Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Keeping Turf Healthy Through Fall and into Spring

The fall is here, and the temperature is beginning to drop. This means to start breaking out the sweatshirts and jackets, and more importantly it means you need to start getting ready for the dormant feeding of your lawns! Many people don’t realize how important the fall fertilization is for turf. The reason is it’s actually how the grass gets its first dose of nutrients in the spring. Confused?

Let me explain. As you may know, when the weather cools down your lawns grow slower and slower. This is because when the ground temperature cools down below 55 degrees the microorganisms (microbs) in the soil are also slowing down. The microorganisms are what make the nutrients readily available for the turf. Therefore when they slow down, the growth slows down, and after the first frost of the year the plant basically shuts down because the microorganisms have just about stopped all together.

So why would you put fertilizer down on turf in late fall if the plant cant take it up?

The reason a fertilizer should be put down before the first frost is so that the microorganisms can start breaking the nutrients down, but not fully. That way when the weather warms up in the spring and the soil temps go up, the microbs have something to start feeding your lawn with. You might ask why not just put a fertilizer down in the spring. Well, you could put it down in the spring, but the chances of you putting it down before the plant needs them are very slim. Especially if there is snow covering the ground, because as the snow melts it quickly warms the soils and the microbs can actually start as the snow is melting.

Slow-release Fertilizer
Slow-release Fertilizer
Now you can't just put any fertilizer down either. It must be a slow release fertilizer. A fertilizer that is coated with a poly material would work well, or even a clay coated fertilizer. If a quick release fertilizer is used there is a good chance you will have dead turf in the spring. With quick release fertilizers the plant will take up a lot of Nitrogen and the plant cells walls would swell up. Once the plant is subject to a frost the ‘swelled’ cell walls would burst and basically kill the majority of the lawn. The fertilizer analysis is very important and would be based on the recent history of fertilizer put down in the past year.

As you can see a lot goes into picking the right fertilizers and knowing when to put them down. This can be very tricky, costly, and possibly damaging if not done correctly. New York Plantings Garden Design and Landscaping, specializing in Asian garden design, now has a lawn specialist who can help make these challenging decisions for you, and complete these tasks.

For more information on anything about turf, ask for Julian at New York Plantings Garden Designers and Landscape Contractors

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