Tips For Autumn Lawn Maintenance
By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
October brings the prospect of relief from the heat and humidity of a Wakulla County summer. The temperatures have moderated, albeit slightly, alleviating some of the oppressive qualities of the daylight hours.
The sun’s progression into the southern sky has lengthened the nights to the point where they have a majority of the minutes, and soon hours, for the next six months. The timeless celestial cycle even effects the home landscape and the actions of homeowners.
Luckily at 30 degrees north latitude the onset of autumn and the looming winter do not bring snow blowers and sleds out of storage. The tenth month of 2017 does bring some changes though.
The growth of lawn grasses has slowed down considerably. Soon lawn maintenance power equipment will be idled for the cooler months, but it must be stored properly so it will function flawlessly in spring 2018.
Gas tanks should be run dry or have a fuel stabilizer properly applied. If the second option, gas supplies should be cut off and carburetors drained.
For riding lawn mowers and lawn tractors, a trickle charger should attached to the battery. Six months without starting this tool will almost guarantee the need to replace the battery.
Another important task is sharpening the blade. Whether a push or riding mower, it will function much better with a properly sharpened blade.
Applying nitrogen based fertilizers to the lawn at this late date will do more harm than good. Nitrogen now will encourage a flush of tender growth which can be damaged in an early frost, and in extreme cases can kill the turf.
Only phosphate, potash and micro-nutrients can be safely applied now. Apply these only as recommended by a report initiated from a soil sample.
No need to apply herbicides now as many of the weed species have stopped growing and are holding seeds for next season’s infestation. It is more effective from both an economic and horticulture perspective to pull most weeds now and collect their seed for proper disposal.
Almost all herbicides work only when weeds are actively growing. There is, however, an additional weed control activity which can be accomplished in October and will likely pay big dividends in spring 2018.
Map or mark off sections of the home landscape where seedy weeds have become established. These are areas where pre-emergent herbicides can be applied in spring to control weeds like chamberbitter and purple nutsedge.
October is the month to establish winter vegetable gardens for home use. Onion bulbs, cabbage, collards, kale, sugar snap peas and many other cool season vegetable can be planted in the early autumn.
Some, like onions for bulbs, will take 150 to 180 days to reach maturity. Others like radishes can be harvested in 60 days.
If the gardener is willing to gamble on a warn fall and late frost, then tomatoes can be tried. Success is more likely if starter plants are used.
Lastly, the month of October is the time sow many wildflower seeds. The colorful heralds of spring take the cooler seasons to germinate and become established in order to support a brilliant bloom.
The mowers may be still, the homeowner’s work is never done. At least it is cooler, by a little bit.
To learn more about autumn landscape maintenance in Wakulla County, visit the UF/IFAS Wakulla County website at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco or call 850-926-3931.