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Lawn care important during fall months

When Jeremy Kirkland stopped by the store Monday, he wasn’t surewhat he was looking for, but he knew he wanted something to keepthe grass green as the winter months approach.

“I guess we’re going to have to plant rye grass or something. Iwas hoping there was something I could sprinkle on the grass thatwould keep it in shape,” he said with a laugh.

Kirkland is not unlike a lot of lawn owners who are looking foran answer to keeping their yards attractive through the winter. Asthe fall and winter set in, grass begins to turn dormant, MSUExtension Service Director Rebecca Bates said, and some people wantto keep a green lawn all year round.

One way to do that, she said, is to overseed with rye grass,like Kirkland mentioned.

“It’s a winter grass, it’s a cool season grass,” she said. “It’san overseed, so if you’ve already got an established summer lawn,then you overseed that lawn with rye grass in the fall, itgerminates, it’s green, and you mow it – you treat it just like asummer lawn, then when it warms up it starts to die.”

The overseed process is one that can be done every year, Batessaid. And there are other fall preparations to make to keep a lawnhealthy and maintained around the calendar.

“You’ll usually want to back off on the fertilizer, and use someweed control and fire ant control,” Bates said. “Look out forproblems with fall brown patch; spring and fall are major timesthat brown patch becomes a problem.”

Brown patch, which is a fungal infestation, can be made worse byoverfertilization with nitrogen, watering the grass late in theevening, and allowing thatch buildup in the lawn. Bates said it canbe treated with antifungal products.

Bates said that now is also the perfect time to add lime to thelawn to begin working to establish the correct pH balance goinginto the winter months.

“This is an excellent time to be taking a soil sample for yourlawn. If you want to lime your lawn, fall is the perfect time to doit, because it takes two to three months to react,” she said. “Whenyour grass is coming out of dormancy in the spring your pH levelsshould be good.”

Meanwhile, Sam Brister has had a lawn mowing business for twoyears. He said if this year is anything like last year, hisbusiness will drop off sometime in late October or earlyNovember.

“Pretty much when you see the grass is turning brown, that’swhen people quit wanting it cut,” he said.

But Bates said it never hurts to even mow the lawn through thewinter to keep the weeds down.

“The only reason to mow in the winter is if you have winterweeds that have germinated. If you mow before they go to seed, itwill help you for the next year,” Bates said, adding that thecalendar at www.MSUcares.com can help with seasonal directives.

The Web site advocates mowing during the winter, stating “keepyour lawn mowed closely at recommended heights for your type oflawn grass. Most winter weeds cannot tolerate close mowing and willbe stressed, damaged, or even killed by mowing heights used onwarm-season lawns.”

And while it’s hard to tell exactly when to go back to thespring maintenance routine, Bates said a good gauge for those whodon’t mow through the winter is when the lawn has needed twomowings.