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Turf Tips: Lawn Restoration and Weed Prevention

This post was originally published in August 2017.

The summer places some serious strain on our lawns. High temperatures, weeds, and drought conditions can all cause our turf to suffer, losing density, color and health. The end of summer is a great time to start thinking about giving your lawn some restorative care to bring back the green and help it regain density and color. To begin, evaluate your lawn and think about what you would like to accomplish. Do you need to overseed, eliminate weeds, or simply fertilize your lawn? Each of these tasks can be completed in just a few, simple steps as long as we are mindful of the correct time and order in which to begin each process.

Merrifield Grass Seed

Seeding

Does your lawn have bare patches, or do you want to introduce new grass varieties to your existing lawn? If so, September is the ideal time to seed, . Seeding now will give you plenty of time to complete several rounds of fertilization before winter sets in. Before you begin seeding, scrape up bare spots in your lawn and loosen the soil to create good contact between your soil and the grass seed you will be spreading. This is also a great time to mix in some compost if you want to improve your soil. Then, select your grass seed and spread it over the lawn using a drop or rotary spreader. We recommend one of our three Merrifield seed blends, which have been custom-designed to perform well in our local environment.

ISTOCK Lawn Care

Fertilizing

Regardless of whether or not you plan to seed, September is the ideal time to begin your fall lawn fertilization project. We recommend fertilizing every 4-6 weeks, with 2-3 applications before winter. If you are seeding your lawn, fertilize immediately after seeding with Merrifield Select seed starting lawn food for your first application, then follow up every 4-6 weeks with Merrifield Premium Lawn Food. If you are not seeding your lawn, use Merrifield Premium for all fertilizer applications.

Turf Tips and Lawn Care for Green Grass

Eliminating and Preventing Weeds

If weeds are overtaking your lawn, you can focus on killing summer weeds and preventing winter weeds in September. Bayer Advanced Season Long Weed Control will simultaneously kill existing weeds, such as clover and dandelions, while preventing weeds, such as chickweed, bittercress and others from taking over next spring. If you just want to prevent winter weeds, use Fertilome Broadleaf Weed Control with Gallery. You cannot use either of these products if you plan to seed your lawn immediately, as they will prevent your seed from germinating. If you wish to seed your lawn and prevent winter weeds at the same time, you will need to use Scotts Step 1 for Seeding with Weed Preventer. If you wish to seed your lawn and eliminate summer weeds, you will need to apply Trimec Lawn Weed Killer immediately and then wait for the time specified on the product label before you begin your seeding project. Generally, you will need to wait 2-3 weeks. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions on the weed control label to ensure your seed is not damaged.

Determining the Right Restoration Process for Your Lawn

Every lawn is different! If you have questions about the steps you should take to bring out the best in your lawn, we encourage you to come in to visit our turf specialists.

Planting Seedlings for Arbor Day

Update to our seedling giveaway event:

Thank you for your participation in our 2018 Arbor Day seedling giveaway! The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We encourage you to send us photos of your planting projects at photos@mgcmail.com!

As a garden center, Arbor Day is one of our favorite holidays. Each year we celebrate by encouraging our friends, family and customers to cultivate and care for our environment by planting trees in their gardens.

This year, we are excited to take this celebration a step further by actually giving away native white dogwood seedlings for families to plant! Take on a planting project with your children, your family, or your friends this year to celebrate the environment and add a beautiful new plant to your home and garden. As the white dogwood seedlings grow, they will improve the air quality of our region, create habitats for local wildlife, and serve as a food source for birds, pollinators and other animals.

How to Plant a Seedling

Seedlings can be planted in the ground or in a container. It is best to plant them within 24 hours of bringing it home, but if you cannot do so, keep the roots of your tree moist. Wrap your seedling in plastic and store it in a cool, dark spot between 40 degrees and 60 degrees, then plant your seedling as soon as possible.

Container Planting

Supplies:

  • Container (At least 1 gallon in size and 6-7 inches deep)
  • Water soluble or slow release fertilizer
  • Merrifield Potting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a container with a drainage hole that is slightly larger than the root system in depth and width (a one-gallon pot that is 6-7 in. deep is generally enough to maintain the growth of the seedling for one year)
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Top soil and garden soil are generally too heavy for seedlings. Use Merrifield Potting Mix to get your seedling off to a strong start.
  4. Place the seedling in the container, and fill with Merrifield Potting Mix to the top of the point where the roots begin.
  5. If your potting mix does not contain a slow release fertilizer, apply a slow release fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants. Re-apply once per month.
  6. Water your container thoroughly. Test the soil for moisture regularly and water as needed when the soil is dry.
  7. You can keep your tree in a one-gallon container in a spot with full sun to part shade for approximately one year before transferring it to the ground.

