by Miles Graves
As September rolls around many of us will enjoy a welcomed ten degree temperature change from the record heat we experienced this year and we will get back outdoors. What will be going on with the turf in your yard? Answer: it begins to prepare for dormancy in September. While the turf will remain green for the coming months it reacts to the shorter days and less sun exposure by storing nutrients and energy. This is an important process that occurs and is vital to ensure that you have a healthy, happy turf in the spring. There are three important things you can do to strengthen your turf now to aid in a smooth transition as the season changes.
The first is proper turf fertilization. While turf growth slows in September, the turf is still searching for nutrients to ready itself for the cold months ahead. The main nutrient the turf is in need of is potassium. Potassium acts as a stress relief for the turf (one it will desperately need as freezing temperatures ensue in the winter). Once the turf goes dormant it can no longer effectively extract potassium from the soil. Therefore, it is imperative that the fertilizer is available to the plant before this occurs. Residents will also want to avoid excessive nitrogen fertilizer as this will cause the turf to expel energy in attempts to grow. Energy that would be much more beneficial if stored for the winter.
The second key to help your lawn prepare for dormancy is to not weaken it through herbicide applications. As fall rolls around, most weeds try to produce as much seed as possible to ensure they can return the next summer. Try to fight the urge to aggressively treat these weeds at this stage as they are difficult to kill and will die soon anyway. By aggressively applying herbicides, you can weaken your lawn and cause it to struggle during the winter making it harder to emerge the following spring. Sacrifice a little bit now to ensure you will have a much stronger and healthier lawn next spring.
The third way to strengthen your turf as it prepares for dormancy is through proper water management. With decreased temperatures and slower growth, the turf requires less water so it is important not to overwater your turf. In most cases you will be able to back down from the 2-3 times per week to 1-2 times. On top of saving some dollars from your water bill, too much water can result in germination of winter weeds and fungus development.
Now that you’ve set your turf up properly to head into its slow season and dormancy, you can sit back and reflect on all the time and effort that you have spent on your yard this season. And you will truly get to enjoy it during the pleasant fall season in the Lowcountry.