For Release November 13, 2005

Late Season Lawn Q & A

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

With the incredibly nice warm weather staying with us clear up through Veteran's Day, I've been receiving a lot of questions about lawns and lawn care. The lawn season isn't over yet, but it is starting to wind down. The following questions and answers should take care of a lot of the guessing you may have been doing about your lawn.

Should I still be mowing my lawn, and if so, how high? As long as you lawn keeps growing, keep mowing it at the normal height. Normal height should be 3 to 3.5 inches for tall fescue and 2.75 to 3 inches for bluegrass. I'm not a proponent of mowing lower late in the season. Root development is directly related to length of grass blade. To develop a really good root system in the fall means you have to leave plenty of grass blade. Leaving your mowing height up also provides a little more insulation for the plant crowns if we have a cold winter. If you want to mow the lawn short, do it with the first mowing of the season to remove some of the dead blade tips and improve the appearance of the lawn.

Is it too late to fertilize and treat for weeds? This is actually an excellent autumn for broad leaf weed control. Broadleaf weeds are things like dandelion and henbit, all those weeds that bloom early in the turf season. With good rains the first half of October, these weed seeds sprouted in a timely fashion and are still actively growing. Treating now will provide very good control and without the risk of drifting herbicides that can curl those tender new leaves in the spring time. With weather conditions cooling down, finally, these products will work much slower. Don't expect to be able to see the early signs of success 24 hours after application. Either liquid or granular products will work, just remember that they'll take longer to do their work.

You can fertilize clear into December, as long as the ground isn't frozen. The grass roots are still actively taking up moisture and nutrients so fertilizing now will insure an early green lawn next spring. If you fertilized once this fall already, you can apply a second application if it has been at least 4 weeks since the first. If you didn't fertilize at all yet this fall, go ahead and get it done now. If you applied a week and feed product prior to October 15th, scout your lawn for weeds as there may have been some weeds that came up after the application that were not controlled.

I meant to sow some grass seed but haven't gotten it done yet. Is it too late? Not really, but keep in mind that you may not see much of it coming up until spring. There's an old saying that you can plant fescue in any month with an "R" in it. This isn't too far from the truth! But planting now is considered a dormant seeding and activity is very slow, but be patient. You'll be surprised what shows up next spring!

Should I still be irrigating my lawn? It is probably time to shut down the sprinkler systems and get them drained before we get to freezing weather. A couple of exceptions however. If you have applied a fertilizer or weed and feed application, it would be a good idea to water that in according to the directions on your product. Or, if you have a new seeding that is just getting germinated, it would be a good idea to not let it dry out. Don't drown it, but don't let it become a desert either. The turf season is winding down, but don't worry, spring will be here before you know it!


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