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Mid-fall turf tips

From Bill Kreuser via the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Turf iNfo blog:

October is an
important time of the year for turf maintenance. It’s a time to recover from
summer and prepare for winter stress.

Fertilization: The
season is coming to a close. Cooler temperatures and reduced transpiration will
reduce nitrogen uptake. Switch to mainly soluble fertilizers and avoid slow
release products. Highly maintained turf that is spoon-fed should remain on a
spoon-feeding program until growth ceases. Avoid large amounts of potassium
fertilizer.

Irrigation: Mild
drought stress in mid-fall can actually improve cold tolerance a bit. The trick
is to allow slight water deficiency now but make sure the plants are not
drought stressed entering winter.

Mowing: It is best to
maintain the same mowing height during the fall as the summer. Scalping the
turf removes valuable sugar energy and exposes the crowns to the environment.
Longer turf is more apt to develop disease like snow mold during winter. Stay
on a regular mowing schedule until growth stops. Putting green turf is the
exception. Slightly increasing mowing height is a good general practice going
into winter. Mulch mow tree leaves to return organic matter to the soil.

Seed vs. Sod: The
seeding window is rapidly closing or closed depending on your location within
Nebraska. It is still okay to sod, however. If sod is impractical, then
consider a dormant seeding in November. Covering those seedlings will increase
the likelihood of success.

Weed Control: This is
the time to control those pesky perennial weeds like dandelion, white clover,
and ground ivy (creeping Charlie). Combination herbicides can improve control
and multiple applications may be required this fall to completely control those
tough weeds. Don’t worry about summer annual weeds like crabgrass and foxtail
at this time. It’s too early to treat warm-season turf like zoysiagrass or
buffalograss with a non-selective herbicide.

Diseases: Rust can be
prevalent on Kentucky bluegrass, but will be killed with the first frost. Fall
dollar spot can still be a challenge to control. In both cases, fungicides can
aid recovery if the damage is unacceptable. It is also a good time to treat for
root diseases like take-all patch on new golf putting greens. Topdressing:
Winter desiccation is always a concern on golf turf in Nebraska and the
Northern Great Plains. Start aggressive sand topdressing now to cover those
crowns going into winter.

These are just
general recommendations and may vary depending on your exact climate, species, and
growing environment. Bill Kreuser, Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Extension
Specialist, wkreuser2@unl.edu