For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
Saturday, October 22, 2005 By
Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist
Now that the days have shortened, it is time to fertilize the lawn. Look for a “winterizer” formula and apply about one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet. The instructions on the bag will tell you which setting to use on your fertilizer spreader. If it doesn’t, use the second most restrictive setting.
This time of the year lawns have quit growing at the high rate they did during spring and summer. The fertilizer you apply now will be used to cope with cold weather and will be stored so the lawn can green up quickly next spring. Some horticulturists believe the fall fertilization is the most important of the year for overall lawn health.
It is time to drastically reduce lawn watering. There are two main reasons to cut back. The first reason is that the lawn does not need it. Temperatures have cooled, we had rain, and growth rate is reduced. Irrigation now increases your water bill, but does not contribute to lawn performance. The lawn will not be greener, thicker or grow faster. The second reason to stop watering is that we are into the fungus season. An over watered lawn is very susceptible to brown patch. Brown patch is the disease that kills round areas in the lawn. The disease starts at low spots (usually the soggiest point in the lawn) and spreads as long as there is enough moisture and the weather stays mild. As the disease progresses, the middle of the round brown areas may begin to repair. Some green blades will emerge so the infection area looks like a donut. The hole in the center is formed by the grass returning. A fungicide like F-Stop, Turfcide, or Fungaway will stop the spread of brown patch, but the best treatment is prevention. The most effective way to prevent the disease is to stop watering the lawn.
With the cool weather, the summer weeds will decline and the winter weeds will be germinating. It is not too late to prevent most winter weeds by applying a pre-emergent herbicide like Amaze, Balan, XL, or Betasan as quickly as possible. Read the label to see which weeds are targeted. Dandelions, bedstraw, henbit, thistle, annual bluegrass, and rescue grass are the winter weeds I see in my yard.
The crabgrass, and other summer annual weeds will die no matter what you do, so in most cases it does not make sense to waste a herbicide on them. The exceptions may be perennials like Bermuda grass and nutshedge. They are particularly susceptible to contact herbicides over the next month. Use Round-up or a grass killer (Vantage, Grass-be-Gone, Over the Top, Fusilade and others) for Bermuda grass. For nutshedge, use Image or Manage. Kill these weeds now and they will be less of a problem next spring.
There are several garden events today. I will be at the Mitchell Lake Fall Festival and Wildlife Plant Sale. We will be providing a free blooming xeriscape plant for the first 800 individuals over 14 that attend. The Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is near the Police Academy. Take the Moursund Blvd., exit off of 410 South, and proceed ¼ mile South to the entrance. The event is a fundraiser for the Wildlife Refuge. There will be tours, hayrides, Karger’s Last Chance Forever, and lectures in addition to the plant sale. As of the writing of this article a large flock of white pelicans were resting at the refuge along with many ducks and shorebirds. For more information on the Refuge, visit plantanswers.com, or better yet, come see it today.