Lawn Care Calendar = a Great Lawn This Year

Plan Your Maintenance Schedule Out Now

You know that you will have certain lawn care items to do this year on your lawn and landscape to have a GREAT ONE! So why not sit down with a calendar now and plan it all out?

Lawn Care Calendar

Plan your lawn care calendar out now for 2017

Depending on how great you want your lawn to work, you will have a certain number of fertilizer and weed control applications to make, you will have to mow the grass a certain number of times, prune the shrubs so many times, mulch, weed the beds, clean up the leaves, aerate, overseed, apply lime and possibly much more, or less, depending on your level of Lawn Care Ninja.

Some things that you will do for your lawn won’t actually show up for weeks after it was performed, so planning gets those tasks scheduled and you get them done, before they are forgotten or it gets too late in the year.

If you want a fantastic looking lawn that is weed free and knock-out green for Memorial Day, you can’t just kick it up a notch the week before, you need fertilizer down weeks before, weed control down starting in Feb, or Mar, and the grass cut regularly. Then it all comes together at the end of May.

Fertilizer and Weed Control Applications

Depending on your type of grass, and how much of a lawn geek you are you could do anywhere from 1 to 8 applications. Some people only make one application a year, that is usually done in the Fall if you only make one application.

If you do two applications, put one down in the Fall, usually a Winterizer that will prepare the grass to over winter better and grow deeper roots so it will be hardier next Summer. A Winterizer fertilizer will have a higher ratio of Potash to Nitrogen and Phosphate. Something like a 6-12-12 or 3-10-30 are some I have seen sold. The Nitrogen isn’t needed that much in the Fall for most grasses, and for warm season grasses, you don’t want any nitrogen down. And then put another application of fertilizer and a pre-emergent weed control down in the Spring. If you don’t fertilize, at least use a pre-emergent weed control to help keep out the weeds.

Applying Fertilizer and weed control products with a spreader

Applying granule fertilizer and weed control products

Then put another application of fertilizer and a pre-emergent weed control down in the early Spring, around Feb in the South, or Mar. farther North,  for a two application per year program. The Spring application would be something like a 32-3-10 with pre-emergent and/or post-emergent weed control products.

About 2 months later, April/May,  if only applying 4 applications, use a fertilizer and broadleaf weed control to control dandelions, and other broadleaf weeds. This will have an analysis of something like the 32-3-10 or similar again. The first number is nitrogen and provides the majority of your green in the grass.

A lot of people that use the four application program each year will schedule them like this. Using the major Holidays for reminders, apply around Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day.

If you want a little more green, and fewer weeds, and you don’t mind mowing a little more often, plan for 6 applications. You will take the 4 application program I just described, but move the dates around so you start earlier in the year with your first fertilizer and weed control application, end the year with your winterizer application a little later in the year, and then scoot the dates closer together to have an equal amount of time between them.

Your Lawn Care Calendar will look something like this:

  1. February Pre-emergent weed control and Fertilizer for cool season grasses. Pre-emergent only for warm season grasses
  2. March 15 Pre-emergent weed control for Southern areas where the weed germination period is longer, with fertilizer and broadleaf weed control. Northern climates will get broadleaf weed control and fertilizer.

    fertilizer and insect control

    Fertilizer with insect control added

  3. April 30 Broadleaf weed control and fertilizer for both cool season and warm season grasses. If you have an insect problem with army worms, fleas, and ticks, or a mole problem that is exacerbated by grub worms, you might want to use a fertilizer with insect control in it.  If you have Fescue grass and you live in the transition zone or further South, be watching for fungus. Mainly Brown Patch fungus. It starts at the end of April to early May and continues during hot and humid weather. If you see spots that look like the picture to the right, you could have a fungus. A fungicide will need to be applied
    Brown Patch Fungus on Fescue Grass

    Brown patch fungus on Fescue grass

    immediately.

  4. June 15th Fertilizer and broadleaf weed control. Monitor for insects, apply insecticide as needed
  5. July 30th Fertilizer and Broadleaf weed control, again monitor the lawn for insects. Armyworms can attack in the Summer and move quickly across the lawn causing a lot of damage in just a
    Army Worms in lawn

    Armyworms invading lawn

    week or so. If you see mysterious dead or yellowing spots on the lawn that look like the picture to the right, you may have armyworms.

