Fall Lawn Care Tips from Scott
Thursday, October 3, 2019
One day we’ll get to enjoy this! But first, there’s work to do.
Technically on Monday we switched season to fall. Although we had a good run at cooler temperatures (they were actually still above normal) we are about to smacked around once again with perhaps the longest stretch of 90 degree weather of the year. Welcome to “Fall” in Cincinnati.
Nevertheless, many backyard heroes still want to try make progress or maintain excellence in their neighborhoods. Guilty as charged, I used to be one of those who spent countless hours trying to turn our previously neglected lawn into something that I would be proud of on my days off. Unfortunately, this year there has not been any down time and my yard has suffered. I’m just lucky to get the lawn mown anymore. So, do as I say and not as I do! Below are some tips to help you the envy of the neighborhood.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the first thing on the list is weather. If you’ve read anything I’ve put out over the past two years, or spoken with me out on the golf course, success and failure hinge largely on what the weather is doing and the actions you take. Now, without going to in-depth, I will try to sum up why Fall is the best time of year for renovation work/improving your yard.
Typically, we enjoy cool nights and warm sunny days during fall. The sun angle is lower in the sky and stress (in a normal year) is very minimal. Although Fall is generally a dryer time of year, we should actually be experiencing timely rainfalls that, with the lower sun angle, tend to allow the moisture to stick around longer. This is perfect for seed germination (getting the seed to start) of cool season Turfgrasses such as Fescues, Bluegrasses, and Ryes.
As I said before, renovation success falls largely on what Mother Nature throws at us. This past September has been very difficult. Temperatures have been at or below average only 3 days this month. The rest have been well above average. Couple that with the excessive dryness we’ve had (only .15” of rain has fallen at TPCC since September 2nd) and success has been difficult. We’ve actually opted to postpone many of our aggressive practices here at TPCC in light of the weather, but time is quickly running out.
Arguably the 2ndmost important factor for success is water. More specifically, your ability to adequately supply enough water, as uniformly as possible, and in a timely manner will have a direct impact on your seeding success.
In general, you would like to be able to apply between .5” of water to your lawn over the course of a week in the Fall. This year, due to the excessive dryness, it wouldn’t hurt to apply even more if you have a number of trees in your yard. If you are trying to establish new seed, more frequent/smaller amounts, are preferred. You do not want your baby grass to dry out at all since its adolescent root system is incapable of hunting for moisture far and wide.
If you do not plan to seed, or renovate, and instead have allowed your lawn to go dormant this past month, you’ll want to begin waking the turf up from dormancy by beginning to water it a little bit. Hopefully, mother nature will take over before the temps plummet, because dormant turfgrasses going into winter are more susceptible to experience winter die back/desiccation if the cold weather moves in quickly.
I’ve already mentioned quite a bit about seeding in the first two points, but it’s appropriate to reiterate the general ideas. If you plan to seed, September is the month (yes, even this September unfortunately). Especially if you plan to use Bluegrasses as they are generally very slow to establish. If you plant to use improved varieties of Fescues/Rye’s, you can sneak in an early October seeding. In general, a good fescue seed will pop in 5-6 days. Quicker if warmer and or wet, a little slower if it is cool and or dry. Again, moisture is key. Regardless of variety, you’ll want to make sure that you are purchasing a quality seed, with a high germination rate, and low weed seed counts. All of this can be found on the grass seed label.
Here at the club, we’re targeting getting our seed out in the next week for our Tall Fescue Roughs and Bentgrasses. If plans align, we will be incorporating the seed while temps are high, but timing emergence in unison with the long range forecast that suggest (for now) closer to normal (but still above) temperatures transitioning. Where we struggle is adequate moisture. Due to the design of our irrigation system, we are unable to get proper amounts of moisture out to the roughs, especially in areas where tree coverage is heavy. When you apply literally a ton of seed, you really want to make sure you aren’t wasting it if Mother Nature doesn’t play nice.
If you haven’t started the process to interseed/renovate, my general recommendation would be to scrap this year. Again, we began this week and are targeting all seed being in the ground by early next week.
There are literally multi-chapter textbooks written about weed control. If you couple that with new products continually being released, you can imagine how big this aspect of turf maintenance is. Instead of going into great detail I will make a few points to help you with this part of your yard. Remember, the definition of a weed is simple: A weed is any unwanted plant. It doesn’t that if it’s a grass it is good, if it broadleaf it is bad in the roughs, Creeping Bentgrass is considered a weed even though our putting greens are primarily bentgrass. In general though, broad leaf weeds, sedges and crabgrass are the commonly referred to weeds in yards. So I will make a few recommendations for those. One thing to remember regardless of what you are trying to treat; you want to make sure your turf is healthy (read green) and ready to handle any herbicides. Even though most selective herbicides that you get over the counter are safe, you can have some ill effects on your grasses if they are stressed out. Finally, I prefer to apply herbicides in liquid form, that way you have much great chance of covering the leaves with herbicide as opposed to a granular form. (Most granulars ask you to apply on wet turf for this reason).
