Helpful tips on getting your lawn ready for winter

By JON GERSBACH Milam County AgriLife Extension Agent

While our fall rains have given us a second spring of sorts, and the yards have again begun to grow, it is inevitable that the weather will soon turn colder. In fact, as I write this, our first heavy freeze is predicted to visit us this week. This will certainly grind all that turf growth to a halt.

Hopefully, once you determined that the nighttime temperatures were starting to get colder and the night hours became longer, that it was time to apply your winterizing fertilizer. So how much sense does it make to fertilize your grass in October when it is about to go dormant and stop growing? Well, a well-balanced fertilizer in an appropriately applied amount will help the grass to recover from a summer of abuse. Yes, abuse. Constant mowing when it has moisture to grow, backyard football games, kiddos playing on it, dogs running on it, and that family get together or barbecue. And this year, a prolonged drought.

When you may notice your mowing frequency decreasing, you may begin to think that the grass is done growing and does not need anymore nutrient. While in fact, this may be the most important time to fertilize. While new leaf growth will cease, as long as the plant is green, it is producing food for the plant. However, instead of growing more leaf tissue for you to mow, it is storing it in the plants roots, rhizomes, and stems.

An effective fall fertility program will ensure that the turf goes into dormancy with lots of food for the winter rest, regeneration of roots, and it will also help the grass to green up faster, stronger, and more vigorously than if not.

Finally, as you contemplate the timing of that last yard mowing, remember do not scalp your lawn. While scalping over the dormant season is important, the timing is key. Scalping now will hurt the stand, as the grass is not completely dormant. Also, scalping will allow more sunlight to warm the soil and aid in the germination of winter weeds that will sprout and grow through the winter, and linger well into the spring, competing with your turf and causing an extra headache. Actually, leaving your grass longer over the winter is best.

So when do you scalp? Typically, two to three weeks before you anticipate the grass to green up in the spring. Ty pically late February or early March. Remove old growth, help the soil warm so the grass will start to break dormancy, and take care of those final lingering winter weeds. This is also the time to add your spring starter fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicide, but never as a weed and feed product. Herbicides and fertilizers should always be placed per soil test and label recommendations. Tandem products do not allow for adjustment to appropriately apply each individual component.

So as the cold winter winds set in, and the reindeer appear on your yard, leave them with some grass to munch on, even if it is just for show.

Also, many calls have been received regarding death of trees. Before you fire up the chainsaw, ensure that the tree is truly dead. Trees respond to environmental stresses such as drought, disease, insect pressure, etc. by dropping leaves.

Depending on the point in the growing season, and the presence or absence of the stress, the tree may put on new leaves, or remain bare for the remainder of the season. Thus, even though it doesn’t leaf back it may not be dead. If it does not leaf back out by late spring, it is most likely dead. And as always, January and February are the best times to prune trees, unless there is a dangerous limb, which should be removed as soon as is possible.

Pasture Management


A Pasture Management Seminar will be held at Thursday, Dec. 10 at the Pridgeon Community Center in Franklin. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. with the program to begin at 7:30 and concluding at 4 p.m. The community center is located at 351 Cooks Lane in Franklin.

The seminar will offer eight hours in CEU’s for the private applicator license and certificate holders. It has also been approved for commercial/noncommercial licenses holders to receive all needed hours to renew their license. The approved hours will include three hours in the General category, three hours in the Laws and Regulations category, and two hours in the IPM. The first five hours will satisfy requirements for Commercial License Holders.

Topics will include pasture management, forage supplemental feeding strategies, laws and regulations, brush and weed control methods, armyworms and grasshopper control and feral hog news.

You can stay for all or part of the program depending upon how many hours you need. Registration fee is $35 and includes a catered lunch and all handout materials. Call 979-828-4270 for RSVP or questions.

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2009-12-10 digital edition

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