With the arrival of cooler weather and much needed rain, it's finally time to start helping our cool season lawns recover from the drought and excessive heat.
Cool weather is the stimulus for new growth in cool season lawns in the fall. The fall growth period is important because grass can repair damage done by summer weather. It is also a time when the grass plants begin to accumulate food reserves crucial for winter survival. Unfortunately, this fall growth cycle cannot proceed without adequate soil moisture and sufficient amounts of plant nutrients.
With this in mind, hear are a few tips to help your lawn achieve its full potential.
First, stimulate new growth by thoroughly irrigating the lawn as soon as daytime temperatures consistently stay below 90 F.
Thankfully, Mother Nature has greatly helped in this department. None the less, should the fall rains turn off, it is best to continue to supply our lawns with the recommended 1 inch of water as needed especially if you have overseeded.
Next, apply fertilizer.
Nitrogen is especially important this time of year because it helps grass produce new leaves. Only with new leaf tissue can the plants manufacture the energy necessary for crown building, root development and food storage. The stronger and healthier the grass is this fall, the greater chances of survival this winter.
When fertilizing your lawn, use a fertilizer designed for turf grass. Turf grass fertilizers contain a greater amount of nitrogen in relation to phosphorus and potassium. The percentage of nitrogen is the first number of the three number analysis on a bag of fertilizer. Phosphorus and potassium are the other two nutrients reported, respectively.
To determine how much fertilize you should apply, divide 100 by the first number or the percent nitrogen in the bag. The answer you get is how many pounds of the fertilizer you should apply to 1,000 square feet of lawn. Thoroughly irrigate the lawn, if rain isn't expected soon.
Finally, mow the grass high.
Research has found that the higher the grass is mowed, the deeper the root system will grow. This means a tougher, healthier stand of grass. For best results, mow the lawn at least 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall. Mow regularly and only remove no more than one-third of the grass' height. This is called the one-third rule. This may mean mowing every four or five days this time of year.
A healthy, green lawn is the pride of every homeowner. The key to success is knowing when to work at it and when to relax. Fall is traditionally the best time to take care of the lawn to help build food reserves for a long winter nap.
Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more gardening information, call the Master Gardener Hotline, 843-7058, between 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday or Friday.