There are a lot of activities for us to do in the fall in our lawns to help our plants make it through winter and to improve their growth for next year. I wanted to take time to cover some of those items on your fall lawncare “to do” list.
It is now time to reseed or overseed your lawns for the fall. This is best done in the late summer or early fall, anytime between late August and the end of September. The rule of thumb is that that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, maturation is speeded by two weeks. If you reseed after September 15 you could still be successful, but you increase your risk of dieback on newly emerged young seedlings in the event of an early frost. If you are a homeowner who wants to sod an area of your lawn, you can do that until they can no longer cut it from the fields.
Overseed with the same type of lawn that is already existing or a mix of Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. When starting a new lawn, either of these would be good choices. Avoid mixes that contain annual ryegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky Bluegrass. Make sure that the grass you buy contains less than 0.3 percent weed seed and No noxious weed seeds. If you prefer, you could also plant Buffalograss in your lawn, but this should be done in June and July.
When establishing new turf, use frequent, light watering practices to get the seed to germinate. Don’t let the seed dry out and don’t let it get too soggy either. As the grass grows, decrease the frequency of watering, but increase the amount of water applied. Don’t drastically change watering practices from newly seeded to established turf watering practices. Don’t apply any herbicides to newly seeded turf until after mowing 3 times on the new turf.
As for fertilizer applications, the fall fertilization is the most important fertilizer application for a lawn. However, fall fertilization recommendations have changed over the past couple of years. For a lawn, a Labor Day to mid-September application of slow release fertilizer is still recommended. Apply a granule with 50% slow release nitrogen or less. If additional nitrogen fertilizer is required later in the fall, use a product with a quick release nitrogen before mid-to late October. We used to recommend Halloween or later for the second fertilizer application and we thought two applications were necessary. New research is showing us that a second application of nitrogen fertilizer may not even be necessary, but if it is, we should move the timing up to more like Columbus Day rather than the typical Halloween time frame. This information is from Bill Kreuser, Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Extension Specialist from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Mowing is always on our minds this time of year as well. Continue mowing through the fall as long as the grass is growing and needs to be mowed. You don’t want to leave long grass blades through the winter as this can smother the grass and lead to snow mold. Also, be sure to rake up leaves that fall on the lawn through the fall as this can also lead to snow mold. You can mow over the leaves with a mulching blade rather than rake them if you prefer.