Thomas J. Koske | 4/19/2005 10:28:33 PM
People look forward to the fall for a variety of reasons. "And one of those is the idea that the lawn stops growing," quips LSU Agricultural Center horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
That idea basically is true, but the horticulturist reminds homeowners, "We still have about a month of moderate growth until frost and, during that time, the turf is preparing for winter dormancy."
Koske says October is the time to slow down growth of lawns and toughen them up to get them ready for dormancy. He notes that if you don't have a lawn established by now, you won't have one this year – unless you sod it or plant a cool-season type of grass seed for winter cover.
Several practices are important for this transitional time. A combination of the wrong practices and a cold winter will probably mean death to much of your lawn by next spring, so consider the following suggestions.
Continue mowing on a regular basis with a reasonably sharp blade. Don't remove more than the top one-third of the grass shoot to avoid the shock of scalping, and don't let falling leaves smother your grass. Raise the mower one notch for the last two cuts to get more turf foliage and deeper roots.
Irrigate to a greater extent than you did last spring, but only if necessary, Koske says, explaining most of the quality current growth and deepening of roots will come from good soil moisture and proper mowing. Deep roots will ensure a better spring regrowth.
If you fertilized properly this past season, no extra fertilizer is necessary now. But if you fertilized only in the spring or used a lot of nitrogen, a special light fertilizing with muriate of potash fertilizer can strengthen a weak lawn now by adding potassium.
"Avoid high fertility now, especially high levels of nitrogen," Koske says.
The horticulturist says a blended winterizing fertilizer is one with a lower first number and higher third number in its analysis, such as 8-8-25. Even this has more nitrogen than you dare risk in October. The extra potassium is good, but any extra N this late usually means more brown patch disease.
If you have fertilized continually with a high nitrogen fertilizer or applied only nitrogen this season, then 2 pounds of muriate of potash per 1,000 square feet is all that's needed to winterize, Koske says. For added fall greening, spray a chelated iron as a foliar feed.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.