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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Fall Lawn Care

Posted by John Fulton -

The time of year has arrived to put that final push on to prepare your lawn for the upcoming winter months. What you do now will have a big impact on how your lawn will look next spring.

Keep mowing when the grass or weeds dictate mowing. The rule of thumb is to remove no more than a third of the leaf blade at any one time. This means that if your desired mowing height is 2 inches, you should be mowing when the grass gets 3 inches tall. With the recent dry, hot weather mowing frequency has slowed down greatly.

Seeding of grass should be accomplished by September 10. This is a tried and true date, but the end of the world won't come about if you are a week later. The goal is to give the seed

enough time to germinate and become established before bad weather arrives. Seed at the rate of four pounds of seed per 1000 square feet on bare spots, or half that rate on overseedings. Extremely large seeding jobs, such as farm home sites, may cut the rate down to a pound per square foot due to cost. It is recommended for most to use a blend of Kentucky bluegrass, a fine fescue (red or chewings), and perennial ryegrass. Everybody likes a good bluegrass turf, fine fescue thrives in shaded, dry conditions, and the perennial ryegrass will provide quick cover. It can take up to a month to get bluegrass seed germinated. Generally, the more you spend on seed, the newer varieties you are purchasing. This will also usually relate to the best disease resistance. Make sure it is a turf mixture, and not one for forages. There is some danger in seeding when soils are so dry, as a light rain might germinate seed, while there isn't sufficient moisture to sustain the new seedling plants.

If you have a compacted yard, or have a deep thatch layer, now is also an ideal time to dethatch or aerate. Thatch layers should not be over 1/2 inch deep for optimum growing conditions. When aerating, make sure you use a core type aerator. Removing thatch is a big job, and will produce a large quantity of material. Be prepared!

Fall fertilization is also a good practice. If you haven't fertilized in the last month, consider applying a fertilizer treatment now. Use about 8 pounds of 13?13?13 fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn. Try to avoid the high nitrogen fertilizers this late in the year. It's hard enough to keep up with the mowing as it is, and nitrogen promotes top growth. The even analysis fertilizers will also promote root growth, which is what we want going into the late fall and winter. A fertilization around the first of the month for each of September, October, and November will really thicken up lawns. This type of program will also help fill spots where crabgrass was, and will help crowd into areas where warm season grasses such as zoysia and nimblewill were.

Crabgrass and other annuals grass weeds can be seen about everywhere. They will die with the first frost, so treatment is not available or recommended in the fall. Make a note of where these grasses are, and an overseeding to thicken up the grasses you want there may help crowd out the annuals.

Last, but not least, is broadleaf weed control. Fall is a particularly good time to treat problem perennial weeds since they are sending food down to the roots to overwinter. A spray

about the 3rd or 4th week of September (making sure to use the appropriate product) can do a world of good on the perennial weeds. Remember to be very careful with herbicides around perennial plants since they are also getting ready to overwinter.

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