  6. September 15th apply the Winterizer fertilizer with weed control if you like or if you are still having broadleaf weed problems. Some people will apply a Fall Pre-emergent weed control which will control any Fall and early Winter weeds that may germinate.

Mowing, Edging, and Trimming

Depending on a few things like if you water or not, how much fertilizer you are using, and where you live and what type of grass you have, you will have to mow anywhere from every 5 days to 10 days.

This is one of the harder things to keep on a set schedule due to things like rain,

Lawn Care is Hard

Lawn Care Is So Hard!

equipment issues, and life. But it’s important to keep the mowing on a close enough schedule that you don’t cut more than 1/3 of the grass off in one cutting. Cutting more than that off at one time will yellow the grass off, and possibly stunt it. I prefer to cut more often and cut just a little off. But then again, I enjoy mowing, it’s my “quite time”.

Edging of the hard edges, sidewalks, concrete drives, patios and anything with a hard, straight edge will need to be done at least once a month with a stick or blade edger. Normal string trimming (weed eating) is done each week as you mow. Some people are good enough with a string trimmer that they can turn it up on it’s edge and clean up the edging without having to get the blade edger out. If you don’t own a stick edger or blade edger, they do a fantastic job of keeping a nice straight and clean edge on your hard edges.

Other Lawn Care Items needed

Aeration and overseeding, if needed for cool season grasses will need to be scheduled for late August or early September. The earlier you get the seed in the ground, the faster it can get germinated, start growing and be tall enough to be mowed a couple of times before Fall sets in.

Lime applications are best done in the Fall and are usually helpful for most lawns. Very seldom do we find a lawn that does NOT need lime. One bag of lime per thousand square feet of lawn area is what we apply. This is a general rule of thumb for lawns that are on the clay side of the soil structure spectrum. Better quality soils wouldn’t need as much, and a soil test will tell you exactly what you need. With a little experience, you will know what to apply without repeated soil tests.

These are not all of the lawn and landscape chores that will need to be done on your property over the year, but this article is meant to be more of a scheduling primer to get a lawn care calendar set up for your lawn.

For more information on lawn care items subscribe to our blog for weekly lawn care tips and landscape maintenance tips and landscaping ideas. Also, take a look at our monthly lawn care tips pages on our website with monthly lawn care tips.

Harvesting Rainwater to Combat Drought-Your Garden Thanks You!

Each year that goes by seems to bring more drought problems. Reservoirs are dwindling, rivers are drying up, forest fires are popping up in places that they haven’t been in years. There just might be something to this “global warming” business.

In the meantime government regulations are putting the damper on watering your lawn and garden with city water, some areas even restrict watering your lawn and garden with well water. So how do we keep our beloved plants alive? There might be an answer in harvesting rainwater.

 

rainwater harvesting barrell

Rainwater Harvesting Barrell

Lots of people are already catching rainwater to use in varying amounts now. Some simply catch a 35 gallon drum full to water their potted patio plants. When that runs out, they go back to using their city water, but even then, that’s 30 gallons of water that were saved. If all of us saved just that much each month, we would collectively save millions of gallons of water a year.

Where to start? First, you need something for rain water to run off of to catch it, usually your roof. Then, you simply catch that rainwater at the downspouts and send it to a collection barrel, tank or cistern. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you can do this without even having any electricity involved just letting gravity work to use the collected water.

In the simplest of systems, a barrel is placed under a downspout to catch the water, and a rain diverter is attached to the downspout, then  a  hose spicket is attached to the bottom of the drum to access the stored water for watering your plants. Keeping the drum up off the ground a couple of feet allows gravity to work for you.

rainwater collection system

rainwater collection system

 

In more elaborate systems, in-ground storage tanks are used to store the water and electric pumps are then needed to lift the water out to pump it through hoses to use it. These systems can run into the thousands of dollars to build. What your needs will be will most likely fall somewhere between these. The diagram below shows a simple system with a couple of plastic barrels placed under a downspout. The two drums are connected by a piece of pipe that allows both drums to fill up with only one being under the downspout. You could feasibly connect as many barrels together as you want to increase your storage.

