Fall Lawn and Turfgrass Management
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There are several different warm season turfs in the sandhills. Some warm season turfs include Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia grass. As warm season grasses, they can withstand our high temperatures and high humidity. However, when they begin to transition into the colder months, they begin to take on some stress. Some stressors would include too much water (hurricane season), not enough water, insects, diseases, even the shorter days with cooler temperatures at night. As they go through the stress, the symptoms or evidence do not show up immediately. It could be until next season that you see the symptoms such as a delayed green-up, bare spots or dead patches. There are a few things you can do this fall that will help your lawn prepare for the new season.
If you did not take a soil sample this year, this fall is as good a time as any. The soil sample will help you figure out the pH of the soil and the nutrient indexes that are available to the plant. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, (NCDA&CS), will recommend an amount of lime and fertilizer depending on what your results are. Remember when taking a soil sample for your lawn or turf you must take 10-15 cores that are 4 inches deep into the soil. Put the cores of soil into a non-metal bucket and then mix it well so that it is as random as possible. Pour the soil into the sample box to the red line. You can take this sample to your local Extension office and they will send them to the NCDA&CS Lab in Raleigh, free of charge until November.
Fall is a great time to fertilize your warm season lawns so that it helps the plant store its food to over winter. However, nitrogen should not be applied at this time. Nitrogen will encourage leaf growth which could have the chance of getting damage from frosts this winter. Damage from the frost could make the turf more susceptible to diseases or pests. Your fertilizer focus should be a potash or potassium application. Ideally, it will help prevent stress from the winter and also strengthen the roots of the warm season grasses. If you take a soil sample test and it shows that you have a deficiency in potassium, it is recommended that you use a high potassium fertilizer. For example, 1.6 pounds of 0-0-60 or 2 pounds of 0-0-50.
Weed control is extremely important to consider in the fall if you want to get a head start on the winter annual weeds. A preemergent application at Labor Day and then an additional one made around Thanksgiving will control weeds such as henbit, chickweed, burweed, annual blue grass, hairy bittercress, etc. There are several preemergent products that will keep the plant from further growing after germination. Be sure to look for products with the active ingredient pendimethalin, benefin, trifluralin, prodiamine, or oryzalin. If the weed has already emerged, a preemergent will not control the weed. You must use pesticides that will control them by contact or systemically. These products include Speedzone, Celsius or Imaziquin. Please be sure to read your pesticide labels before applying any of these products.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact North Carolina Cooperative Extension- Bladen County.