Fall Lawn Prep
PREPARE YOUR LAWN NOW TO SURVIVE THE WINTER AND REVIVE HEALTHIER NEXT SPRING
We spoke with veteran turf manager Ed Persons about the steps golf courses take in the fall to prepare for winter and what he's doing at his home.
"What we do before winter will have the biggest impact on our turf next spring."
"Our goal is to make sure our grass finishes this year strong, survives the winter, and revives even healthier next spring. We’re shooting for thick, healthy, low maintenance grass that prevents weeds and disease from creeping in, requires less water and fertilizers, and gives a beautiful playing surface. To achieve this, we make sure the grass is getting the right nutrients, enough water, and the roots grow as deep and strong as possible before the first frost."
WEED & FEED
For our cool-season grass, we’re applying our last weed and feed right now--about 6 weeks before our first frost. We'll avoid applying fertilizers when it’s too hot out, which can really stress out already stressed grass. Put down slow-release 24-0-10 to give the roots an extra boost of nitrogen and potassium for root growth, protection from freezing and disease, and to bounce back in the spring.
We’ll keep watering about 1” per week through the middle of October and really soak in with less frequent but longer watering--2-3 times per week for up to an hour. This makes the roots reach deeper.
Our course has a variety of grass types and lengths, but homeowners will want to be sure to not mow their lawn too short since the root depth is proportional to the grass blade length and shorter grass requires more water and is more susceptible to weeds and disease. About 2.5-3 inches is best, and be sure to not cut more than the top 1/3.
Fall is the best time to overseed to fill in bare areas since the ground is still warm and days and nights are cooler. Be sure to get the seeds worked into the soil and keep the areas moist until the seeds germinate. Check with your local garden center for the best resilient, drought-resistant grass to use.
It's best to mulch fallen leaves to return nutrients to the soil, but if that's not possible, be sure to not leave the leaves piled up on the lawn. Thick leaves trap moisture and will cause matted grass susceptible to disease.
Fall is the best time to aerate to increase absorption and percolation. For heavy traffic areas, we still do core aeration, but since we have such terribly alkaline soil and hard water, we’ll also put down two or three more applications of Eximo (exiGrow).
FALL & WINTER LAWN CARE FOR WARMER AREAS
Warm-season grasses require slightly different care
Southern areas typically have warm-season grasses like St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, and Bahia that require different care from their cool-season cousins. The peak growth season for these grasses is during the hot, dry summer, and they may go dormant over winter.
- You can cut back on watering especially as rains increase but continue with about 1" per week.
- When nighttime temperatures reach about 70°, put down pre-emergent herbicides before winter weeds germinate, and spot treat existing weeds with targeted post-emergent herbicides.
- For some added green color over winter, overseed with perennial ryegrass. Be sure to keep the seeded areas consistently moist.
- Continue mowing until the grass stops growing, but you can cut slightly lower.
- For fertilizers, we always recommend getting a soil test to determine your specific nutritional needs and/or check with your local garden center or extension office for fertilizer mix and timing. Generally, you'll want to apply more potassium for sturdier roots, and cut back on nitrogen especially within 6 weeks of your first frost.
- Mulch fallen leaves to return nutrients to the soil to improve air flow and reduce disease risks.