Rainwater can even be collected, filtered and run through an ultra-violet sterolizer that will make the water potable. These systems can get into several thousands of dollars, but if you live out in the middle of nowhere, and “off grid”, then it is a viable source for water.

The University of Arizona has a good article on building rainwater collection systems.

No matter how elaborate you want to get, collecting rainwater just makes good sense! Reducing your water bill is just the beginning, helping to conserve water and being able to grow plants when you couldn’t before because of lack of water are just bonus reasons.

Some municipalities, States and Fed. governments will allow credits for installing certain systems that meet minimum criteria. Here is some more information from the National Conference of State Legislatures .

Here are a few products that will get you up and running to collect some rainwater and keep your plants happy.

 

 

5 Most Common Things That Are Killing Your Grass

1. Mowing too close – Quite often we are called out to take a look at someone’s lawn to diagnose why their grass is dying. And very often the first thing I notice is that the grass will be mowed very, very close. Depending on the type of grass, this could be the culprit for the grass thinning out.

Don't scalp your lawn

Scalping your lawn causes dead grass

If you have a cool season grass like Fescue, Bluegrass, or Ryegrass, these generally need to be cut higher than warm season grasses. I recommend cutting these no lower than 3″, they just look better when mowed taller, and will usually hang in through the Summer months a little better if cut at that height.

Many times people will say something like, “I cut it way down there low, so I don’t have to mow as often”. Mission accomplished!! Mowing cool season grasses that low will stunt them or plain old kill them. Do your cool season grass lawn a favor and cut it up higher, I promise it will look better, and survive longer!

Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass and other warm season grasses can be cut much lower and they will thrive. It’s actually better for this type of grass to be mowed 2″ or lower. Golf courses, football fields, baseball fields and soccer fields are routinely seeded, sodded or sprigged with warm season grasses like Zoysia or Bermuda. They are usually cut 2″ or lower, sometimes as low as 3/8″ on golf courses. Some golf greens are Bermuda, they are cut lower than 3/8″.

So, if you don’t know what type of grass you have, find out, then start mowing it at the recommended height for that type of grass in your area of the US.

2. Moisture Stress – Fescue lawns in the South need water. They will tell you when they are thirsty if you know what to look for. The grass will start turning a lighter shade of green, and then the blades will start wilting, shriveling up and the grass canopy starts to get thinner and thinner until the majority of the grass plants go dormant.

Wilting Fescue Grass Lawn

Fescue Grass beginning to show signs of moisture stress

Most cool season grasses are going to require more water/rainfall than warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede and other similar grasses. The nature of warm season grasses is that they grow best in warm or hot climates and temperatures, so part of their biology is that they will grow better and survive better with less watering or rainfall.

If you start to see your own lawn looking like the one in this picture, it’s time to water!

3. Too Much Shade – The warm season grasses we have mentioned already grow best in full sun conditions. Usually, Bermuda or Zoysia and their other cousins will grow up to the shade line, or drip line of a tree and slowly thin out. The grass will essentially show you where it’s limit is on how much sun it needs. So, if you have a Bermuda lawn it’s not going to grow under the trees. As a tree matures that you have planted in the lawn, the bare spot under it is going to be in proportion to the size of the tree.

Too much shade

Areas like this are difficult to grow grass in. These parts of the lawn are best left to landscape beds

Fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass and creeping red fescue will grow in the shade but will suffer from the next problem that arises with grass growing in deep shade. It’s not just the shade, but competition with the trees for water, too many leaves falling on the grass and choking it out and lack of lime and other nutrients that are robbed from the soil by the trees.

Growing grass in the heavy shaded areas of any lawn is usually very difficult, no matter what the type of grass. Many times it’s best to just give up the idea of having grass in these areas and turn them into landscape beds, gravel areas or another option.

4. Fungus or Insects – Lawns that are dying off with no obvious signs to the untrained eye are often dying from a Fungus or insect problem. These problems will usually start killing off grass and before we are called to investigate, the grass has large dead spots all over, which are usually not going to recover without reseeding.

Brown Patch Fungus on Fescue Grass

Brown patch fungus on Fescue grass

For Fescue grasses in the South, one of the biggest problems we have with Fungus is Brown Patch. It will start in a small circle as small as a quarter, and slowly start increasing in size until it has killed out circles of grass 2 to 3 feet in diameter. Then, the homeowner sees the problem and calls us. Fungus can be controlled with applications of fungicide, either as a preventative application before it ever shows up, or as a curative application after it does show up. However, our experience has been that once it gets started and kills off sections of a cool season lawn, that section doesn’t recover during that year and has to be over seeded in the fall.

