Jeff Burbrink: September is the month for lawn improvement
Posted: 09/06/2012 at 12:30 pm
After such a tough spring and summer, many lawns in the area are looking for a little tender loving care, and September is the month to deliver. Cool nighttime temperatures and moderate daytime temperatures favor the recovery of bluegrass and other grasses commonly used in lawns.
Fertilizing your lawn in September promotes dense turf and encourages a healthy root system, which is important for winter survival. A fertilizer with a 4-1-2 or 4-0-2 ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) is recommended for turf grass.
Many of the newer fertilizers no longer have P in them due to concerns about buildup of P in lakes and streams. If your soil has a medium or higher level of P, your lawn will grow with little risk of a P deficiency.
Fertilizer should be applied at a rate of 1 pound of N per 1000 square feet. Most lawn fertilizer bags list settings for spreaders that are calibrated for that rate. It is a good idea to spend a little extra money on slow-release fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizer is healthier for the turf and it helps keep us from having to mow every other day for a week or two after the fertilizer is spread. Most slow-release fertilizers contain sulfur-coated urea as a source of N.
September and October are good times to control broadleaf weeds such as dandelion, buckhorn plantain, ground ivy and wild violets. During the fall, these weeds prepare themselves for winter by moving sugars down to the root system. Herbicides applied in the fall often kill the entire root system of these plants.
Products containing combinations of 2,4-D, dicamba, dichloroprop and MCPP are the products of choice for selective broadleaf weed control in lawns. These herbicides work best at temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees on a sunny day with no rain in the forecast for 24 hours. These products should not be used on newly seeded lawns because they can kill new seedlings. Avoid spraying in windy conditions when spray drift can travel to non-target plants.
Purdue has a great turf website at www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/ that is loaded with publications on turf care, pest control, irrigation and seeding. There is even a very good turf grass identification tool to assist you with identifying the grasses growing in your lawn.
Jeff Burbrink is an Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources. Write to him at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; or fax 533-0254.