Dealing with Dormancy: Turf in Cool Temperatures

By Wayne Hobbs Environmental Horticulture Agent
Posted 10/10/18

While it may seem like summer is still here throughout much of our area, your lawn is slowing down for the season. Shorter days and cooler nights have stopped its growing and it will soon enter a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Dealing with Dormancy: Turf in Cool Temperatures

Posted

While it may seem like summer is still here throughout much of our area, your lawn is slowing down for the season. Shorter days and cooler nights have stopped its growing and it will soon enter a dormant winter sleep. With this change, what do you need to keep it healthy over the next few months?

Forget the Fertilizer

At this point of the year, fertilizer should the last thing you want to put on your lawn. As a good rule of thumb, never apply nitrogen fertilizers to the lawn after mid-September as the grass will not use it and it will runoff into surface waters or leach down into the ground. You also risk bringing about a flush of new growth which can be more easily killed by frost. Wait until April 15 to apply anymore nitrogen, anything before then is a waste and can harm the environment.

Limit your Irrigation

When it’s not growing, your lawn does not need much water. Only water during times of extended drought when leaf blades look silver or folded, this is a sign of wilt. Another characteristic of grass at this time is that footprints will persist for several moments after walking on it. When it is wilted, you can water but keep it to between one-half inch to three-quarters of an inch of water per application.

However, remember that in the St. Johns River Water Management District, which covers Clay County, there are limitations to irrigating during Daylight Saving Time.

During Daylight Saving Time, homes with odd-numbered or no addresses can only water on Wednesdays and Saturdays from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November and, even-numbered homes can water on Thursdays and Sundays in the same period. During Eastern Standard Time, homes with odd-numbered or no addresses can only water on Saturdays from the first Sunday in November until the second Sunday in March, while even-numbered homes can water on Sundays.

No Mow?

When the grass is dormant, mowing becomes much less frequent. Be sure to be mowing to the proper height for your turfgrass species and only remove a maximum of one-third of the total leaf blade height each time you cut. This will save you some time in the yard and your grass will be less stressed.

Weeds, Insects, and Diseases

A group of annual weeds, such as annual bluegrass, tend to show up in lawns soon and early to mid-October is the time to combat that with some pre-emergent fertilizer. These products put down a layer of herbicide to stop weeds from germinating and are a great way to reduce the amount you have to treat the lawn through winter. Make sure to read the label of any pesticides or herbicides you use and follow the instructions exactly.

Some good news for the lawn is that pests and diseases slow down in the cooler months. Through October, be on the lookout for some fungal diseases such as take-all root rot but many issues will not reappear until the spring.

Brown is Normal

One thing to remember is that once we get our first frost or freeze, browning out your lawn is normal. This does not mean the grass is dead, but patience is needed once we warm up in the spring to give it time to grow back and recover. Do not water it heavily or fertilize early to spur on its growth. Just wait until the weather improves and your grass will be back to normal.

If you want a green lawn in winter, consider planting annual ryegrass now but this does mean you have to mow and care for the lawn more over the next few months. For more information on this topic, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/archive/hot_topics/lawn_and_garden/overseeding_winter_lawns.shtml.

If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact us by email at clay@ifas.ufl.edu or call (904) 284-6355.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment