Shorter days, cool nights and timely rains signal the end of summer and the beginning of a fall lawn-care program.
Current conditions are perfect for new growth in cool-season lawns. The fall-growth period is important because grass can repair damage done by summer weather and accumulate food reserves crucial for winter survival. Unfortunately, this growth cycle cannot proceed without soil moisture and sufficient amounts of plant nutrients.
Here are a few tips to help fall lawn-care programs up and growing.
- Stimulate new growth by keeping the lawn well watered. Thankfully, Mother Nature has helped in this department. Nonetheless, should the fall rains turn off, it is best to continue to supply lawns with the recommended one inch of water as needed, especially if you have over-seeded.
- Apply fertilizer. Nitrogen is especially important this time of year. It helps grass produce new leaves that manufacture energy used 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 a lawn, use fertilizers developed specifically for turfgrass. These fertilizers contain a greater amount of nitrogen in relation to phosphorus and potassium. The percent nitrogen is the first number of the three number analysis on the bag. Phosphorus and potassium are the other two nutrients reported respectively. To determine how much fertilize should be applied, divide 100 by the first number or the percent nitrogen in the bag. The answer is how many pounds of the fertilizer you should apply to 1,000 square feet of lawn. For more information on fall fertilization, contact my office for a free brochure full of handy tips and an easy-to-use fertilizer calculator.
- Mow the grass high. Research has found the higher the grass is mowed, the deeper the root system will grow. This means a tougher, more healthy stand of grass. For best results, mow the lawn at least 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall. Mow regularly and only remove one-third of the height at a time. To mow the grass at 3 inches, wait until it has grown to be 4 inches.
- Core aerate. Core aeration is the most overlooked practice for most lawns and makes a greener, healthier lawn. By removing cores of soil, you can relieve compaction, hasten thatch decomposition, and improve water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil. When using an aerator, make enough passes so the holes are 2 to 3 inches apart and are 2 to 3 inches deep. Turned-up cores can be left on the lawn to decompose naturally, or they can be broken up with a lawn mower set low enough to nick the cores and then dragged with a section of chain-link fence or a steel doormat. This creates a mixture of soil and thatch that is good for the roots.