Monday, September 22, 2008

Turf - Fall Maintenance Activities

The following are some fall maintenance activities to consider in turf.

Fall fertilization

The benefits of any Labor Day fertilizer applications are certainly being felt now, but if you haven’t applied a fertilizer and are still interested in giving the turfgrass a boost, fall is definitely a great time to fertilize. A fertilizer application in the fall will allow the turf to recover from any summer maladies and will help the turfgrass store carbohydrates that will be used next spring to initiate growth.

Fall broadleaf weed control

Fall is the ideal time to control broadleaf weeds because the weeds are storing carbohydrates in their root system and are more susceptible to herbicide applications. So if your turf has been overtaken by a bevy of broadleaf weeds, applying a herbicide now will make a difference in what you battle next year. Apply the herbicides on a sunny day when rain is not in the forecast for 24 hours. We want the herbicides to dry on the leaf surfaces and not be immediately washed off. We have had enough rain to ensure the turfgrass and weeds are actively growing right now, which is important to ensure the herbicides will be taken up and transported within the weeds. There are many different herbicides that could be used including the most common three-way broadleaf weed control mixtures. The greatest shortcoming of killing broadleaf weeds at this time of year is that you really don’t get to watch them die. In many cases you may not see the obliteration of these weeds this fall,but next year they won’t be there or you will have at least reduced their numbers.

Fall seeding

If you’re going to reseed an area,now is the time to get going. The ideal seeding window in Delaware is during the month of September.

Core aeration

Another fall turf activity is core aeration. Core aeration improves soil aeration (oxygen which roots need to grow), relieves compaction, and removes organic matter. You can follow core aeration with overseeding to thicken up thin areas.

Mulching leaves

If you look closely you can already see some leaves changing which means we’ll soon see leaves falling. If you haven’t tried to mulch leaves back into the turf maybe this is the year you start. Here’s what you need to know to successfully mow leaves into the turf. First of all make sure your mower has a sharp blade, after a long season of mowing the blades may be dull at this time of year and trying to chop up leaves will be more challenging with a dull blade. Second, raise the mower as high as it will go and mow at your normal speed, don’t “rev” the throttle to the high jackrabbit setting and blaze around the yard. Try to mow the leaves when they are moist from the morning dew, but don’t mow them when they’re really wet. This will prevent the leaves from blowing all over the place and will help with your allergies. Finally, don’t let the leaves pile up too high before you mow, too high would probably be greater than three to four inches of leaf depth on the turf. Mulching leaves helps the turf by returning nutrients and organic matter which can be especially beneficial on poor soils.

Adapted from "Autumn turf tips" by Kevin Frank, Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University in the September 19, 2008 MSU Landscape Alert Newsletter.

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