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.


Lawn Care Weed Control

As lawns continue to grow, Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator in Platte County reminds us that dandelions and other broadleaf weeds may be growing in lawns now, but homeowner applications of herbicides for these weeds should be avoided. The risk to non-target plants like trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables is simply too great. At temperatures higher than 80°F, many herbicides volatize and change into a gas. The herbicide then rises or moves on air currents and damages non-target plants. At this time of year, it is best to hand-dig weeds before they go to seed and avoid herbicide applications during summer. When temperatures moderate in early September into October, this is the ideal time to apply herbicides for broadleaf weeds like dandelion, clover, ground ivy and violets. This is the most effective time for treatment because more of the herbicide is translocated into roots at this time of the season for a higher percentage of weed kill.

Kelly’s recent news article also provided answers to questions I sometimes receive so I decided to share some of the home remedies people often ask about. Sometimes people think the household products are safer and more effective than using products that have been tested, labeled and sold for such uses. Some examples are applying bleach to control diseases in lawns, watering Epsom salts into the soil around tomatoes and peppers and using Borax to kill ground ivy in lawns.

Do not apply bleach to lawns to control disease. The bleach can damage the turfgrass. If the product is a brand that has an EPA pesticide registration number, such as Chlorox; then it is against pesticide laws to use the product since it is not labeled for use on lawns.

As for Epsom salts, this product contains magnesium, which is an important nutrient for fruits and vegetables. However, most soils have plenty of magnesium and the addition of more is not needed. Increasing and maintaining soil organic matter is more beneficial.

Research has shown that Borax can control ground ivy. Borax contains boron that can be toxic to plants. Ground ivy is more sensitive to boron than grass and small amounts can kill ground ivy. However, it can cause the grass to turn brown and if over applied, create soil issues that can prevent anything, even grass, from growing in the area for years. If this option is used to control ground ivy, the lawn should only be treated with borax once each spring for two years. Use this formula. Dissolve eight ounces of a product like Twenty Mule Team Borax into four ounces of warm water, and then dilute it in 2 1/2 gallons of water. Spray this amount evenly over 1,000 square feet of lawn, no more, no less.

For more answers to your lawn care questions, I would encourage you to check out UNL’s turf website.