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Extension corner: Preparing lawns for cool weather conditions

By RON PATTERSON
USU Extension agent

As cool weather reaches the Castle Country, it is time for local residents to prepare lawns for the winter and next spring.

A healthy lawn will green up better in the spring and be more resistant to diseases and insects.

There are a few things people can do now that will be a great benefit for lawns.

•Fertilization - There are two excellent opportunities to fertilize lawns in the fall that will help the grass be stronger and healthier for the coming season.

The first opportunity would be now. People may apply an early September fertilization with a slow release product at the rate of one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet.

The second opportunity is after the final mowing. People may apply one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet of lawn with a quick-release fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate.

The fertilization should take place just before the lawn goes dormant due to cold weather.

Research indicates that the final fertilization helps with drought tolerance the following summer.

A formula using the square feet of lawn in thousands and percent of nitrogen in the product will help to determine how much fertilizer to apply.

For example, if people have 5,000 square feet of lawn and they are applying a fertilizer that has 16 percent nitrogen, the calculation would be 5,000 square feet at 0.16 percent nitrogen = 31.25 pounds of fertilizer.

The percent of nitrogen is the first number on the product's bag.

•Compaction - If residents have areas of compaction from summer foot traffic, fall is an excellent time to aerate the spots on lawns.

Irrigation - Cool season turf grasses grow best in the spring and fall. They also will require less water - shorter days and less heat equal less need for water.

Areas that have shown drought stress during the hot weather should recover with adequate irrigation.

Residents should gradually reduce the amount and frequency of watering as the weather gets cooler.

The final watering of lawns should be just after the last mowing and fertilization, unless there is a rainfall to water the fertilizer into the lawn.

•Mowing - People should continue to mow the lawn at a tall height of two and one-half to three and one-half inches to promote root growth until the final mowing.

The final mowing should be shorter or about one to one and one-half inches and the clippings should be removed.

This will discourage certain diseases.

For more information, local residents with Internet access may visit http://extension.usu.edu/carbon/htm/hort and click on the publications link for lawn care.

Carbon County residents may also contact the local USU Extension office at 636-3233.




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