Insects will start chewing on either the grass stems or roots of grass plants and cause the same type of slow killing off of the grass plants as the Fungus does. Only insect damage is usually not in a circular pattern. It will just be a large section of grass that looks thinner, weak or just overall not as healthy as the rest of the lawn. Army worms are a common problem we have in the South, they will attack both warm season grass and cool season grasses. You might go for several years without having a single army worm in your lawn, then have them invade by the thousands for a few years in a row.

Brown Patch Fungus on Fescue Grass

Brown patch fungus on Fescue grass

army worm damage in a bermuda lawn

Army worm damage in a bermuda lawn

Army Worms in lawn

Army worms invading lawn

Army worms are fairly easy to eliminate, an application of insecticide will do it, sometimes two applications are needed. But the biggest issue is to get the insecticide applied as soon as you see any army worms on the lawn. Waiting even a day or two can give them enough time to do major damage. The picture shown is what army worms look like.

Grub worms are the larva of a common “June Bug” as most people call them. Asian beetles are another common name. They grow in the ground and will eat  the roots of plants, but that’s not the only damage caused by them. Moles will start running through the lawn looking for them and do major damage to the lawn by tearing up the turf, cutting ruts in the lawn and killing lots of grass.

 

An insecticide application will also control them but needs to be done at two times of the year when the grubs are at the closest to the surface of the lawn. The insecticide does a much better job of killing them at this point.

Another good idea is to do some mole control at the same time that you do the insect application. Moles will do so much damage to a lawn at times that it looks like someone has taken a roto-tiller to the lawn.

5. Improper Applications of Fertilizer/Insecticide/Herbicides – We will get called several times a year to diagnose another problem, we call it killing the lawn with kindness. Or in other words, the homeowner has decided to make applications of fertilizer, insecticides or herbicides to the lawn, but didn’t read the directions.

lawn damaged by too much fertilizer

Fertilizer damage to a lawn

All bags or bottles of any pesticide will have the directions for proper use and application rates on the label. Please read the label first before applying any product to your lawn. At the least, you could damage your own lawn. At worst, you could kill grass in your neighbor’s lawn, the ditch in front of your house, or worse yet would be if you have a pond or other waterway on the downhill side of your lawn. You could kill fish or even pets with an improper pesticide application.

You will also need to know the size of your lawn or property either in square feet or acres, and know how to determine that number. Without this number it is impossible to make a proper application of any pesticide. If you don’t have the proper equipment to apply the pesticide with, you are best off to call a professional to do this for you. It could be cheaper and easier for you and your health.

Winterize Your Irrigation System to Prevent Damage

Winter is going to be here before you know it, now is the time to plan for winterizing your sprinkler system (irrigation system). Most irrigation systems will retain a small amount of water in the lateral lines, even if you have automatic drain back valves installed. And the valve boxes are all

irrigation system automatic drain back valve

An automatic drain back valve in an irrigation system. It helps to eliminate water from standing in the system

susceptible to freezing because they are exposed to the elements except for a thin plastic lid. If a valve freezes and breaks, it is usually an expensive repair.

 

Winterizing your system is usually going to require having the installer, or a qualified Landscape Professional, that has knowledge about the operation of an irrigation system, pumps that pump out of the lake for water source, and all of the different timers, valves and related systems that make up an irrigation system, to do it for you. A properly installed irrigation system is quite complex and needs the expertise of someone that has done it for years to service it for you.

LawnMasters has been installing and maintaining irrigation systems for 26 years. One of the first systems we installed was on Kentucky Lake for a nice lady who had recently lost her husband. He had started building an irrigation system, but passed away before he could complete it.

We completed the system for her in 1990, and it is still being used today.

Winterizing an irrigation system involves hooking an air compressor up to the system, utilizing a couple of different options, then charging the system with air pressure to blow the water out of the system.

