Lawns on the mend

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September 15, 2016 -  By


After a hot, dry summer, fall is the perfect time of year to revive and rejuvenate customers’ lawns.


Jamie Breuninger

After hot, dry summertime weather, turf grass welcomes the cooler temperatures and precipitation that fall can bring.

“Fall is a time of renewal for turf,” said Jamie Breuninger, technical leader for Dow AgroSciences Turf & Ornamental. “The plant is recovering from the summer. It’s naturally tillering and filling in, and it’s storing energy for the following year.”

This is why fall is the perfect time of year for LCOs to revive and rejuvenate their customers’ lawns. From aeration and overseeding, to applying herbicides and fertilizers, there are a number of things LCOs can do in the fall to promote healthier turf come spring.

“Good spring weed control is related to good fall weed control,” said Jared Hoyle, assistant professor and extension turf grass specialist at Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service in Manhattan, Kan. “You are making the turf stand healthier so that it can fight off more invading weeds.”

Harold Enger

Harold Enger

Harold Enger, director of education at Spring-Green Lawn Care Services, headquartered in Plainfield, Ill., says their technicians aerate and overseed clients’ lawns in the fall. Dethatching can also help increase a lawn’s root growth, however Enger says this process can cause damage to a lawn if done incorrectly and should only be done by a professional.

“The most effective thing is aeration and overseeding – it’s the only thing that changes the structure of a lawn and improves its roots and thatch,” he said. “By having thicker grass you will combat crabgrass germination.”

Particularly in areas with warm-season turf, fall is also a good time to apply herbicides to help control winter annuals and perennials.



“Putting preemergent and postemergent products down at the same time will control existing weeds and anything that’s going to seed,” Breuninger said, adding that broadleaf herbicides should not be applied to areas that have been recently seeded. “A preemergence application will stop anything from germinating from that point forward. Start clean in the fall to finish clean in the spring.”

In areas with cool-season turf, Hoyle says fall preemergent herbicide applications often aren’t as effective because the plants are dormant. He says a better approach would be to focus on cultural control methods in the fall to make the turf stand healthy and then clean up weeds with postemergent products in the spring. Enger agrees.

“In the south it is very common to put down a preemergent in the fall because you will have weeds germinate in the winter,” Enger explained. “On cool-season grasses we don’t [apply herbicides in the fall] because you would have to put down such a large amount that it wouldn’t be cost effective.”

Anita Alexander

Anita Alexander

Fall fertilization is beneficial for both cool- and warm-season turf. The process can improve a lawn’s health going into winter and allow it to overcome disease pressure and winter damage, said Anita Alexander, field research scientist for Dow AgroSciences Turf & Ornamental. Fertilizers should be applied to warm-season turf in the early fall before the grasses go into winter dormancy. In areas with cool-season turf, Breuninger says LCOs should make one fertilizer application in September and another after the first hard frost, which will make the turf more competitive come spring.

“This is particularly true when combating crabgrass,” he said. “Crabgrass needs light to germinate and if the turf is denser then there is less light at the soil surface and less room for the annual grasses to take hold.”

“Fall is a great time for fertilizing cool-season grasses,” Hoyle added. “It will help promote a green color and hold it through the winter into spring.”

Jared Hoyle

Jared Hoyle

In addition to the cultural control methods and herbicide and fertilizer applications, fall is a good time to prune trees to get light to shaded areas. Alexander says fall is also the time to apply fungicides to warm-season turf grasses such as Bermudagrass, which is susceptible to spring dead spot and large patch.

“These diseases are present in the fall, but if not kept in check will result in large bare areas in the spring where weeds not impacted by the diseases thrive,” she said. “Anything that promotes a good root system for warm-season grasses going into dormancy and cool-season grasses that have been stressed by disease and high temperatures is useful.”

Lawn care experts agree that customer education is an important part of a successful weed control program. While LCOs can utilize products and procedures to minimize weed growth, no method is perfect and weeds will be impacted by factors such as weather – information which should be passed along to clients.

“When you’re dealing with weeds, it’s about customer education,” Enger said. “Explain to them that you are dealing with growing things, that weeds are dominate players in the landscape, and that every problem is not going to go away in one year. Under-promise and over-deliver, then customers will be happy.”

About the Author:

Emily Schappacher is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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