Fall Lawncare Can Improve Spring, Summer Turfgrass

Homeowners can prepare their lawns for winter dormancy and set turfgrasses up for a good spring and summer now.  Lawns are about to enter dormancy throughout much of the state, and a few fall maintenance measures will set grass up for a strong spring reemergence next year.  Most years we’d already be behind by this point, but while the timeframe is closing you can still prepare now.

So, what can you do now?  In short – Fertilize, Stop Irrigation and Control Weeds.

By fertilizing now you are providing your turf with sufficient nutrients and resources to prepare for dormancy and reemergence next spring.  Both nitrogen and potassium can be beneficial when applied in the late-summer and early fall.  Generally, AgriLife Extension recommends the absolute latest fall fertilizer application should be made six weeks before the location’s historic first-frost date.  Much of the state does not need to apply any nitrogen-based fertilizers past September.  Keep in mind there can be consequences of applying too much nitrogen too late in the fall, including extended vegetative growth and ultimately winter kill, and it can also promote weeds and disease

Fall is a time when homeowners should put an end to automated irrigation.  Grass needs far less water as it nears dormancy. TAMU Specialists state that if you water at all, just do so based on visible wilt until growth is suspended, then, if there is no active growth or grasses go dormant, you should stop watering completely.  This season has been warmer and drier than usual, so it all depends on your location and conditions.  Suspension of watering is typical between October and April.

 Next is information on weeds.  Fall is when many of our winter weeds such as lawn burweed or annual bluegrass will start to emerge, and it is not too late to take preventative action by making a fall preemergence herbicide application.  Preemergence herbicides to combat winter annuals like lawn burweed can be applied now.  Typically, one wants to apply when soil temperatures reach approximately 70 degrees, which is often around the time when you have four to five consecutive days of 60-65-degree nighttime temperatures consistently.  If you haven’t gotten your preemergent out yet this year, there may still be time as we had one of the hottest and driest Septembers on record.  When selecting an herbicide, chose one exclusively for this purpose; and with all chemicals read and follow the product labels.

Now to insects and diseases.  While most people consider the problems of fall armyworms to be a forage issue in fields, these caterpillars can and will affect lawns as well.  Watch for them until the first frost and call the extension office if you want more information on how to control if you discover an infestation.  As temperatures begin to drop in the fall, select turfgrass diseases will become more active. Many practices already discussed here, including reduced irrigation and nitrogen-based fertilization in the fall, will help prevent disease problems.  Other important cultural practices, including improving drainage as-needed, annual tree pruning to increase filtered light and mowing at an appropriate height, can reduce disease risks.  Diseases will often proliferate in areas where some sort of stress is already occurring either from shade, poor drainage or scalping from mowing too low. Chemical prevention is also an option where homeowners have had historic issues with diseases such as large patch and take-all root rot.

If you have more questions on these subjects, please contact Chelsea Dorward at the Bosque County Extension Office my emailing Chelsea.dorward@ag.tamu.edu or calling 254-435-2331.

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