Cooler weather should bring an end to your lawn maintenance chores, but you may still be dealing with disease problems and the never-ending weed issues.
While you’ll soon be stopping all mowing of your lawn, there are still some chores to do that will ensure a good transition of your lawn into winter months and a stronger, weed-free and disease-resistant lawn next spring.
You can (and probably should) treat for spring weeds now, in the fall, especially if you have continuously dealt with heavy weed problems each spring. One of the more difficult ones I have heard folks complain about recently is Virginia Buttonweed. This creeping perennial lays low, making knotted stems and a white flower that appears at this time of year. Truly, it is difficult to control.
Treatment needs to begin with a stout plan. While some “weed and feed” products work, go for something with Atrazine. There are lots of products on the shelves at lots of stores that contain this active ingredient. It is safe to use on our most common turf grass, St. Augustine. Only use a 2,4-D product or something even more stout such as MSM (available at many feed stores) if you have a Bermuda lawn.
The cooler weather also allows many fungal diseases to flourish. Fungal diseases get their start in the spring, struggle in the summer and then run amok in the fall. If you have a full-blown problem, I recommend a product called F-Stop.
To prevent fungal disease problems in your yard, quit spoiling it.You spoil your lawn when you over-fertilize and over-water. Spoiled lawns are like spoiled kids: They are set up for problems in their future. Steps to take to avoid this are to water lawns only once, maybe twice, each week as is needed.
Pay attention to rainfall and the moisture in your soil. When you do water, water deeply to encourage deeper roots. Then you can allow the top inch of soil to dry out with moisture available further down in the ground. Letting the top of the soil get dry will greatly hamper fungal problems.
I’ve had several folks ask if they should water during the winter months. While it’s true that your lawn and shrubs and other perennials need moisture year-round, our climate typically provides enough moisture throughout winter so we do not have to water.
Fall fertilizer applications are a good idea, generally speaking. That said, I venture that most fall applications are done too late with the wrong kind of fertilizer. Consider that in less than 60 days, we have better than a 50% chance of having our first frost. Giving your lawn a good dose of “wake up and grow” fertilizer when it’s getting ready for a winter slumber doesn’t make much sense.
Yes, a fall application in September would have made sense. Or simply using a fertilizer high in phosphorous or potassium would be good if needed. But do not give a heavy dose of a nitrogen fertilizer (the first number on the bag).
If you have a Bermuda lawn, feel free to give it 2-3 pounds of 0-0-60 per 1,000 square feet. That straight potash fertilizer applied in the fall is a secret of good hay growers. Bermuda grass loves potash (another name for potassium) and it won’t stimulate vegetative growth or cause fungal problems.
If you need to add lime, add it to your lawn now. Lime helps to neutralize the pH in our commonly acidic soils. Lime isn’t really a fertilizer although it does contain calcium, a secondary nutrient for plants. Lime’s purpose is to change the pH and provide a better environment for the plants to grow. One of its better attributes is that it allows nutrients to be more available.
It is no simple feat to understand how the complex environment of soil works. Suffice it to say that fertilizer applied to a very acidic soil may never be completely available to the plants it was intended to feed. In the chemistry of soils, some nutrients are much more available in a more neutral pH environment.
Does everyone need to lime? Not at all. Who does? I don’t have a clue. But with $15 spent on a soil test, anyone and everyone can find out exactly how much lime and fertilizer they’ll need to apply. Look up “SFA soils lab” or “Texas A&M soil testing” on your computer’s search engine and download the form you’ll need. Some feed stores have soil testing forms or, if you’re near Lufkin and want to pick one up, our office is next the Angelina County Farmers Market.
Though goblins, ghouls and witches may still be around later in October, the problems that frighten those with a nice lawn can be greatly eliminated with the proper methods.