Summer can be hard on our lawns.  With much of the country suffering from extreme heat and drought conditions this past summer, many lawns took a beating.

Fall is the perfect time to help your lawn recover from the stressors of summer and prepare for winter.  The warm soil and cooler temperatures promote root growth and thickening of the lawn.

Continue to mow the lawn as long as it keeps growing.  Mow high to encourage deep roots and leave clippings on the lawn.  They add nutrients and organic matter to the soil and do not cause thatch.  There’s no need to cut the lawn shorter for winter unless you are in an area subject to winter diseases.

Mow don’t rake those fall leaves.  This will save you time and improve your lawn.  The leaves add organic matter and nutrients to the soil.  As long as you can see the grass leaves through the shredded leaves your lawn will be fine.  Or shred and collect the leaves in your bagger and add them to your compost, dig into annual gardens to improve the soil, or use as mulch around perennials in the garden.

Consider core aeration if your lawn is suffering from compacted soil and thatch.  Core aeration machines remove plugs of soil in the lawn, allowing air and water to reach and nourish the grass roots while promoting the breakdown of the thatch.  Overseed thin lawns after core aerating.  This will enable you to get good seed to soil contact and ultimately enjoy a thicker more lush lawn.

And be sure to fertilize.  Fall fertilization helps lawns recover from summer stress, encourages root growth, thickens your grass stand, and prepares the lawn for winter.  Use a low nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite to encourage slow steady growth and prevent damage to already stressed lawns.  Plus, research has found when microorganisms work on the Milorganite to release the nutrients they also make some of the phosphorous and potassium bound to the soil available to the plants.  The phosphorous is good for root growth and potassium boosts hardiness and disease resistance.

Those in the south growing Bermuda, St Augustine and other warm weather grasses can make their last fertilization about one month before the lawn goes dormant.  That’s about the time of the first killing frost.  Fertilizing later can result in winter damage.

Northern gardeners growing cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass should make one application in early fall and their last application sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving before the ground freezes.

And always sweep any clippings, fertilizer and other debris off walks and drives to prevent them from entering our waterways and eventually our drinking water.


Melinda Myers is a nationally known gardening expert and television and radio host, author and columnist. She can be reached at

Reality Check

911-Driving School offers a three-hour behind the wheel program on a closed course.  Reality check isn’t just for new drivers or mature drivers worried about their driving skills declining.  If you’ve recently purchased a new car and want to take it through its paces to get a feel for how it handles in an emergency, a closed course offers a safe alternative to “real” driving.  (253) 445-0911

ProFormance Racing School

ProFormance offers a wide variety of specialized driving classes and experiences. Want to experience what race car drivers experience?  Get some hands-on training at Pacific Raceways in Kent (previously Seattle International Raceways) with courses offered by ProFormance Racing School.   These classes are expensive.

Join a club

Audi Club, Porsche Club, Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association and the Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts all offer driver schools and safety seminars at Pacific Raceways in Kent. Check out Pacific Raceways website at   BMW CCA Puget Sound offers BMW owners an opportunity to step up their driving skills in a controlled environment.  They also use Pacific Raceways as their venue.

1. Changes in temperature impact tire pressure.  Check your tire’s air pressure at least once a month and keep them inflated to manufacturer’s recomendations (usually printed on the vehicle door placard or owner’s manual).
2. Check the tires tread depth. As rain falls, it mixes with grime and oil on the road creating slick conditions. Driving at a slower pace allows more of the tire’s tread to make contact with the road, which leads to better traction.
3. If your car skids, remember not to slam on the brakes. Apply firm, steady pressure to the brakes and steer the car in the direction of the skid.
4. It takes about three times longer to brake on wet roads than on dry roads. Since more distance is required to brake, it is important to not tailgate. Keep a little more than two car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.
5. Avoid using your brakes. Whenever possible, slow down by taking your foot off the accelerator.
6. Wet-weather driving demands gentle use of all the main controls – steering, clutch, brake and accelerator – and a larger allowance for errors and emergencies. Turn your headlights on, even in a light rain. All motorists should regularly check that their headlights, rear lights, brake lights and turn indicators are working properly.
7. Ninety percent of driving decisions are based on visual input alone. Heavy rain can overload wiper blades, allowing an almost continuous sheet of water to flow over the screen. Inspect your wiper blades and replace them if they are cracked, torn, cut or streaking.  When visibility is so limited that the edges of the road or other vehicles cannot be seen at a safe distance despite your wiper blades, it is time to safely pull over and wait for the rain to ease up. Keep your headlights on and turn on your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers.
8. Cloudy weather reduces visibility. Use extra caution when passing other vehicles.
9. If you have driven through standing water deep enough to get your brake shoes wet, apply the brakes lightly to dry them.
10. Don’t drive while fatigued.  Stop at least every couple of hours or every hundred miles to rest.
11. Before taking a long trip, ensure your car is properly tuned.

-compiled from Goodyear resources

You don’t have to have a terrible disease to have your life as a driver curtailed.  AAA recently announced that nearly 80 percent of drivers 65 and older take regular medication, yet only about half have talked to their doctors about the impact of these medications to their driving was launched to offer to offer assessment tools, expert advice and resources.  It is a 45-minute screening tool on the site that uses short videos and tests to help you assess how aging is impacting your driving.  “Roadwise Rx” allows you to enter your prescriptions to find out how they may impact your driving skills.

AARP is one of several places that offers driver safety classes each month.  For a nominal fee, drivers can take a refresher course and learn about how aging impacts your driving ability and what you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting into an accident.  You can find AARP’s drivers schedule on page 17.