The best time to tackle broadleaf weeds is the fall, by far. If you can time it around the first frost even better! Most plants stop focusing on top growth once they experience their first frost and instead start placing energy into their root systems. As you can imagine, this is very beneficial if you’ve applied a weed killer because more than likely, that weed killer is going to go down to the roots and give you a much more effective kill. Now as you can imagine, there are many different combinations of chemicals for the multitude of species seen in our yards. It’s best to take a sample of the weed you are looking to your local garden store for them to make a recommendation. Mind you, I said garden store and not big box store (of the blue and orange variety). Although you may get lucky and get a qualified individual to help you out at a Lowe’s or Home Depot (I worked a 2ndjob when I first got into the business after college) your chances of getting someone who knows what they are talking about are slim. Local garden centers such as Bards on Beechmont, Ed’s Feed and Seed in Symmes, and Burger down in Newtown, will most likely have someone on staff to point you in the right direction and give you the proper information you need to know as well as provide you the right chemical.
Now is a great time to attack Nutsedges in your yard. Earlier this year when we were experiencing deluge after deluge, the nutsedge blew up. If you haven’t been on top of your game, now would be a great time to tackle them before they go dormant over winter. We treated an absurd 20+ acres of Nutsedge this year in our roughs and fairways and look to do one more app to the pesky patches before too long.
Crabgrass/Goosegrass has had another steller year to invade everyones property. This is directly linked to the amount of precipitation we experienced this Spring. By far, the most effective treatment method for these grasses are pre-emergent applications made at the beginning of the season. You must monitor the weather as you go because, similar to this year, repeat applications may (and usually are lately) warranted. At the course, we went out in April with a Pendemethalin application, but due to the excessive moisture we decided to reapply a different chemistry (Dithiopry) to try to and keep the weeds at bay. This worked well, but as you can imagine, the extremes allowed some breakthrough to occur.
If you have seen some breakthrough, now is not the time to treat for these weeds. This is best done in July/August before the plants get big and produce seed. The damage has already been done this year. Concentrate on a stronger pre-emergent program for next year. Any post emergent applications will be a waste as these plants will die with our first frost.
Again, any recommendations should be made at your local gardening store, extension agent, or any other expert with proper horiticulture education. Perhaps, your superintendent would even be able to give recommendations. ;) It should also be noted that if you have freshly emerged baby grass, herbicides can have a tendency to wipe those bad boys out. This makes it difficult to interseed and treat for broadleaf weeds and if primarily the main driver why most of our herbicide applications are made in the Spring/Summer.
Do not skimp on your fertilizer applications in the fall. As you may have guessed, these applications are the most important. Giving the plants nutrients now allows them to work on storing all that goodness into the root system to build better roots going into the winter. If you feed in the late spring with a slow release poly coated fertilizer, you can get away with a single fall application however most university recommendations insist on making 3 fertilizer applications. One application in the spring, another around now (this is the most important) and a follow up application in late October/November. If you have seeded, you will want the middle and last number to be higher (usually called a starter fertilizer). Iron (Fe) is also a great mineral to have in this application as it gives a really nice dark green look.
Really, this Fall, I would advise against aerification. Simply put, the ground is so dry and hard right now, you aren’t going to effectively get a good depth on your aerification (unless you’ve been able to water properly). Additionally, these practices inhibit a great deal of stress on the plants, and right now, everything is limping along until cooler weather arrives. It most certainly can be done, but you absolutely need to be on top of your game with water and babying the turf until the weather breaks. We have opted to postpone and or modify our original plans for roughs, fairways, and tees for this very reason this year. Open holes and mid-90 temps are not a very good combination. You can certainly postpone your aeration to a later date, but realize that the microbial activity that breaks down the thatch quickly slows down once temperatures fall.
I know that this blog post is rather dry (pun intended) and lacking a lot of pizazz. But there is a lot of information to dispense, and hopefully I’ve done a good job making it palatable. Besides, nothing has more flash and flare than being the envy of the neighborhood.
P.S. Please pray for fall to arrive in earnest so that we all may enjoy some actual fall golf.
Kelly Cocanougher, 10/3/2019 1:54:14 PM EST