Lawn Care in the Fall

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Black Rake Raking Orange LeavesWith the heat of summer and the dog days of August upon us, not too many folks are thinking about fall lawn care. But now is the time. Soil testing is free through Thanksgiving, so if you haven’t tested your soil in the past 2-3 years, you should consider testing. You can pick up a soil test kit at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Union County Center, or at any Union County Public Library (just ask for one at the information desk). Testing the soil will give you a baseline of the nutrient levels and pH of the soil. If you need to add lime, adding it in the fall allows time for the chemical reaction to take place in the soil before the next growing season. If fertilizer is needed those recommendations will be part of the soil test report.

Zoysia can be fertilized in August and Bermudagrass in September, but not after that. If you fertilize these grasses too late in the season, they may not harden off properly and may be prone to winter damage. If you may have been like me and had a large problem with annual bluegrass and other winter annual weeds this past spring, you might want to consider an application or two of a pre-emergent herbicide this fall to manage them for next season. 

Cool-season grasses such as Tall Fescue are best fertilized in the fall as you want to encourage root growth that will support the plant next summer. Another chore that can be done in the fall on cool-season lawns is aeration. This can be done in either fall or spring when the plants are actively growing. If you have a problem with compaction you can do in both spring and fall. Aeration can be followed with over-seeding if needed and topdressing with ¼” of good compost. As with the warm season grasses, if you have had a problem with winter annual weeds, you may want to make an application of a pre-emergent herbicide.

We are fortunate to have an excellent website from North Carolina State University that covers all things related to lawns. It is called Turffiles and has variety recommendations, maintenance calendars for many varieties of warm and cool-season grasses, information on grass identification, and insect, disease, and weed identification and management.