Planting in the ground

Supplies:

  • Shovel
  • Bucket or bowl
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose
  • Watering Wand
  • Merrifield Planting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a location for your tree. Ideally, it should be sheltered from weather, wildlife and lawn mowers for the first few years, then transplanted to another location. If you will be planting it in the spot you intend to be its permanent location, place a fence around the tree to protect it from lawn mowers and foraging wildlife.
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Dig a hole as deep as the depth of the roots for your seedling, allowing plenty of room around it for the roots to grow and spread out.
  4. Place your seedling in the hole, making sure that the top of the roots is at the level of the soil line.
  5. Mix your existing soil with Merrifield Planting Mix or other soil conditioner and use this mixture to backfill the hole.
  6. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants once per month.
  7. Water thoroughly and deeply with your watering wand, saturating the root zone. Water deeply whenever the soil is dry to encourage deep roots.
  8. After planting, mulch 2-3 inches deep around the seedling to retain soil temperature and moisture. Leave unmulched soil around the trunk.

Celebrating Arbor Day

Looking to celebrate Arbor Day with a planting project, but prefer to plant a tree larger than a seedling?

Visit our post on trees and shrubs that grow well in our region.

Lawn, Grass, Turf

Spring Lawn Care Checklist

Now is the time to get your lawn in spring shape! The weather is warming up, trees are starting to bloom, and healthy, dark green grass can really contribute to the feeling that spring has arrived. By taking a few steps, anyone can refresh their lawn for a beautiful spring landscape. Before starting your lawn refresh, remember that each one is different and your lawn’s care needs will be unique to the conditions it is under as well as its current state. If you need any assistance deciding which of the steps apply to your lawn, please call one of our experts at the plant clinic or stop by and see us.

Control Winter Weeds

March is the perfect time to control and eliminate any winter weeds that crept into your lawn over the season. Chickweed, bittercress, henbit, deadnettle, clover, dandelion and wild violet are all weeds that may be seen at this time.

Check out our blog post on eliminating winter weeds.

Prevent Summer Weeds

After treating winter weeds, it’s a good idea to pre-treat for summer weeds. Preventing their germination from the beginning will save you a lot of trouble, and help you maintain a weed-free landscape throughout the season. Common summer weeds include crabgrass, goosegrass, foxtail and Japanese stiltgrass. When planning your weed prevention, you will want to take into account whether or not you will be seeding your lawn.

For full information on preventing summer weeds, visit our summer weed prevention blog.

Seed and Fertilize

Take advantage of the spring season to fill in your lawn by overseeding. This is a great opportunity to select new seeds that will work great in your lawn’s conditions. We offer many varieties and are happy to help you select one that will thrive in your landscape. When you are seeding, fertilize your lawn as well with a high phosphorous formula.

For complete steps and our recommended products, check out our seeding and fertilizing blog.

Fall Vegetables - Carrots and Lettuce

Starting Your Fall Seeds

The midsummer heat is here and our warm season vegetables are maturing and providing delicious edibles. The summer growing season will be winding down soon, but we can continue to enjoy delicious, fresh vegetables from our garden by planting cool season vegetable seeds now!

Plant your fall vegetable gardens in a raised bed, directly into your garden, or in containers. Some need to be planted as soon as possible, others may be planted every two or three weeks now through September.

Step 1: Select your seeds

Fall is a great time to plant kale, cabbage, collard greens, carrots, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy and turnips.

Step 2: Review the planting directions for all seed types

Read the back of each seed packet before planting to check for information on spacing, depth, and time to plant before the first frost. While overall planting methods are similar for most seeds, these particular details vary and are vital to the health and success of your vegetable garden.

Step 3: Gather your supplies

I use a shovel and hoe to plant my seeds, but you can also use a small trowel if you are planting in a small space. You will also need Leafgro or other organic material compost, fertilizer (I use Garden-tone or Plant-tone), and of course, your seed packets. I suggest using a watering wand for watering, though you can lightly water your seeds with a garden hose if you are careful.

Step 4: Prepare your soil

Before sowing your seeds, apply Leafgro or another organic compost of your choice (2”) and add an organic fertilizer such as Garden-tone or Plant-tone. Mix into the soil along the areas where you will be planting.

Step 5: Sow vegetable seeds

To sow your seeds, make a groove in the soil to the depth indicated on your seed packet. Sow seeds along the groove at the spacing indicated on your seed packets, then cover with soil. Finally, gently water the seeds using a watering wand or gentle spray of the hose.

Step 6: Mulch between rows

Mulching between the rows will reduce weeds and watering. The method which works best for me is to place several layers of newspapers between the rows of plants, spray them down with water, then mulch over the newspapers.

Step 7: Maintain garden space by watering and weeding

Keep your soil moist by watering regularly and pulling any weeds that appear. In time, your seeds will grow into delicious organic vegetables! You can extend the season through October and even into December if you use floating row covers if heavy frost threatens.

