By BILL EKSTROM
Special to the Herald Times
RBC I Contrary to popular opinion, fall is the best time of the year for lawn care.
Fertilization, weed control, establishment of new lawns and renovation of poor quality lawns should be done over the next few weeks.
If you only fertilize once a year, now is the best time to do it. Top-quality lawn fertilizers contain slow-release or controlled-release nitrogen. These formulations stimulate uniform growth over a period of time and are less likely to burn the grass.
However, do not expect the quick green-up caused by fast-release formulations. Slow-release formulations are more costly but worth the price for the improved health of your lawn (less mowing and thicker lawns).
A rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is recommended this fall. Lawns and other plants in shade grow slower and don’t need as much nitrogen as plants in full sun. Therefore, shady lawns should be fertilized at half the recommended rate.
The fertilizer will also stimulate the growth of new root systems during the dormant winter months, and that will cause the grass to grow more thickly in the spring.
If you treat your weed problem in the fall, you will notice a dramatic difference in the amount of weeds that pop up once the weather turns warm again.
September and October are the best months to control perennial broadleaf weeds like dandelions and clover. In autumn, the weeds prepare for winter by pulling nutrients and starches from their leaves into their roots. By doing this, they also draw herbicides into their root systems, thus more effectively killing the weed.
Actively growing grass will quickly fill in the bare spots created after the weeds die.
Thatch is a build-up of living and dead grass roots and stems between the soil and green grass blades. The amount of thatch in a lawn may be checked by cutting three to four inches down into the grass with a shovel and lifting up a piece of sod. Thatch looks like a thick tangle of dark brown roots above the soil level. If thatch is greater than 1/2 inch, the lawn should be de-thatched in fall or spring. Most thatch removal is cosmetic and not necessary.
Now is also a great time for planting grass seed to either establish a new lawn or renovate a poor quality one. Whether seeding or sodding, the key to long-term lawn quality is proper soil preparation.
Call the Rio Blanco County Extension Office for suggestions. Although many people consider fall a time to relax and watch football on television, don’t pick up the remote until the lawn care is done. Next year’s lawn will be the better for it.