Winterizing an irrigation system

An irrigation head blowing out any water in the line during winterization

Two problems can surface during this action, one is the system can be damaged if too much air pressure is applied to it. Or second, the system can still be damaged by freezing water if all of the water is not purged from the system. Again, knowledge is king when servicing a system that costs thousands to install.

Once we have the system winterized, we turn it off and put it to bed for the season, ready to be started when needed in Spring, protecting your valuable irrigation system and your investment.

When Spring comes, the system should be ready to just turn on the water, adjust your automatic timer and let it take off again.

When should you have your irrigation system winterized? It depends on what part of the US you are in, when your expected first freeze will be, and if you are doing Fall seeding.

Obviously, the farther North you are, the sooner you will have to winterize your system, an easy rule is to have it done prior to the expected date of your first freeze. If you are done using your system for the year, go ahead and schedule to have it done, or do it yourself if you are able. There is no benefit in waiting, and, if you wait until the last minute before the first expected freeze, you may not be able to get on the schedule to get it done in time.

New Sod, Irrigating

New Sod Being Watered

If you are doing some Fall overseeding, aeration and seeding or have installed sod, you may need to wait until the last minute. Still, if you are planning on waiting right up until the last day or so before freeze is expected, go ahead and call to get on the winterizing schedule and you can still get it done.

The first freeze usually isn’t the killer freeze that damages a lot of water pipes. The first time it freezes, the ground is still above freezing and the temps usually don’t drop that far below freezing, and most components will not freeze.

But after the ground gets cold enough, and the daytime temps stop getting warm enough to keep the ground warm, a moderate freeze can do major damage to the system.

If you have the knowledge and equipment, you can winterize your irrigation system yourself. If you don’t, or you’re not quite sure how to go about it, give us a call, it’s not that expensive and can save you hundreds of dollars in repair bills come Spring time.

If you need help with winterizing your system, you can contact us a number of ways

Call us at 731.642.2876 or 888.664.LAWN

Email us

Or stop in and see us at 124 Whitlock Rd., Puryear, TN.

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Can Your Lawn Look Like Wrigley or Progressive Field?

Progressive Field, Home of the Indians

The Indians Progressive Field

Yes, with the right grass, proper maintenance and attention to your lawn’s needs.

In West TN, we live in the “transition zone” of the United States, or sections of zone 7 – 7A. This means we can grow both warm season and cool season grasses. Both Wrigley Field and the Indians’ Progressive Field have Kentucky Bluegrass on them which is a cool season grass. You might guess by their name that a “cool season grass”, grows best in the cooler climates with less humidity. Bluegrass will grow in our area of NorthWest Tennessee, but it does require more maintenance than Fescue and it’s not as hardy as some Fescue varieties.

Hardiness Zone Map

New USDA Hardiness Map

Bluegrass is common in the northern states from KY to New York, Ohio, etc. Their climate is suited much more to fit Bluegrass than ours. In the North, they don’t have as much humidity as we do in the South. Humidity is one of the biggest killers of our cool

Wrigley Field Bluegrass

Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field

season grasses in our area. Mainly caused by brown patch and other fungus’.

So what would it take to get your lawn to look like a professional field? The grass type is just the beginning. After you either sod or seed, you will have to apply fertilizer and weed control 5 to 7 times per year to keep the lush green grass and weed free look.

Irrigation is another key, you don’t have to have an automatic irrigation system, but it will lessen your work load . You can water by pulling water hoses and sprinklers around if you have more patience and energy than you do money. But however you do it, your new, lush green grass will need regular water, if you’re not willing to do it, don’t waste your time and money reseeding your lawn.

The first step is to determine if your lawn is smooth enough already to have a smooth cut after the new grass grows in. If you have lots of dips and holes coupled with high spots, you will not be able to have a smooth cut. Your mower can only cut as even as the grade is on your lawn. So if it’s real rough now, it’s still going to be real rough after you reseed it, unless you do a total renovation reseeding, and do something to level out the grade so you can have a smooth lawn.

Total renovation of the lawn will include tilling it up, leveling it, then seeding, fertilizing and strawing it. You can learn more about how to do these on our website SEEDING PAGE.  Simple aeration and overseeding will require far less work, time and money but should only be done if your current grade or smoothness of your lawn is acceptable. If you are having a sore back from hitting potholes in your lawn while mowing, you will want to do the total lawn renovation, and level it as best as you can. It will be worth it in the long run. There’s nothing like mowing a nice smooth, lush, green lawn and enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass.

