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Fall is the perfect time to recover a water-deprived lawn

by Timothy Daly

Fall days and cooler temperatures may be right around the corner, but our hot and dry summer has likely left your lawn needing some extra care in the weeks ahead.

During long dry spells, turf grasses will often go dormant above ground, but the roots will still be growing. When adequate rainfall occurs or supplemental moisture is applied, the turf greens up. However, our prolonged dry spell has weakened the turf grass, making them more susceptible to cold weather damage and other maladies.

Restore fescue lawns

Fescue lawns don”t tolerate drought conditions well, and fall is the best time to re-seed and renovate. Begin by having the soil tested for pH and vital plant nutrients through the Gwinnett County Extension office for a small fee.

In existing fescue lawns, spray a selective broadleaf herbicide to remove weeds. Apply fertilizer based on tests. Normally the turf will need an application of 16-4-8 fertilizer per 1000 square feet during the fall. In November, apply a fertilizer high in potassium. The ground should be aerated with a core aerator before seeding.

If an established fescue lawn has not been aerated in two to three years, do so now. Purchase seed certified by the Georgia Crop Improvement Association. After establishment, make sure the lawn receives adequate water. Apply enough water to soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. This is usually equivalent to about 1 inch of rainfall.

Prepare to go dormant

Warm season turf, such as bermuda, centipede, or zoysia, usually tolerate the hot, dry weather better and may not need too much extra attention. The final application of fertilizer on these turf types should be done by the middle of September. Doing so afterwards will delay the turf from going into dormancy and make it more vulnerable to cold injury.

In the weeks ahead, let the grass go dormant without a lot of mowing. Raise your mower height one-half inch and mow one more time. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the lawn by the end of September to prevent the germination of chickweed, henbit, annual bluegrass, and other winter weeds.

Remember, when using lawn care chemicals, follow all label directions and safety precautions.

For more information, please contact the Gwinnett County Extension office at 678-377-4010 or e-mail timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.

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