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Late summer lawn care tips


As we move towards fall, we are reminded that winter is on the horizon. If you are like me, you have many outdoor chores to complete in your garden. One chore you should hold off on is putting the garden hose away.

Late summer and fall are an active time of growth for our lawns and it is important to keep them adequately watered if rainfall is insufficient. The best way to determine if the lawn should be watered is by watching the grass for signs of drought stress. Look for slight wilting or a color change to a more grayish or bluish-green. You could also walk across your lawn and see if the grass springs back to its original position. If you leave a foot print, the lawn could use water. Water thoroughly so the soil is moist to a depth of 4 – 6 inches. Do not water again until signs of drought stress are noticed.

Late summer and early fall are also good times for controlling perennial broadleaf weeds such as dandelion, white clover, plantain, wild violet, and creeping Charlie. These plants are also actively growing at this time of year and herbicides (weed killers) are usually more effective at providing control. While treated plants may not disappear entirely this fall, by spring, they are usually gone. Keep in mind that tough to control weeds such as white clover, wild violet, and creeping Charlie may need two or more herbicide applications to achieve complete control.

Even though crabgrass and other annual weedy grasses are highly visible at this time of year, now is not the time to control them. These plants have no frost tolerance and will be killed by the first frosts of the fall if they are not already dead due to the completion of their annual life cycle.  It is a good idea to note where these plants have been a problem and direct preemergence weed control efforts to those areas next spring.

Late summer to early fall applications of fertilizer should be applied by the middle of September. Applying fertilizer after the middle of September and before shoot growth has ceased can result in excessive lush growth late into the fall which can contribute to an increased incidence of snow mold over the winter months. 

Improving and maintaining a healthy lawn throughout the fall period is good for the grass plants this year as well as next spring. Source: Bob Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension Educator emeritus. 


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