With cold on the way, it’s time to winterize

When is the best time to drain my irrigation system?

— Dave

You could drain you sprinkler system any time in the next two or three weeks. The underground parts won’t be damaged until the soil down at that depth freezes, which is usually sometime in late November or December.

Be careful, however, about any above-ground parts such as pumps, filters and back flow preventers as these can freeze and be damaged with just a good stiff frost some morning.

Many people have drain cocks to quickly drain these devices so they can be recharged when the weather warms up and you want to water again.

I’m having my system winterized in the next week or two.

You suggested that we fertilizer in the late fall with a double batch of your fertilizer. I did that, and my lawn never looked better! I get tired of mowing it.

Do you still suggest that I double the fertilizer before the ditch water goes off?

— Scott

Absolutely! This is something I do every fall in my yard, and I really like how the lawn looks.

I’ve never been one of those people who really pride themselves on a perfect lawn — if the thing is green (mostly) and the dandelions aren’t that numerous then it’s OK!

But I’ve gotten compliments on how good the lawn looks from the neighbors.

Fertilizing in the fall actually has become a more important aspect of good lawn care. 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.

There was some research that 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, traditional fall winterizer had worked fine for many years, hadn’t it?

Well, I decided to try the new way of late fall fertilization in my own yard seven or eight 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. Since most of us have ditch water, that means putting it on while you still have it available or you end up dragging 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 very end of October.

There’s been one or two years when the weather has 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 of note 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, 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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