Fall has own timetable for watering, fertilizing

How late in the fall should I continue to water my lawn, and should I fertilize it now?

— Lottie

As fall comes on and weather starts to cool, you want to start stretching out your waterings.

The schedule that worked during the blazing heat of July doesn’t work in the cooler weather of September and October.

The way I do it is that I continue to use my sprinkler controller; I just suspend the program and then manually turn it on to run through my lawn zones. I don’t have a set schedule; I adapt it to what the weather’s doing. If we’re having warmer weather, I’ll run them more frequently, and if the weather’s cooler and rainy, less often.

Instead of watering twice a week like I do during the summer, I water once every five to 10 days. When I think the lawn needs water, I manually start the lawn sprinklers and let them run through.

The one for-sure watering I’ll do in the fall is right before I lose the irrigation water. I’ll give the lawn an extra deep soaking at that time, running the sprinklers through two or even three cycles.

Fertilizing in the fall has actually become a more important aspect of good lawn care in my opinion. We’re also recommending a different fertilization than what’s been traditionally done.

In the past, a winterizing fertilizer was lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium and applied anywhere from late September to mid-October. Well, some research came out several years ago that recommended a very different approach. Instead of that traditional formula, a high- nitrogen, fast-release fertilizer was applied later in the fall.

Being the skeptic I am sometimes, I didn’t jump on that bandwagon right away. After all, that traditional fall winterizer has worked fine for many years, hasn’t it? Well, I decided to try this new way of late fall fertilization in my own yard six or seven years ago, and I’ve become a believer.

The recommendation is to apply it after the lawn has stopped growing (easy to tell by what the lawn mower is picking up) but while it’s still green. Around here, that’s anytime from the end of October to the first part of December.

The thing to remember is you have to water that fertilizer in well after you put it down. Most of us have ditch water, so that means fertilizing while you still have that water available or you’ll end up dragging around a hose attached to the house water.

Don’t know about you, but I don’t want to drag any hoses, so I put the fertilizer on my lawn as late as I can before I lose the irrigation water. In my subdivision, that’s the end of October. Now, there’s been one or two years where the weather’s been on the warm side and the grass still is growing a bit. I went ahead and put the fertilizer down anyway, and it worked fine.

The last thing about this way of fertilizing is that you put the fertilizer down at twice the rate you normally would. Don’t worry; it won’t burn the lawn this time of year.

Doing the fall fertilization this way is sometimes the only fertilizer I put on the lawn all year. My lawn greens up well and looks good all spring and summer without those flushes of fast growth I used to get after I fertilized in the spring.

If the lawn is languishing a bit, I’ll put a light application of a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer on in June.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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