The Roundup -

By Tim Fine 

Fall Lawn Care

 

If you are like me, you are looking forward to putting the mower and the weed-eater in the storage shed about now. While we are rapidly approaching the time to put the mower away, I would not go as far as to say that lawn care is finished for the year. There are still a few things that can be done to make sure that, in the spring of 2017, your lawn will get off to a good start.

The first and most important thing to help your lawn along is a good fall fertilization. A good rule of thumb when it comes to fertilizing the lawn is to apply 2-4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. If you have not applied any fertilizer to your lawn yet, that is quite alright as fall is really the optimum time to do this. Generally, the recommendation is to spread these applications out, one around Memorial Day, one around Labor Day, and one around Columbus Day, but the last two applications are far more critical for a healthy lawn than the first. The reason is that a good fall fertilization encourages root growth and helps store energy reserves in the root system, thus allowing a good source of energy to get the plant started next spring.

One minor drawback to fall fertilization is that, if done too early before the first frost, this can encourage the grass to grow longer blades. Although this is not a major problem as far as the plant is concerned, it can help encourage snow mold to develop on the grass over the winter. This was a problem that we saw quite a bit of in years past but, it is not a disease that usually kills the grass. In my opinion, the benefits of the fall fertilization far outweigh the risks associated with snow mold.

While fall fertilization will give you the most benefit, there are a few other things you can do to the lawn this fall that you will see benefits from next spring. As weeds in the lawn continue to grow, especially dandelions, fall is a great time to spray the lawn to gain control of these weeds. A product like 2-4,D can be applied to the lawn to control broadleaf weeds and will not harm the grass growing in the lawn. When trying to control weeds, just keep in mind that the plant must be growing in order for it to absorb the spray that you are applying to it.

If needed, fall is a good time to aerate your lawn as well. Aeration involves running a machine over the lawn that pulls plugs of grass and soil out of it. Aerators that are hollow-tined and actually pull the plugs out are of much more benefit than aerators that are solid spikes that "poke holes" into the turf. The goal of aerating a lawn is to alleviate compaction and by just poking holes in the turf you are actually creating more compaction. Optimally, aeration should be done in late August or early September, so there is a bit of a risk associated with doing it now, but it can still be done.

Finally, your lawn will certainly benefit from a really good soaking. If you have not been watering your lawn all summer and think it is dead, there is a good chance that it just went dormant and did not necessarily die. A good, deep watering will be crucial if you are going to fertilize this fall if we do not get any rain soon.

If you have questions about any of the practices mentioned above, feel free to give me a call at 406-433-1206, or send an email to timothy.fine@montana.edu.

 

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