Feed, aerate your cool-season lawn now

Here are some questions I fielded this past week at the Springs Preserve.

Question: Is it true that Thanksgiving feedings of my cool-season lawn keep it greener through the winter and improve its overall health next season?

Answer: Yes. It keeps the lawn greener and stronger even into next summer. Also, aerate your lawn now. The aerator removes plugs from the soil so water penetrates deeper causing deeper rooting. To avoid icing during the winter, water during the midmorning hours. If freezing temperatures are forecast, turn off your irrigation system.

Q: Does overseeding my Tifway Bermuda lawn hurt it next summer?

A: Skipping the process results in a more vigorous lawn because Bermuda is able to store nutrients in its stolons and rhizomes for next summer. It also eliminates competing with ryegrass as the Bermuda comes out of dormancy next spring. Also, dormant grass enables you to spot spray winter weeds without damaging the lawn.

Q: Is it true that fertilizing warm-season Bermuda with iron keeps it greener longer into the fall?

A: Yes. But it’s too late to do it now. Making three applications of iron two weeks apart in mid-September will keep your lawn greener. With Bermuda, late-fall nitrogen feedings hurt the grass’ ability to store nutrients. This becomes apparent with poor green-up next spring.

Q: Why won’t the leaves on my eight years nandina turn red in the fall? It gets filtered morning sun on our patio.

A: It’s not getting enough direct sunlight. Move it to a brighter location. I planted a Hacienda creeper on the north side of my house without considering sunlight, and it’s never developed its traditional autumn colors.

Q: When do we plant bulbs?

A: The sooner the better. Bulbs need cold weather, and we don’t get much. Enrich the soil with bone meal to make the blooms prettier. If drainage is a problem, plant elsewhere.

Q: Why are the older leaves on my houseplants dropping?

A: The shortened days and cooler nights cause summer leaves to drop. Your first reaction might be to feed, but don’t do that. Rotate plants weekly a quarter-turn so that leaves get equal amounts of sunlight for balanced growth.

Q: Can we reduce the height of a tree without damaging it?

A: Yes. Identify a branch you need to remove. Cut the branch off where it attaches to the limb, being careful never to leave a stub extending from the remaining branch. Continue across the tree until you have reduced its height.

Do your pruning after leaves drop so you’ll make wiser decisions.

Protect the now-exposed limbs from the sun because borers invade sunburn-damaged trunks and limbs. Paint limbs with a white latex paint to prevent the burning and deter the borers.

Q: How do I prune my 3-year-old Chinese elm?

A: The best time to prune is after the leaves drop. The cardinal rule is never removing more than 25 percent of living tissue (branches, stems, leaves) in any one year or else you’ll severely stress the tree. You want more leaves next spring to manufacture more food for your tree.

Start pruning by removing any broken, dead or crossing branches. This might be all that is necessary for the year. For a young tree, leave many branches on the tree but be sure they’re not spaced too close together.


Herbs are marvelous plants. They’re easy to grow, versatile and tasty. Learn to grow them in a workshop at 8:30 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday through November at the Springs Preserve, at 333. S. Valley View Blvd. I teach the Saturday class.


The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has a new demonstration garden to show off. Master gardeners will show how to “Paint Your Garden with Color” using desert-adapted plants at 9 a.m. Saturday at 8050 Paradise Road.

The demonstration garden has more than 500 species of trees, shrubs, perennials, palms, cactuses and agaves. The grounds are open for self-guided walk-abouts on weekdays.

Also at the Cooperative Extension, horticulturist Bob Morris will address soil problems and describe common garden pests and how to control them organically at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The garden tour and pest workshop are both free. For more information, call 257-5555 or email lvmastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ springspreserve.org or 702-822-7754.

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