Tips from the pros – the martha’s vineyard times



As Islanders prepare to squat for fall and winter, lawns and gardens prepare to go dormant in the cold season – a good time to do some maintenance and prep work so that , when spring arrives, your grass and plants will be ready. to thrive.

“It really is the best time of year to do things with your lawn,” Paul Mahoney, owner of the Mahoney Garden Center, told The Times. “Whether it’s maintaining it, or whether people are looking to install a new lawn or overseed an existing lawn. “

Until the end of October, said Mahoney, there are plenty of opportunities to improve the quality of your lawn.

Before laying new seeds, it is important to prepare your lawn by modifying the existing soil with a quality topsoil or a mixture of compost. This helps the new seed to establish itself and provides plenty of nutrients to keep it going through the cold season and into spring.

According to Mahoney, there are several types of fertilizer that can be used to improve your lawn, with some more specifically geared toward planting a lawn through re-seeding, while others are intended for an existing lawn.

Mahoney stressed that any fertilizer chosen must comply with local fertilizer application regulations.

More importantly, it means limiting the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer that can spread through soil and groundwater and into sedentary water bodies.

One of the requirements on the island, according to Mahoney, is that nutrients must be 50 percent or more slow-release nitrogen.

“It’s better for lawns anyway than some of those fertilizers that release a lot of nitrogen all at once, and it’s all gone in no time,” Mahoney said.

Another important step to take at this time of year is to put lime on your lawn.

This will increase the pH of the soil conditions, allowing the grass to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from the fertilizer.

Before applying fertilizer, Mahoney suggests raking the lawn to remove any thatch or other dead plant material, and loosening the soil a bit so that the grass seed can have more direct contact with its growing medium. .

“In order for the seed to germinate, it has to come in contact with the soil, so you want to have soil available there. If it’s all stubble, the seed might not come in contact, ”said Mahoney.

With cooler weather arriving, Jeremiah Brown, senior foreman at Vineyard Gardens, said now is the best time for lawn maintenance, although the window of opportunity is closing quickly.

“We have about a month window to do a lot of this really important work to make sure the lawns are healthy and have a good head start when spring arrives,” Brown said.

One practice Brown recommends this time of year (if you have the time and tools) is to aerate the lawn.

By drilling holes in the top layer of grass, air and nutrients can sink deeper into the lawn, and compaction from months of outdoor activity can be alleviated.

The folks at Vineyard Gardens use an aeration machine, which removes small pieces of lawn (called plugs), resulting in a healthier, more breathable lawn.

Then they run a dethatcher over the lawn, which breaks up the excess material so that it can be reused by the grass.

“Then we remove the rest of the debris, which could be weeds, crabgrass and other things that are pulled out of the dethatcher,” Brown said. “We remove that, then cover the grass with good compost, using a composter – essentially a glorified wheelbarrow with a conveyor belt that sprinkles soil all over the lawn as if it were a fertilizer spreader. “

If this process is followed and the seeds are deposited, Brown said, lawns immediately turn green and appear full and healthy when the spring thaw arrives.

Brown suggests following a specific fertilizer regimen: he deposits a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the spring, which awakens the grass. In the summer it uses a medium nitrogen fertilizer, and in the fall it limits nitrogen and increases the amount of phosphorus and potassium.

These nutrients strengthen the grass root systems and make them hardy for the winter. According to Brown, the attention and care someone gives to their lawn will ultimately determine its health and quality.

“You have to observe your lawn and interact with it. Know what’s going on, know what to do when and most importantly let your landscaper know what you want, ”said Brown.

If people want a specific fertilizer or treatment, Brown said passing it on to landscaping crews was essential. “We don’t necessarily come to your house to observe your lawn and garden every day. The right thing will happen with your lawn and garden as long as you have the passion for it and convey what you want to the landscaper, ”said Brown.

Donaroma Nursery owner Mike Donaroma said gardens require little work in the fall, but there are benefits to taking the time. “It’s a good time to plant and divide perennials in anticipation of late fall and winter, where you cut everything down and get rid of all the dead plants and the like,” Donaroma said. Over the years, Donaroma has found that a light spreading of mulch in perennial beds helps retain moisture during the cold, dry season and insulates plants from extreme cold. Organic mulches also break down to add organic matter to the soil and suppress weed growth, making it easier to maintain the garden.

Some people use algae for perennials, but Donaroma has found that algae mulch retains too much moisture and tends to rot.

“It’s not that they can’t stand the cold, but they can’t stand to sit with wet feet. I just use a light bark mulch, cut the plants and if I need to fertilize them I could give them a very light blow very early in the fall, ”explained Donaroma. “You don’t want to overfeed them and push the growth into winter.”

When it comes to lawn care, Donaroma said, doing the extra work now will pay off in the long run. After aerating and dethatching the lawn, he suggests adding a small amount of balanced fertilizer, then overseeding as needed. He pointed out that grass seeds don’t need a lot of fertilizer in the fall because frequent rains provide a lot of nitrogen.

“The advantage of overseeding in early fall is that once the seed germinates, it doesn’t have to compete with the weeds as much as those weeds are going dormant now,” Donaroma explained. “Ryegrass, fescue, bluegrass, they really like cool nights – weeds don’t.”

A few months later, after the seed germinated in late September and early October, Donaroma explained that the early sowing process makes the plant believe it has been in the ground for two growing seasons.

“It then starts to rhizomatically spread in the soil, so you actually get a two-year-old plant starting in the fall,” he said.

The only other recommendation Donaroma made was to watch out for pesky deer, which are more hungry and active during the fall. “They eat absolutely everything – I’ve heard they eat 2 by 4!” he’s laughing.

For more fall and winter gardening tips and advice, find Abigail Higgins’ bi-weekly column “Garden Notes” on the last page of the MV Times Community section. Find more garden tips on


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