Getting a first class “pro field look” starts after the seeding is done and your new grass comes up. The seeding/establishment part of it only takes a few weeks, the maintenance that you will do from here on will determine what the lawn looks like in the long run. The “pro look” of your lawn will take a few seasons, so don’t give up if it’s not where you would like it to be after your first seeding.

Lush dark green color comes from regular fertilizing and weed control. The fertilizer gives the green, the weed control keeps the junk weeds out which usually have a lighter green color, size and texture. These junk weeds will do more to trash up your lawn than anything else.

You notice light and dark stripes in the professional fields. This is what we call “striping” in the Lawn Care Business. This is done by mowing in alternate directions, and by using a roller behind your mower you can enhance these stripes even more. Some mowers do a great job of striping, while others not so much. You can practice by just mowing in a straight line down your lawn, then turn around and mow straight back up towards the house. You should be able to notice a difference in the color of the two passes.

Lawn Stripes

Lawn Striping done with a Scag Mower

Mowing Fescue tall, at 3″ or taller helps to enhance the striping also, but you can stripe grass even as low as 1″ or less. Golf courses do it at as little as 3/8 of an inch.

Keeping a great looking lawn starts with getting a good stand of grass, of the right type, keeping it fertilized and clean of weeds, proper mowing, keeping it watered when it needs it, and a few other maintenance items you will have to do. Like lime applications, fall leaf removal, aeration and the occasional overseed to thicken it back up.

If you do these things on a regular basis, over the course of a few seasons, you can have a pro-field look. It’s not easy, and you will have some patience and spend a few dollars on maintenance products or hiring someone to do it for you. But if you want that look, that’s what it will take.

Lawn Care is Hard

Lawn Care Is So Hard!

Remember that these pro fields are maintained by a crew of professional grounds keepers with an unlimited budget, with every piece of equipment you could possibly need, provided for them. They have someone managing the team that has been maintaining pro fields for years, sometimes generations, so they know what they are doing. Don’t get discouraged if your efforts don’t produce a Wrigley field in the first season.

Got questions? Drop us an email and we will be happy to help.

Fall: Your Lawn and Landscape Still Needs Water

AS Fall sets in, many homeowners are tired of dealing with all of the plants outside that need watering, the lawn that needs water, flowers, and trees that have taken so much of your time throughout the Summer. But don’t quit just yet!

Tired of watering

Fall is supposed to bring the much-needed rain and cooler temperatures, but as the temps cool off, the rain doesn’t always come. Much of the US is under drought conditions now, many areas are in severe drought and the Fall rains have yet to come. Many plants in our area are showing signs of drought and wilting. If they don’t get any water they will suffer going into dormancy, and may not come out of it next Spring.

Dogwood wilting

So if you’re in an area that allows watering, don’t give up on the watering chores just yet. Many plants are busy storing reserves to help make it through the Winter. Water is needed at the end of the growing season in order for the plants to make their reserves. Keep up the watering through Oct. or until the regular rains come. Your plants will thank you!

How much water is needed is dependent on the type of plant, the size of the plant, if it’s located in the sun or shade, and a few other factors. The basic rule of thumb is to simply keep the planter, pot, or ground moist around it. It doesn’t have to be soaking wet unless you’re just going to soak them once a week and let them dry out. That approach is fine, or you can water a few times a week, just giving enough water to bring the soil back to moist.

How you water is up to you, using a water hose and hand sprayer, a stationary water sprinkler that you have to move periodically, or my best suggestion is to have an automatic sprinkler system. They can be expensive, but so can replacing several plants each year.

For free estimates on sprinkler systems and free lawn and landscape analysis call our office or check our website for more information.

Irrigation system/sprinkler system

An Automatic Irrigation System watering Zoysia

Watering regularly until the plants go dormant this Fall will help them bounce out of dormancy next Spring, and might even keep some of them from dying. Some varieties of plants can be damaged possibly beyond recovery if they are left to the chances of Mother Nature.

Remember how excited you are in Spring when the temps start warming, the flowers start coming out and the grass starts greening up? Keep that thought for a couple more weeks, and remember that what you do for your plants this Fall will pay off next Spring!