Fall Lawn Care Reminders

The kids are back in school, the first Husker football game will start in a couple of weeks – it is officially fall! During this time of year, it is an ideal time to seed the cool season turfgrasses tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. For all of you horticulture enthusiasts, be sure to follow Nicole Stoner, extension educator focused in horticulture’s blog or go to Nebraska Extension’s Hort Update newsletter.

This week, I took some of the lawn tips from August 19th edition of Hort Update on site preparation for lawn seeding or over seeding. For success, seedbed preparation is important to assure seed to soil contact.

For newly planted turf, complete the following steps:

1). Remove all construction debris, branches, etc.
2). Control perennials weeds with glyphosate (Roundup). Two to three applications at the recommended timing may be needed.
3). Establish grade for proper surface drainage.
4). Use a rotary tiller or other cultivation equipment to work the soil to a depth of six inches, incorporate compost while tilling. Avoid tillage of wet soil as this creates compaction. Do not try to improve clay soil by tilling in sand as this can increase compaction. For clay soils, spread a one inch layer of compost over the site and till it in. Then spread another one inch layer and till perpendicular to the first tillage.
5). Allow soil to settle after tilling and prior to seeding.
6). Keep the soil moist after seeding.

To over seed your lawn, complete the following:

1). Mow the area 1 to 1.5 inches tall.
2). If there is excess thatch, one-half inch thick or more, power rake aggressively and removed debris.
3). Aerify the area, punching 20 to 40 holes per sq. ft. with the largest tines available. Make at least two to three passes over the area to be seeded.
4). Apply a starter fertilizer.
5). Seed using a drop spreader or power overseeder (slit or slicer seeder).
6). Keep the soil moist.

Fall is also a great time to fertilize cool season grasses. Elizabeth Killinger, extension educator reminds us that cool season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, are beginning to wake up from the summer slump and are vigorously growing.  Actively growing turf means the perfect time to apply fertilizer applications.  Fertilizing in mid-September encourages new vegetative growth, like tillers, rhizomes, and stolons, which help fill in those thin areas left behind by disease or summer stress and increase density of the turf.  September fertilization also encourages root production and making of products that will be stored in the plants’ crown.  A turfgrass that has ample stored ‘food’ reserves will be better able to survive winters’ stresses.


Early Spring Hort. Updates

I continue to get more interest and question about the March 15th “Discuss the UndiscussaBull” program since greed and emotions can easily get in the way of fair (not always “equal” but fair) decision-making, whether a family has a farm or not! Just a reminder, for more information on family farm transitioning from Elaine Froese can be found on her website. No farm (or any estate) is worth the price of losing a family; start those tough conversations now!  I’d like to thank all of the sponsors of the Farmers & Ranchers College for allowing us to pay for Elaine’s program; even if it saves one or two families that is a huge impact on those individual’s lives!

 Horticultural Updates!

 Now, for all of you green thumbs out there; it might seem like the end of April, but remember as I write this column, it is only still the end of March!  Recent warm weather has more than likely left many planning summer flower and vegetable gardens.  Keep in mind that the average date of the last spring freeze is still about a month away for many locations across central Nebraska.   According to the National Weather Service out of Hastings, NE, even though the spring season (April-May-June) outlook leaves our region with a better than equal chance for a warm spring this year…your chances of not having to replant delicate outdoor plants will be best if you hold out for the average last-freeze date. As I write this, our soils are above 50 degrees, but, the average date for the last spring freeze is April 22nd for Geneva, NE. 

UNL Extension’s popular Backyard Farmer show returns Thursday April 5, 2012, live on NET1 at 7 pm CST.  Join them kicking off their 60th season of answering your lawn & garden questions.  Until then, you can check out their archived videos on YouTube or interact with the team on Facebook.

            Several questions that have already come into the office (and are also featured on UNL Extension’s Hort Update newsletter) include:

  • Winter annual weeds include speedwell and henbit. These annual weeds germinated last fall, survived the winter and are now blooming with blue or lavender flowers and setting seed. Hand-pulling or post emergence applications of 2, 4-D can slow these annuals. For effective herbicide control, apply a preemergence herbicide containing Pendamethalin in September, just before seed germinates.
  • Winter dessication, or drying, of plant tissue is likely to affect a large number of evergreens and broadleaf evergreens this spring. When browning occurs, wait until June before pruning damaged tissue or removing the plant. If only the green needles/leaves are affected, the plants could produce new growth and slowly recover. If leaf buds and woody tissue are killed by dessication, no new growth is likely to occur by June 1 and the plants can then be removed and/or damaged tissue pruned out. If, after pruning, no green leafy tissue remains, the plant will not recover and is best removed.
  • Soil temperatures and vegetable seed germination- Seeds have a minimum, maximum and optimum soil temperature at which they germinate and seedling growth begins. If planted too early, when soil temperatures are cold, seed germination and seedling growth will be very slow leading to seeds rotting, damping off disease, or low vigor plants with lower yields. Know what minimum and optimum temperatures are needed for different vegetables and monitor soil temperatures to determine the best time to seed. Planting early does not guarantee an earlier harvest if soil temperatures are too cold for germination or vigorous growth.

You can receive more excellent information and subscribe to UNL’s HortUpdate newsletter.