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Fall Gardening: Preserve your lawn, plant some flowers

Fall is a transitional time of year for Louisiana gardeners. And the LSU AgCenter has a wealth of information to help you keep your landscaping green and blooming year-round.

Make plans for fall planting now
It’s time for fall vegetable gardening

Fall Lawn Care
Lawn care changes as the weather cools. Growth of warm-season grasses like St. Augustine, centipede, bermuda and zoysia begins to slow. But you will still need to mow regularly to maintain proper height. Mowing will help keep many weeds under control. Make sure your mower blades are still sharp.

By mid to late November or December, most warm-season grasses will be completely or partially dormant – although St. Augustine may not go completely dormant during mild South Louisiana winters. This dormancy is important to their ability to survive severe freezes during winter.

For a green lawn all year, you will have to sow ryegrass seed in early October (North Louisiana) or mid October through early November (South Louisiana). Choose a perennial rye for a finer lawn that can withstand cold weather better. Most varieties or blends work well.

Two or three weeks after planting the seed, apply 8 to 12 pounds of a starter-type of fertilizer to each 1,000 square feet of area. Sow about 10 pounds (at least 5 pounds) of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn, and drag or rake into sod. On coarse St. Augustine, sow the 10 pounds for better coverage. For best results, first mow existing lawns a 1/2 inch shorter than usual before seeding. In winter use 3 pounds of ammonium nitrate per 1,000 square feet or a turf fertilizer blend equivalent. Use only as needed (about twice) to maintain desired growth and color.

If you will not be overseeding, be careful with fall fertilizing of warm-season grasses. In October, they may need a little extra potassium (about 1 or 2 pounds of muriate potash per 1,000 square feet) and little or no nitrogen at all.

Stimulating fall growth of our warm-season turf with nitrogen leads to extra disease and winterkill. If you need extra color on fall turf, apply foliar iron spray. Phosphorus is not needed at this time if you are not overseeding. Keep mowing and watering your lawn as needed in the fall. If lime was called for on your fall soil test results, apply it in mid- to late fall or winter.

If you haven’t tested your soil in the past several years, do it now. To test your soil, bring in 1 pint of soil to your county agent’s office. It should be a composite of soil plugs taken from several areas 4 inches deep and mixed together.

Brown Patch Blues
Brown patch disease can come and go all winter if the weather is mild. Brown patch is the disease most common as the weather cools, especially on St. Augustine. This fungus generally is most active in October, November and even early December in South Louisiana, especially during rainy periods.

Areas of grass affected by brown patch can have a yellowish or orange cast that then turns tan or brown. Spread can be rapid. Fortunately, the grass often recovers in the spring, but the disease also can kill the grass. If you decide to treat, fungicides labeled to control lawn diseases are available at your local nursery.

Chinch Bugs Too
Another pest currently active, especially when hot, dry weather lingers into late September and October, is the chinch bug. These ant-sized insects feed by sucking the sap from the grass, causing it to dry out and die. Look closely at the blades of grass in the affected dead areas and see if they look rolled up lengthwise. Because chinch bugs kill the grass, prompt treatment minimizes damage. A variety of lawn insecticides labeled to control chinch bugs are available wherever garden pesticides are sold.

Cool-Season Flowers
Cool season bedding plants make your landscape an exciting and colorful place this fall, winter and especially next spring. Careful bed preparation and thoughtful planning when selecting the plants to grow will help make sure you are pleased with the results of your efforts.

The following bedding plants prefer cool to mild days and chilly to cold nights. Most of these plants are hardy down to at least 20 degrees F, and gardeners in both South and North Louisiana have a good selection to choose from.

Cool-season bedding plants 4-8 inches tall: Sweet alyssum, lobelia,* pansy, Johnny-jump-up, viola, primrose,* cyclamen,* petunia,* dwarf stock, dwarf snapdragon, ornamental kale and cabbage and annual phlox.

Cool-season bedding plants 8-15 inches tall: Medium-sized snapdragons, dwarf toadflax,* candytuft, calendula,* bluebonnet, dianthus, sweet William, dwarf nicotiana,* wallflower and California poppy.

Cool-season bedding plants taller than 15 inches: Iceland poppy, peony-flowered poppy, toadflax,* tall snapdragons, stock, statice, larkspur, delphinium, hollyhock, sweet peas (vine) and nicotiana.*

*These plants are more reliably hardy in South Louisiana.

Cool-season bedding plants easily direct-seeded: Alyssum, Johnny-jump-up, bluebonnet, calendula, annual phlox, nasturtium, sweet peas, larkspur, poppies.

Get It Growing
To keep up with your lawn and garden, you will want to take advantage of the LSU AgCenter’s “Get It Growing” series, which features weekly newspaper columns, 60-second television spots and 60-second radio spots in your local media. All feature horticulturist Dan Gill. If you miss them, you can read, view and hear at the Get It Growing news site.

Horticulture Hints
Every serious gardener needs to read the quarterly newsletter produced by LSU AgCenter experts, “Horticulture Hints.” You can subscribe through your local parish extension office or you can read Horticulture Hints online.

The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, enhancing the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.

Last Updated: 9/14/2012 10:09:04 AM

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