By Susan Albert
Residential lawns serve as outdoor playrooms, backdrops for ornamentals, and prevent soil erosion and water runoff. Keeping a soft, green canopy takes a bit of work but mostly boils down to healthy practices such as watering deeply and less often, fertilizing at the proper time, and removing only one-third the blade height when mowing.
Here are some tips to ensure the lawn survives cold temperatures and rebounds in spring.
- Apply the final fertilizer of the season on warm-season grasses. In Oklahoma that typically is before September 15. In Texas it varies depending on where you live, but generally apply the last nitrogen treatment no later than six weeks before the expected autumn frost date.
This last nutrient explosion can increase the density of the grass, which helps deter the growth of weeds.
- Apply cool-season lawn fertilizers during October and December in Oklahoma. In Texas apply a complete fertilizer to a fescue lawn in September.
- To reduce the number of winter annual weeds, such as henbit and deadnettle, apply a preemergent pesticide in fall, which prevents germination of weed seeds. In Oklahoma apply by the second week in September using a lawn spreader. Always read and follow label instructions.
These weeds make their grand appearance in early spring, filling the lawn with purple flowers. While I don’t mind the low-growing weeds so much, it’s the dandelion seed heads I abhor.
You can control dandelions, a broadleaf perennial weed, with a postemergent when weeds grow in the fall. Always read and follow label directions. I do let a few dandelions go in the spring because they serve as early nectar sources for pollinators.
- Fall is the best time to seed a cool-season lawn such as fescue or bluegrass.
- Late fall is a good time to perform a soil test and make any adjustments. From established turfgrass collect about 10 cores at 3 to 4 inches deep. Combine in a container and take one pint to your nearest county extension office for analysis.
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