds will dry out the whole yard in a heartbeat! You don’t want your landscape to go into winter being dry – that’s the worst possible scenario! Moisture provides insulation. Even snow will protect your landscape from harsh winter temperatures. But cold, dry weather can cause damage to all plants, including trees and grass.
Many of the trees in Tulsa are already stressed out from our drought this summer, compounded by the drought the previous summer. Trees grow slowly, and it takes a long time for them to show damage from something that happened months or years ago. They can also be slow to recover, so remember to water them when you can.
Keep the leaves up! Leaves piled up in the grass don’t do the grass any good, especially on fescue which needs sunlight in these cooler temperatures. If you don’t have a blower or leaf-sucker-upper, just mow over them. Dead leaves are good organic material, and if you crunch them up, they will actually benefit your lawn without causing a thatch problem.
Of course, if you and your neighbors have huge trees, you may have too many leaves to do that. Personally, I have a leaf-sucker-upper (somebody, help me out here! What do you call those things??) and I crunch up all the leaves and dump the bag out in my flowerbeds. Fabulous mulch! And it’s good, decaying matter that will break down to enrich the soil.
Mulch young trees – You can use crunched up leaves for this, or buy mulch. Just be careful not to pile it up against the trunk. I know, you see trees with “mulch volcanoes” around them all over town, but that is not the correct way to do it. You’re trying to hold the moisture in around the roots, not up against the trunk where moist mulch would cause it to rot.
Plant flowers – this is a great time to plant bulbs for spring and pansies that will look great now as well as in the spring. Pansies love the cold weather and will even bloom in the snow. Plus, if you plant them now, they'll look really good in the spring.
Note: I went to Grogg’s Green Barn around 61st & Mingo the other day, and bought some gorgeous mums and some tulip bulbs. Great place! They carry all kinds of organic stuff, native plants, even beneficial insects. And the staff is really nice and knowledgeable. The lady who waited on me gave me a good tip. I’ve always wanted to plant tulips, but I never knew where to put them. I hate to waste garden space on something that will bloom once in the early spring, and that’s all. She told me she plants tulips bulbs underneath her pansies, and in the spring, they come right up through the pansies and look lovely! I’m gonna do it this weekend, and I’ll let you know in the spring how it turns out.
Fescue – Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to overseed your fescue areas, and seed any shade areas where your bermuda has thinned out due to encroaching shade. If you haven’t, do it now! Time is running out! I know, I know, you’re busy. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve only seeded about a third of my fescue areas so far and hope to finish this weekend! But if you don’t do it soon, you'll have missed the best time to seed, and when next spring rolls around, you’ll wish you'd gotten it done. Seeding in the spring is asking for a 50%+ failure rate, because fescue is heat-intolerant, and it won’t have enough time to get down a good root system before the heat of the summer. And you know what summers are like around here!
Okay, so say you were on the ball, and your seeding is already done. Yay! Remember you MUST keep it moist for it to germinate, a task that’s far from easy with the horrendous wind we’ve had the past few days. I almost blew away in a parking lot three times yesterday!
After your seed germinates, keep on keeping it moist. You may need to water it lightly 2 times per day. When it’s up and has been mowed twice, you can resume your regular watering schedule. Remember to keep the leaves off of it so it can get sunlight, but don’t rake, or you’ll pull up the seedlings.
Bermuda – Bermuda is getting ready to turn brown and go dormant. Some areas have already had a light frost, and when that happens on your lawn, you may see a squiggly line pattern in your bermuda (pictured, right.) This is normal!
Mow your bermuda high this time of year, and don’t even think about scalping it. Some people think they should mow it really short the last time they mow, to make the yard look clean. But scalping should be done only in the spring, or when the grass is actively growing and has time to recover. Right now, you want to leave it a little long so it has some insulation against the pending freezing temperatures.
Have a great weekend, enjoy this beautiful weather, and let me know if you know the real name of a leaf-sucker-upper!