Starting from seed

Louis Ratchford, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Growing your own plants from seed can be very rewarding! You can get your hands into the dirt in the middle of winter, and enjoy the fruits of your labor when the weather warms.

Step One: Plan your garden

The key to determining when to start your seeds is identifying the average last frost date in your area. You can work backward from this date to determine when to begin your seeds indoors.

To begin, select the crops you’d like to start from seed. Make sure you select seeds that can be sown indoors (some veggies, such as beans, prefer to be sown directly in the ground outdoors as they germinate quickly). I’m beginning with a few flowers, veggies and herbs that tend to be easy to start from seed indoors, such as zinnias, marigolds, tomatoes and peppers.

Step Two: Collect your supplies

You’ll need:
• Containers and trays
• Plastic lid or plastic wrap
• Labeling supplies
• Watering mister
• Seed packets
• A high-quality seed starting media
• Grow light, if necessary

There are many different containers you can use to start seeds, such as seed trays, biodegradable pots, yogurt containers or milk or egg cartons. If you select an item from home, make sure to clean it thoroughly and drill holes in the bottom for drainage. We decided to use seed starting plastic containers and trays as they’re already cleaned, pre-drilled and ready to go.

If you’re using seed trays, pick up one of the plastic covers. This will help retain moisture and increase the humidity during germination. If you’re using at-home containers, plastic wrap can do the trick.

It’s important to use a seed-starting media as it’s lose and lightweight and holds moisture to keep your seeds consistently moist. Avoid using soil from your garden or potting soil as it’s too heavy for delicate seeds.

Step Three: Sow your seeds

Place your seed starting medium into a bucket and add water to moisten it until it’s thoroughly damp. The goal is to get it crumbly, not soaking wet.

Fill your seed trays with the soil, pressing it down to eliminate air gaps.

Insert your finger or a pencil into the soil at a depth of two to three times the thickness of the seed in a few places in each cell to make holes. Place one seed in each hole.

Once you place all of your seeds, cover them with the seed starting media, and then mist with water. As soon as you finish one type of seed, label the tray with the plant name and date. There is nothing more frustrating than forgetting what you planted where and when!

Cover your tray with the plastic cover or plastic wrap and set it under the light source. I don’t have a strong south or east facing window that will naturally produce enough light during the day so I’m using a grow light. For the best growth, seedlings need at least 12 hours of light per day. If seedlings don’t get enough sun, they can grow leggy and weak.

Note: Not all seeds need to be covered with the seed starting media to germinate. Check the seed packet to see how deep to cover your seeds or if your seeds can grow simply on the surface. Whether you cover the seedling with the medium or not, all seeds need direct contact with the seed starting media to germinate.

Step Four: Keep them well-lit and watered

If you’re using a grow light, place it a few inches above the seeds and raise it as they mature. Keep the soil evenly moist by using a mister. Seeds are very sensitive to over and under watering. Heavy watering, with a watering can for example, can disturb the seedling. We recommend checking your seeds for moisture at least once a day.

Seeds germinate when the soil temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees F. If you’re starting your seedlings in a garage, potting shed or basement that might not be temperature controlled, use a heating mat or space heater to keep the tray warm. If you’re using one of these heat sources, check the moisture level more frequently as they can dry out the soil more quickly.

Once your seeds sprout, remove the plastic cover and heating source, if used, and set them aside for next time.

You’ll Dig Growing Your Own Potatoes

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

I can’t imagine life without potatoes. Can you? Baked, mashed, boiled, fried … nutritious and delicious. I love them all.

Seed potatoes are very easy to grow. Now is the ideal time to plant them because they grow best during cool weather.

First of all, I must say that seed potatoes aren’t seeds. They’re actually small, undersized potatoes. But they’re very different from the ones you would find in grocery stores, which have been treated to prevent sprouting, making them unsuitable for planting. We carry seed potatoes with purple, yellow, red or brown skin. Just plant them directly in the ground, 2” deep and 12” apart.

If the seed potatoes are big enough, you can cut them into pieces to make even more. Each piece needs to have two to three buds or eyes and should be about 2” in diameter. When I cut seed potatoes, I allow the exposed flesh of the potato to air dry for a day or two before planting.

Seed potatoes grow fast and can be ready to harvest in 10 to 12 weeks when they begin to flower. If you’re patient and allow the plants to continue growing, you’ll be rewarded with even bigger potatoes later in the season. I like to plant them in early April and keep them in the ground until late August or early September. At this time, it may seem like your lush, healthy plants have died. But if you carefully dig into the soil, you’ll find your hidden treasure. The potatoes will seem drab, but put them under water and they’ll look like gem stones with their true colors revealed.

You’ll be surprised how good these potatoes taste. They’re juicy and creamy and fragrant. Life is good. But only if you take that first step and come to Merrifield Garden Center and buy seed potatoes while supplies last.

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