Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Lawn Care by M J Lechner

It's only a matter of time before Jack Frost will be nipping at our noses and the woes of mowing and weeding will be distant memories....but wait! Before you hang up your garden hose, let's get down to 'grass tacks' and get your lawn prepped for fall.

**The first step in fall lawn care is to aerate. Aeration breaks up our Colorado clay soils and allows for moisture, fertilizer and grass seeds to settle in. Renting an aerator from a local nursery is one idea, but there are lots of companies willing to do this tiresome chore for you.
**Fall is the best time of year to fertilize Colorado's lawns. Promotions about "lawn winterization" may sound daunting, but there's nothing scary about it. Simply fertilize with nitrogen sometime during late September to early November along the Front Range, and earlier in the mountains.

Apply at least one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Remember that turf must be green when nitrogen is applied. Also, make sure that the soil is moist so the nitrogen will dissolve easily. If not, irrigate and wait a day before fertilizing. Fertilizer applied to very dry, cold soil or to dormant turf won't be used efficiently. While nitrogen is the most important nutrient, there is no harm if fertilizers also contain some phosphorous or potassium.
The benefits of fall fertilizing include a healthier turf before winter, a healthier root system, and stimulating a turf that greens up earlier in the spring without excessive top growth. Fall fertilization produces dense, green spring lawns without the mowing chores that come with spring fertilization. It should be a part of every good lawn care program.

**Large-leaf weeds and any weeds that are in flower are eyesores. They should be pulled or destroyed before they go to seed, or they will become an increasing nuisance. Occasional weeds here and there can be pulled by hand or with a weed puller. Heavy infestations probably are removed most easily with the help of an all-purpose lawn weed killer.

**Fall grass seed planting is an excellent way to fill in the bare spots in your lawn. Typically, fall weather has an ideal about of rain fall and temperatures for grass seed germination. You have two options for fall grass seed planting. You can plant the seeds in September and the grass will germinate and establish this year, or you can plant the seeds after this, and they will stay dormant for the winter and germinate in early spring, when the conditions are ideal as well. The bonus of a late fall grass seed planting is that many of the local birds will have left by then, making the seed less vulnerable to them. Over-seeding after aeration provides the perfect nursery pockets for the new grass seeds. Then the winter rain or snow will quickly cover it up until spring.

**Don't mow turf shorter in late fall. Leaving turf a bit longer helps to keep it healthy over the long cold winter months. Finally, adjust sprinklers for fall watering; with the cooler days, the lawn needs less water, so to quote the Denver Water Board, "use only what you need!" Your lawn will thank you next spring by greening up early and staying healthy all season long.

For additional information about lawn care, call the Jefferson County CSU Extension at 303-271-6620.