Care of your lawn in the fall is as important as in spring and summer. Regular care is the key to an attractive and healthy lawn through the fall and winter months. Here are few things you can do to help your lawn survive the winter and recover vigorously in the spring.
Fertilization — Fall fertilization is the key to prolonging fall color and promoting early spring recovery of the lawn. It helps produce a dense turf that resists winter weeds. Fertilizer used in the fall should be higher in nitrogen and potassium and lower in phosphorus. Grasses fertilized this way have shown greater survival during winter months than those fertilized with high phosphorous.
Watering — When your lawn goes dormant during winter months, it is important to remember the grass is living and needs moisture for survival. During the winter, if it doesn’t rain for several weeks, then the lawn should be irrigated. Irrigation before a hard freeze is helpful in reducing freeze injury to the grass. It takes much colder air temperatures to lower the temperature of a moist soil than that of a dry soil.
In Texas, late September through October is the time to strengthen and prepare your lawn for strong root growth this winter and next spring. After our summer season, your lawn is going to be ready for attention and work in the following three areas: fall diseases, pre-emergence weed control, and feeding.
Fall Diseases — Brown Patch and Take-All Root Rot are two fairly common fungal diseases that affect St. Augustine grasses. With recent rains and high humidity, both could become active once the severe, intense stress your lawn has endured due to the terrible summer heat gives way to milder, wetter weather.
Pre-emergent Herbicide — Fall and winter weeds such as henbit, chickweed, or bluegrass may best be controlled now with a compound such as benefin (Balan), bensulide (Betasan) or isoxaben (Gallery). Read label directions for weeds controlled and rates.
Feeding — In order to “over-winter” lawns/grasses, an even application of a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer now will give a strong “boost” to your spring growth. However, do not overdo! Lush, thick growth is more susceptible to fungal problems now and frost later. Since most fertilizers are “salts”, be sure you water in thoroughly.
Other Fall lawn tips:
- Water during the winter — 1/2 inch/week if rainfall is lacking.
- Aerify new sod — water, food and air must get through that gumbo base!
- Don’t “scalp” your lawn in the fall — mow grass and leave at least 2 inches high.
- Lime lightly, periodically to raise your lawn’s pH as needed.