August Turf Care

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
After several difficult years in a row for growing turf grass, this season has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Even lawns minimally maintained have made significant progress toward recovery. If you enjoy a quality lawn, we are quickly approaching an important time of the year for performing key maintenance practices. First we will talk about bermudagrass (for sun) and then tall fescue or a tall fescue/kentucky bluegrass blend (for shade). Bermudagrass is just one of several warm season turf species for our area. Zoysia and buffalo are also regularly used. These two grasses require fewer fertilizer inputs than bermuda. Contact the Extension office for specific instructions on late summer lawn care for these grasses.

With all the soil moisture available, bermudagrass should respond well to a nitrogen fertilization at this time. Don’t feel like you must fertilize for the health of the grass if it is growing so much that you are unable to keep up with the mowing! If needed, one more application can be made in early September. Do not fertilize bermuda with nitrogen any later into the fall than mid-September as doing so can set the turfgrass up for winter injury. Also, begin slightly raising the mowing height so that your bermuda goes into the fall about an inch or so taller than your normal summer mowing height. An exact mowing height is hard to prescribe as it can depend on the variety of turf you are growing.

Tall Fescue lawns can be supplemented with over seeding or complete renovation beginning in early September. Fertilizer timing needs are very different for this turfgrass than bermuda. Tall fescue fertilization should begin in September and continue into early winter.

When considering renovation in shady areas, don’t forget about protecting your trees. In almost all situations, when tall fescue is being used as a turf grass, trees are close by. Consider replacing turf with mulch in these areas. A lack of competition for available moisture and nutrients will be beneficial for the trees in the long run. It will also relieve you of regular reseeding of a turf area that likely tends to struggle. If you do decide to seed under trees, limit the amount of tillage as much as possible to minimize tree root disruption.

The other important consideration for August is weed control. Target the last week of this month for a premergent application if you want to get a jump on pesky weeds next spring. I cannot stress enough the importance of proper timing and application of these products in order or them to be effective.

Note that preemergent herbicides should not be applied in areas to be seeded this fall. These products form a barrier in the soil that will prevent all seeds from germinating, not just the undesirable ones.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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