Late Summer Lawn Care

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
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 (for shade). Zoysia and buffalo, two lesser used but important turfgrass species in our area, require different management schemes. We’ll discuss those next week.

As long as adequate moisture is available, bermudagrass will respond well to a nitrogen fertilization at this time if needed; let plant growth rate be your guide. This should help encourage turf fill-in as we move towards the end of summer. Another application could be made in early September if desired. However, do not fertilize bermuda with nitrogen any later than mid-September as doing so can set the turfgrass up for winter injury. Also, begin slightly raising the mowing height this month so that your bermuda goes into the fall about an inch or so taller than your normal summer mowing height. For those of you who want to know an exact number for proper growth, please understand there is simply not one. An exact mowing height is hard to prescribe as it can depend on the variety of turf you are growing, the condition of the soil, and even the type of mower being used.

Tall Fescue lawns can be supplemented with over seeding or complete renovation beginning in early September, contact the Extension office for details on this. 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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