Winter preparation for lawns

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Care of your lawn in the fall is as important as in spring and summer. Regular care is the key to an attractive and healthy lawn through the fall and winter months. Here are few things you can do to help your lawn survive the upcoming winter and return vigorously in the spring.
 
Early fall fertilization is the key to prolonging fall color and promoting early spring recovery of the lawn. It helps produce a dense turf that resists winter weeds. Fertilizer used in early fall should be higher in nitrogen and potassium and lower in phosphorus. Grasses fertilized this way have shown greater survival during winter months than those fertilized with high phosphorous.
 
The problem is that early September was the time to do it. In early September we would have used a 3-1-2 ratio formula or buy a “winterize” product of your choice, allowing for good coverage.
 
In order to over-winter lawns/grasses, be careful not to give a strong boost to your current growth. Lush, thick growth from excessive watering and nitrogen fertilizer is more susceptible to fungal problems now and frost later.
 
As it is already into October, I suggest that now through early November I would only recommend a fertilizer with a good bit of potassium (K) such as 0-0-60. Research shows that potassium (some call it Potash), and continued regular watering, produce a hardy” root stock to survive the winter.
 
When your lawn goes dormant during winter months, it is important to remember the grass is living and needs moisture for survival. During the winter, if it doesn’t rain for several weeks, then the lawn should be irrigated. Irrigation before a hard freeze is helpful in reducing freeze injury to the grass. It takes much colder air temperatures to lower the temperature of a moist soil than that of a dry soil.
 
Fungal diseases love cool weather and are most prevalent in the fall. Brown Patch and Take-All Root Rot are two fairly common fungal diseases that affect St Augustine grasses. With our recent rains and high humidity, both could become active once the severe, intense stress your lawn has endured due to the terrible summer heat gives way to milder, wetter weather.
 
Monitor the condition of your lawn carefully. If you suspect a problem such as brown patch, gray leaf spot, or take-all, use a quality fungicide labeled for lawns.
 
You can also start combating spring weeds now. Fall and winter weeds such as henbit, chickweed, or bluegrass may best be controlled now with pre-emergent herbicides. Read label directions for weeds controlled and rates.
 
Above all else, spend $10 for a soil test, available from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Angelina County, and apply fertilizer and/or lime as indicated by the report.
 
The Angelina County Extension office will be holding a seminar on southern bulbs on Monday, Oct 20 at 6:30 pm. Chris Wiesinger will be speaking on bulbs that have naturalized and thrive in our area. Cost is $10 per person, kids come free.
 
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Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin. 
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.

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