Garden Clippings – Fall Grass Care – October 30, 2021

The lawn has never looked so good.  I fertilized heavy in late summer, and like magic, the rains obediently followed.  And the rains kept coming, keeping the grass moist for all of September and October.

Throughout autumn, we cut the grass once a week.  The height of the mower was adjusted to its highest setting to avoid the need to rake.  I’ve learned long ago that keeping the grass cut high, especially in summer, helps retain soil moisture and helps keep weeds at bay. Turf grass experts all agree that if you don’t want weed growth, don’t scalp the grass.

The fertilizer blend that I applied in late summer was 8-8-8, formulated for vegetable gardens.  That’s not the recommended summer turfgrass fertilizer, but I found 20 bags that had gotten wet and destined for the dumpster bin.  I doubled the application rate and hoped for the best.

The normal recommended lawn fertilizer for summer application is the same as spring fertilizer.  Look for a blend that contains lots of nitrogen, with a good percentage formulated to release slowly.  The quick release nitrogen will give your lawn a kick start while the slow-release nitrogen will sustain itself over a few months.  Look for a formulation such as 20-0-5 or 30-0-3.

For spring lawn feeding, apply at the recommended rate posted on the bag.  For summer, dial it back by about 25%.  Be sure to read the fine print on the bag to check the application rate and to ensure your fertilizer contains slow-release nitrogen.

Among turf grass specialists, the jury is out on fall fertilizer, but the prevailing thinking is that if your lawn in unhealthy, apply a fertilizer blend that contains low nitrogen and high phosphorous and potash.  Apply in late August or September to build and strengthen roots.  Look for a blend such as 5-20-20.  If your lawn is healthy, forgo this application.

For late fall fertilizer put down another dose of spring or summer fertilizer with a high nitrogen formula.  Apply in October or November and your roots will store the fertilizer in anticipation of spring growth.  Many experts suggest that late fall fertilizer is your single most effective lawn food.

For those who were late for chemistry class, Nitrogen (N) is the first of the three key ingredients in a fertilizer blend and will give a significant contribution to your lawn’s growth.  Phosphorous (P) aids in overall plant health such as disease resistance and stem development.  Potassium (K) builds strong roots.

Turfgrass requires more nitrogen than phosphorous and potash.  Nitrogen also escapes from the soil while the other two ingredients tend to remain stable and available for grass growth.

If your lawn has bare patches, add grass seed anytime in fall.  If you sow grass seed in late summer or early fall, it will sprout quickly, often within a week or two.  Look for a certified Canada Number 1 seed blend.  A mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye and Creeping Red Fescue will do your lawn good.  For heavily shaded laws, use less Kentucky Bluegrass.

If you sow grass seed in late fall, it will remain dormant through winter and will sprout in spring.  Don’t be fooled by coated lawn seed because it is expensive, has poor coverage with little or no benefit.  Grass seed with lateral spread technology is worth looking for with little extra cost.

For the last cut of the year, leave the mower at the highest setting.  If you cut your lawn short, it will have increased exposure to wind and cold.  Taller grass provides insulation for the soil and roots below.